“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said these words On March 25 1967 in a speech he gave after leading 5,000 people down State Street in Chicago to protest the war in Viet Nam. Since then they have become a beacon of peaceful resistance terminology that has moved those who love peace to organize more effectively. Such organization requires us to be peaceful with our resistance but ruthless with our tactics, as love does not imply pacifism. Here are five ways those who love peace can organize as effectively as those who love war.
1.) Learn to trump competition with cooperation
“The research consistently shows that competition not only isn’t necessary for excellence but tends to impede excellence on most tasks. And the more challenging the task -the more ingenuity, problem solving skill it requires- the more completion tends to disrupt that achievement. Excellence pulls in one direction and completion pulls in another.” –Alfie Kohn
The basis of nature is cooperation and democracy. It’s in our DNA. It can be seen in every organism from ants to primates. If we are truly observing and listening to what nature is telling us, then we will come to see that the healthy way to live in accordance with each other is through democracy, cooperation, and moderation; NOT fear, exploitation, and competing for more than we need. Everything is connected.
The problem is we are all raised to believe that everything is separate, that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, that we should fear each other and especially the dreaded “Other” or we may find ourselves in harm’s way. We lived in healthy accord with each other and nature for millions of years, until we MISTAKINGLY went from living in a democratic, cooperative, healthy (eco-centric), way to living in an exploitative, competitive, unhealthy (ego-centric) way. The first step toward organizing peacefully and effectively is to allow cooperation to take a front seat to competition once again.
2) Learn to trump ownership-based love with relationship-based love
“We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.” –R.D. Laing
Ownership is an illusion, especially when it comes to love. But we have been raised to believe that everything has a price-tag on it, and that all things can be owned. Ask yourself what is ownership. What does it mean to own something? If you describe ownership as the given right to control, then you have an unhealthy understanding of ownership. If, on the other hand, you describe ownership as borrowed energy that you will one day have to give back, then you have a healthy understanding of ownership. The problem is we’ve confused ownership with the right to control and destroy. Like Derrick Jensen wrote, “The culture’s problem lies, above all, in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.”
A better method is to practice relationship-based love with all things: with the land, with money, with your spouse. Everything is borrowed energy, and the sooner we can self-actualize this concept the sooner we will be able to be the type of person who can organize peacefully, despite those who love ownership, power, and war.
3) Learn to trump artillery with art
“In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable and help to change it.”
Celebrate art and satire, not guns and violence. You are free to be creatively mischievous and openly rail against the State, using art as your tool. A person using a gun is a symbol of failure. Guns are for the weak. Violence is for the immature. True courage isn’t blowing up a hostile tank, it’s creatively counting coup on your enemy through satiric jest. True courage is standing on your feet with joy & love in your heart, holding a pen, a camera, or a paintbrush, with a smile on your face while the tanks of madmen threaten to roll over you. Violence should only ever be a last-ditch-effort at self-reservation, never a first.
To remain healthy, sustainable and vibrant, each cultural “system” requires a constant renewal of ceremonies and rituals through a revolution in art & literature. Objectively, art is alive in a way forbidden natural objects and, subjectively, in a way subsuming the subjects who create them. Think Picasso’s Guernica. Think Orwell’s 1984. Think Banksy’s street art. In order to accede to a full engagement with our humanity, we must involve ourselves with art that transcends our current knowledge of things, and then learn how to apply that knowledge so as to become more ethical than the society we were raised in.
4) Learn to trump obedience with civil disobedience
“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.” –Howard Zinn
This might seem counterintuitive to peace, but it’s not. It is actually the foundation of peace, as it keeps those with power (false or otherwise) humbled, accountable and in check, for it is those who are in power who drop bombs and order people murdered. Civil disobedience is a pawn putting a king in checkmate on a chessboard. It’s Gandhi on the salt march. It’s Martin Luther King going to jail 30 times for social justice. It’s Bradly Manning revealing war crimes. It’s Edward Snowden revealing the overreach of the surveillance state.
If we would be proactive citizens who love peace more than war, then we must be able to trump the vile epidemic of civil obedience with the courageous accountability of civil disobedience. If we cannot do it, or if we are prevented from doing so, then John F. Kennedy’s words may just come true: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
5) Learn to trump greed with empathy
“The true culprit, the puppet master that manipulates our elites from behind the scenes, is the money system itself – a credit-based, interest-driven system that arises from the ancient, rising tide of separation; that generates competition, polarization, and greed; that compels endless economic growth; and most importantly, is coming to an end in our time as the fuel for that growth – social, natural, cultural, and spiritual capital – runs out.” –Charles Eisenstein
We have been conditioned to value money over relationships with other people. This conditioning must be reversed and reconditioned. The heart should always be greater than money, but we have inadvertently allowed the opposite to occur. This must change. Equality must trump equity. People must trump profits. Democracy must trump plutocracy. Proactive citizenry must trump passive consumerism. The land of the free must trump the land of the fee. Or we are doomed as a free and robust nation.
“The land is not a commodity that belongs to us;” wrote Also Leopold, “it’s a community to which we belong.” We need a community of people whose foundation is the maintenance of relationships: relationships with each other and with the biotic community. We need these people to stand up, in peaceful resistance, to people whose foundation is the primacy of production.
The former group is based on community, the latter on economics. Economics must be secondary to relationships in order for a healthy, sustainable, happy society to emerge. Like Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” And here we are.