FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond Peace

[The following essay was written in response to a request from students at a Massachusetts middle school for essays about peace contributing to what they hope will be “the largest book in the world on the subject of peace.” For more information about the project, go to http://www.pagesforpeace.com/]

It has long been a staple of the antiwar movement that there can be no meaningful peace without justice on a global scale. Those of us living in the First World, especially in the United States, cannot pretend to be working for peace unless we also are working for a more just and equitable distribution of the world’s resources.

The antiwar/peace movement, therefore, must also be a movement focused on the grotesque inequalities in a predatory corporate capitalist system. In a world where half the population lives on less than $2 a day, it’s clear that (a) the global economy is itself a form of war on billions of people, sometimes as destructive as shooting wars, and (b) that in such an profoundly unjust world, armed conflict is inevitable because there always will be resistance to this inequality, and powerful states will respond militarily to any threat, real or perceived, to their dominance.

In other words: No justice, no peace.

Now it’s time for those of us in the peace-and-justice movement in the First World, especially in the United States, to take the next step: We must recognize that there can be no justice over the long term without sustainability, and creating a sustainable world will require not only radical change in systems and structures of power but also a radical change in the way we in affluent societies live. It’s time to recognize that if we are serious about the values of equality that we claim to be the core of our politics, we must scale back the level at which we live.

In other words: No reduction in First World consumption, no justice; and no justice, no peace.

Put simply: One cannot be a serious peace activist without putting peace in the context of justice and sustainability, and the high-energy/high-tech lifestyle of the First World is not sustainable and not compatible with the demands of justice. Meaningful peace requires real justice, which means we must learn to live with less.

We could start to move toward the changes necessary by applying a “Golden Rule” of consumption. Working from the common moral principle that we should follow a path based on rules that we would be willing to apply to all (and some version of this Golden Rule exists in all ethical and theological systems), we could begin with this: Consume at a level that, if applied throughout the world, would allow all people a decent life consistent with long-term sustainability. That doesn’t prescribe a destination but suggests a direction; instead of anyone sanctimoniously dictating a specific lifestyle, we can collectively recognize that we must move toward living lower on the food chain, using far less energy, consuming far fewer of the planet’s limited resources, generating far less toxic waste. (For a more detailed exploration of this argument, see “What is a moral level of consumption?

While some might see this as a sacrifice — and in some sense, of course, we will have to give up material things that we have come to rely on and enjoy — this moment in history also provides us with a chance to redefine what it means to live a good life. Rather than accept the mad scramble to accumulate goods and insulate ourselves from the natural world — the good life as defined in a consumer capitalist society awash in high-tech toys and mass-mediated entertainment — we can reorient ourselves toward the traditional definition of a good life in terms of community and connection with others, service and sacrifice for others, and a deeper sense of meaning for ourselves.

Eloquent calls for peace are easy to make from the material comfort of the First World. Moving beyond that to a demand for meaningful justice gets us closer to the goal. A commitment to moving toward a sustainable level of consumption should be at the core of this work. It will be a struggle, of course, often confusing and sometimes painful. But we can remember that there is joy in the struggle for a better world, which is always at the same time a struggle to become more fully human.

ROBERT JENSEN is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the board of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity. He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, fall 2015). http://www.amazon.com/Plain-Radical-Living-Learning-Gracefully/dp/1593766181 Robert Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://robertwjensen.org/. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html. Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Notes. [1] Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106. [2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). [3] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, edited and with a revised translation by Susan McReynolds Oddo (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2011), p. 55.

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail