The Battle for Peace

This morning I was listening to a radio interview. It seemed to be glorifying the work of a modern war reporter. She was talking about all sorts of war zones, almost like memorable restaurants.

Then, I got it. We glorify and obsess about the war in our daily media, movies, and books. I fall for it every time; I love reading and watching it. What is our endless fascination with this stuff? Our need for high drama, heroes, and evil villains—our need to escape from boring normalcy, endless lives of quiet desperation.

I read lots of history, it’s almost all about wars, endless cruelty, man’s inhumanity to man—the screaming insanity and cruelty of Auschwitz-like concentration camps. Jung said war is about how we live in peace, I think he is right.

I remember a story about a man I regarded as a mentor and teacher. I never met him, but I felt a special relationship with him and have been greatly influenced by his teaching. Ajahn Chah, from the Thai Theravada forest tradition, taught many of the monks now in the West.

Ironically, it was the war that allowed the West to discover him. His monastery was near an American B52 bomber base during the Vietnam War and US air force folk used to visit him.

American novices at his monastery were concerned about their lack of social action and assistance with feeding and caring for the endless supplies of refugees at the nearby Laotian refugee camps. The somewhat unknown and covert war in Laos had been going on for 22 years, spanning from 1953 to 1975.

They voiced their concerns to Ajahn Chah. He replied ‘sure you can go and does some short-term help with the refugees that is good and compassionate. But why are you here, is it to do your own battle with yourself to learn the true art of peace from you? When you have done that you have more to offer than clothes and food. You can teach and help others find peace. While people have greed, lust for power, a need for revenge, or just a need to feed an insatiable and demanding ego, there will always be refugees. It is your choice, the short-term, easier road, or the longer-term harder road, the true battle for peace is the one you fight with yourself.’

I am not talking about becoming a peacenik, those that love the street demo, screaming we demand peace—just another form of ego cause-ology fascism. Some of the angriest people I have met are peaceniks.

The solution may be lies in thinking about Jung’s statement ‘War is about how we live peacefully

I don’t have a full understanding of the remedy. Some of the things I think about are:

• Recognizing the human need for drama, excitement, and heroics. Provide heaps of that for our young,

• Outdoor adventure, work with farm animals, creative arts, and so on. Making sure there is something in it for all, not just another opportunity for winners and losers.

• Recognizing the need to develop the muscle of everyday courage, and everyday heroics. Those that stand up for being ethical, defending others from bullying, etc. Too often we abandon those that have that ordinary courage; they lose fair-weather friends and get criticized. Others make the cost of ordinary courage high.

• Recognizing that defensive war is inevitable and sometimes necessary for the protection of our community when all else fails. In that case, we need to encourage the good soldier, the good officer. Those that have the courage to be fair and just and avoid atrocity.

• Recognizing the importance of our democratic systems. Make them effective, competent, fair, and just. Especially avoiding corruption and creating fair courts and police systems. We need good and heroic judges and police, who stand up against corruption.

What would you add to this list?