Tag Archives: peace

Happy Birthday John Lennon

Thankfulness and John Lennon

This is a repost of a blog published on 11/27/2013 for Thanksgiving. Things have changed in Syria but my sentiments are the same and John Lennon provided the sound track for those sentiments.

I came of age in those amazing times when America learned to hate war and long for peace. I grew up chanting “All we are saying, is give Peace a chance” along with John Lennon and many blue jean clad peers. We all boarded the “Peace Train” and pinned our hopes on a world that wanted peace as badly as we did. We recognized war as a terrible thing, tearing people, families, children, homes, villages, cities, and nations apart and emphasizing the fault lines of hate that run through human history. We did not want to go to war in Vietnam.

As we aged our anti-war message mellowed. We learned the lessons of expediency. With Katie we watched two planes fly into the Twin Towers; we watched those proud towers which pierced our skies burn to ash, melt, and fall over our iconic city. While many of us peaceniks did not want to go to war in Iraq and had real doubts about those weapons of mass destruction, we felt that if we seemed unprepared for some military style of retaliation we would only invite more attacks. We recognized the need to mount a good defense in terms of domestic security systems, and a good offense in terms of a willingness to find and hunt down our enemies and to be ready to meet them on a battlefield. War reared its ugly head again and our chorus of “give Peace a chance” dwindled until it was almost just a silent wish. But that refrain is still there; it is the bass line of our existence. When our strong yearning for peace was met by the revelation that anti-American sentiment around the world was about to become the treble line of our existence, we girded our loins (well the loins of our soldiers) to do more war, war seemingly without end, as it is unclear how all the hostilities that face us around the globe will ever give way to tolerance and peaceful coexistence. It looks as if our contretemps with Islamic extremists will be quite hard to unravel, and then we face other unhappy campers in far flung corners of the world. It looks like we will become way more weary of war before the people of earth will ever reach some kind of equanimity and détente.

So when I saw what happened with the chemical weapons in Syria; when I saw that a peaceful solution was found that seems to be functioning; when I see Syria’s chemical weapons being destroyed by Syria without our having to brings our missiles to bear, then it does not matter who looks weak and who did or didn’t get to strut their hawkishness. I am simply thankful and since it is Thanksgiving, what better week is there to express my thankfulness. And when I see Iran asking us to consider a bargain, a deal, however small that deal may be, I am again thankful, although with lots of reservations – a kind of wait and see thankfulness that that little bass line, John Lennon’s line, “give Peace a chance” just got a little bit louder; not rocking the car louder, but the car next to you knows you are listening to the tune louder. I guess you could say that I am tentatively thankful, hoping this will turn into full blown thankfulness and that this trend of working things out will continue. Happy Thanksgiving! Listen to the bass line.

and Imagine…

Imagine

By John Lennon

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

© LENNON, JOHN /
For non-commercial use only.

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

Love Peace: Prepare for War

paradox5

No Time to Stand Down

I know that America must make it clear to the world that we can defend ourselves. We must make it clear that we are in a merely tactical withdrawal. Our military resources must not be allowed to get rusty or decline in numbers or readiness. We must stay battle ready. We should even continue with military innovation. The world is hardly at peace yet as we can see and we have enemies, mostly foreign, perhaps a few domestic, who would delight in catching us unprepared. Our allies must stay prepared to fight also. This is no time to stand down.

New Kind of War

However, this is the time to stand back when we can, to analyze, to accept that future wars in some ways may not look like the wars of the past, although many of the same sad truths will apply. It is time to regroup, to brainstorm, and find innovative ways to target each enemy with tailor-made plans in the same way we now target certain cancers with personalized drugs. We can’t afford to ignore our enemies; we don’t really want to be isolationists who wake up one day to find themselves deprived of this Democracy we treasure.

Can’t Waste Our Best Asset

Committing ourselves to send huge forces of our young men and women off to war as America’s soldiers is not a strategy that will work. We don’t have the human resources for this or the heart.  Our people are too precious to us and we don’t have an enormous population to waste. Our human resources are hardly endless. We have no “clone” army. We have no robot soldiers. How do we fight well without expending large numbers of our most valuable resource – our people? I think we fight exactly as we are learning to fight now. “Designer” wars targeted to a particular enemy are a good start, although our long distance tools are limited. We need to rewrite those classic books on military strategy, to 2K reboot them, so to speak.

What We Stand to Gain and Lose

We may not love drones but for a while they are the only nonhuman long distance resource we have outside of nukes which we absolutely can’t use and chemicals, which we also can’t use. Collateral damage is always a bad thing in a war. Wars are not supposed to kill civilians. They are about deciding how those civilians will live after the war. If no civilians survive, war is pointless, unless you are simply trying to depopulate the planet and fortunately we aren’t there yet. I’m a civilian. I don’t want to be killed by accident; therefore I don’t love drones that kill civilians anywhere. I don’t love war either for that matter. We must use the new tools we have to prevent our Democracy from being swallowed by a world of power-mad people who hate freedom. We must not allow ourselves to be easily crushed by those who would have us live according to religious beliefs and customs that are not our own and who would deprive us of important rights. Women would especially be deprived of freedoms that we hold very dear. Our brains would once again cry out to be used and we would end up using them in petty competitions and cruelties among ourselves.

Police, Use Military Gear to Defend Locals, Not Police Them

I do deplore the fact that our police departments own equipment that is military in nature, but I only deplore it if they use it on our own people to enforce laws that can be enforced (and have been enforced) without turning our hometown police, our neighbors, into hostile strangers hiding behind riot gear. We don’t want to escalate violence against each other. We want to be trained to recognize a true enemy if it presents itself and we want to be prepared to fight such an enemy anywhere in America. (I am trying to get used to calling America the homeland, but it doesn’t sound quite right to me yet.)

Flexible, Targeted, and Deadly

We need to have strategies that allow for flexibility, for travelling light but being a deadly force regardless of the size. We need ways to get into war zones, where the outcomes may affect us or our allies, quickly and to get out quickly. We don’t have many of these technologies in our arsenal. They may not even have been invented yet or we may not have decided yet whether they are technologies we want to use. However, if we can design things as toys for movies I am guessing we can eventually design real ones. Drones cannot be the only robot or long distance tool we have and drones need to continue to be refined until our enemies can be more exactly targeted.

The Paradox

I want peace. I have no faith that mankind has any gift for peace and I still want it. Until the whole world wants it too, is dedicated to it absolutely, I am a war monger who only wishes to make it clear that we can and will defend ourselves. We will try in every way not to defend ourselves with the frail flesh and blood of our fellow Americans. We have to try to invent the most effective techniques we can find for fighting wars from a distance. If our ways are effective enough maybe war will end; it will be too deadly to fight wars and we can have peace. If we can invent the internet we can do this. Meanwhile we must stay lean, mean and keep as much distance from our enemies as humanly possible. We can hate war, in fact it is better if we do, but we must know how and be prepared to fight. This is the paradox of the world as we know it, the paradox that I hope we can someday put behind us forever.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Will We Ever Have a Prolonged Peace?

hunters4

Brutality, aggression, competition are part of all humans, probably hard-wired in as survival skills for hunters. We see most brutality in this age from men, but we are beginning to see more dangerous women, and those Amazonian women of legend still have quite a reputation (not to mention the Borgias). Women may be sneakier in their attacks (perhaps to make up for smaller size and different musculature due to female hormones), but women can be vicious also. Men often confront life head on and in the moment, but brutal men who are better known for cool-headed strategizing may get to exercise their power over longer periods of time. I don’t know that we will ever be rid of brutality and, if it’s not the trait that brings about our ruination as a species, it will probably continue to be useful in the future.

Even the ancients could list the negative human traits that can plague our cultures if given free rein. We have the Ten Commandments from the Bible (and, it seems, every religion has similar rules or cautions). These lists of religious rules have helped rein in the worst traits of human behavior and they still do. Even people who are not terribly religious see the sense of these rules and try to abide by them for social reasons either of conscience or of law. However, there consistently arise, in positions of power, those humans who seem driven by mad ambition or mental aberration to use brutality to cow various groups into accepting them as leaders.

Goethe wrote Dr. Faustus which became an enduring morality play, still relevant centuries later. He gave us the Seven Deadly Sins (greed, pride, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth, lust). It is easy to trace the calumny triggered even in the 21st century by these sins of excess. (Catholicism lists seven virtues (chastitiy, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility) which we often have serious trouble adhering to also. There are prices to pay both large and small when people are unable to follow the path of moderation

History and current events prove that human nature has changed very little over the centuries. And while I often hope for “enlightenment”, I should be hoping for evolution, because we are still quite primitive really and perhaps we still need our flaws. It is possible that in certain situations these flaws are strengths, but this still turns morality on its head because bad people often seem more successful in human societies than kind, benevolent people do (nice guys finish last).

I guess my larger point is that avoiding battles and even wars is just about impossible given our natures. Right now there are so many flash points in our world that I don’t see anywhere we can jump in without having mayhem erupt somewhere else. This very volatility gives us a breather. It’s unclear which fray needs our attention the most. But that head-on brutality crowd is still out there, calling forth our defensive instincts. Future battles and war seem inevitable and we all expect to be sucked into them eventually. We know isolationism is even less possible now than it was in the past.

Perhaps we will invent a drug that soothes the savage beast in us, and the gluttonous and greedy bits, etc. Of course, just when we do that the aliens will attack.

We really need to work on ways to change that hard-wiring to a more civilized “motherboard” if we are ever to experience a prolonged period of peace on earth. But we are not the creators of the human machine and our brains are still largely a mystery.

So, perhaps, no peace for us.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

Tipping the Balance Towards Oblivion

war2

 

Part One: Quick quiz:  Find a pen and some paper. Take one minute and list as many wars as you remember.

war

Here’s my list if you want to compare:

  • The War of the Roses
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • The Hundred Years War
  • The Boxer Rebellion
  • The American Revolution
  • The French Revolution
  • The Russian Revolution
  • The French and Indian War
  • The War of 1812
  • Custer’s Last Stand
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • The Spanish American War
  • The Crimean War
  • The Crusades
  • The Iraq War
  • The Afghanistan War
  • Desert Storm
  • The Civil War
  • The Arab Spring
  • The Boer War
  • The War in Bosnia
  • The Korean War (military action)

It is very, very difficult to imagine a world with no wars. Peace and prosperity that persists over time is not something we trust or believe in, although it is definitely something we long for.

PartTwo: Make a list of countries you thought would likely upset our hopes for a peaceful world.

war4

Here’s my list (in no particular order):

  • Iran
  • Afghanistan
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Syria
  • Egypt
  • Nigeria
  • Somalia
  • Congo
  • Sudan
  • (many African nations)
  • China (expansion in South China Sea)
  • Thailand
  • North Korea
  • Venezuela

Unless you are Tom Clancy (Command Authority) you probably would not have placed Russia on the list of nations likely to be troubled and troubling until just last week.

As I have heard people say on the internet and television, you may have felt that Putin’s behavior has seemed somewhat pathological recently, arrogant one moment, pouty the next. President Putin makes me (and others) nervous. I don’t know if he makes me more nervous than Ted Cruz, but I can’t think of a cartoon character to compare him to and, for me, that’s a bad sign.

Who would have thought, given all the other nations where unrest seems ready to explode into violence at each and every moment, that Russia would add to and trump all the rest of the world’s burdens – not because of any horrors that were perpetrated, but because of what this action portends for the future. We don’t want another monster on the loose. We already have Assad who would rather obliterate “his” country and its people than let go of the reins of government. We already have the prison camp drawings that came out of North Korea recently. Crimea went to Putin easily, but if he goes on to try to annex Ukraine will they prove to be as agreeable (scared)?

I understand that President Putin wants a sea port. It seems clear that the people of Crimea do not mind rejoining Russia. Why did Putin, who I wanted to put in the ranks of modern, enlightened leaders, have to resort to using troops to scare the Crimean people? This seems to be a case where diplomacy would have worked. Yet Putin did not even try it. With all those foreboding troops around it is really hard to guess if the people of Crimean are truly happy to rejoin Russia.

Now we have to add Russia to that long list of countries with political stresses that could affect the entire direction of the world. It looked like we were headed, slowly and rather explosively, towards that peace and prosperity we all long for, that modern, civilized global community where we all get along and work together to explore the enormous universe that surrounds us. Now this goal seems even further away than it did last month or last year. It would be so easy to fall backwards into a new Dark Age. Now we have a new and really giant nation, with plenty of nukes, to add to that list of worrisome nations who could send us spiraling backwards at any ragged moment. Can we figure out a way to take a long, long vacation from war? It sure doesn’t look promising.

 

war3

 

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

<a href=https://plus.google.com/10640005355488737390?=author>Nancy Brisson</a>

 

Thankfulness and John Lennon

givepeaceachance5

 

I came of age in those amazing times when America learned to hate war and long for peace. I grew up chanting “All we are saying, is give Peace a chance” along with John Lennon and many blue jean clad peers. We all boarded the “Peace Train” and pinned our hopes on a world that wanted peace as badly as we did. We recognized war as a terrible thing, tearing people, families, children, homes, villages, cities, and nations apart and emphasizing the fault lines of hate that run through human history. We did not want to go to war in Vietnam.

As we aged our anti-war message mellowed. We learned the lessons of expediency.  With Katie we watched two planes fly into the Twin Towers; we watched those proud towers which pierced our skies burn to ash, melt, and fall over our iconic city. While many of us peaceniks did not want to go to war in Iraq and had real doubts about those weapons of mass destruction, we felt that if we seemed unprepared for some military style of retaliation we would only invite more attacks. We recognized the need to mount a good defense in terms of domestic security systems, and a good offense in terms of a willingness to find and hunt down our enemies and to be ready to meet them on a battlefield. War reared its ugly head again and our chorus of “give Peace a chance” dwindled until it was almost just a silent wish. But that refrain is still there; it is the bass line of our existence. When our strong yearning for peace was met by the revelation that anti-American sentiment around the world was about to become the treble line of our existence, we girded our loins (well the loins of our soldiers) to do more war, war seemingly without end, as it is unclear how all the hostilities that face us around the globe will ever give way to tolerance and peaceful coexistence. It looks as if our contretemps with Islamic extremists will be quite hard to unravel, and then we face other unhappy campers in far flung corners of the world. It looks like we will become way more weary of war before the people of earth will ever reach some kind of equanimity and détente.

So when I saw what happened with the chemical weapons in Syria; when I saw that a peaceful solution was found that seems to be functioning; when I see Syria’s chemical weapons being destroyed by Syria without our having to brings our missiles to bear, then it does not matter who looks weak and who did or didn’t get to strut their hawkishness. I am simply thankful and since it is Thanksgiving, what better week is there to express my thankfulness. And when I see Iran asking us to consider a bargain, a deal, however small that deal may be, I am again thankful, although with lots of reservations – a kind of wait and see thankfulness that that little bass line, John Lennon’s line, “give Peace a chance” just got a little bit louder; not rocking the car louder, but the car next to you knows you are listening to the tune louder. I guess you could say that I am tentatively thankful, hoping this will turn into full blown thankfulness and that this trend of working things out will continue. Happy Thanksgiving! Listen to the bass line.

and Imagine…

givepeaceachance4

 

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at http://thebrissioniblog.blogspot.com/

 

Surprises of Globalization

cheese-making-kazakhstan_71803_990x742

Photo Credit: Shamil Zhumatov, Reuters shared on Google+ by Fadhel Hawramany, Cheese-making in Kazahkstan

The admonition of our forefathers that “all men (and women) are created equal” does guide a lot our decisions as Americans and lately seems to keep leading us back to another old adage, that one that says “no good deed goes unpunished”. The fact that it seemed wrong to many Americans to enjoy relative prosperity while many others around the world seemed to languish in poverty led to a belief that, although Americans lost all of their jobs, the jobs that were created in places where no boom has gone before (in recent memory) convinced us that this was, in some twisted self-effacing way, a good thing for the whole world in the long run. Allowing others to make puny wages doing jobs that provided Americans with great incomes could be justified because it would eventually lift up workers around the world, assuage our national guilt, and usher in a future that guaranteed human rights for all. Not that we necessarily had a choice. Globalization happened. Actually, of course, average Americans did not send their jobs to other nations; their jobs were yanked away and bestowed elsewhere. Still it is somewhat comforting to believe that losing our jobs makes us better Americans, adhering to the ideals that formed the basis of our nation and the ideals that people around the world have found admirable and desirable.

I don’t think we have been quite as happy with the realities of the road to globalization. It will take many generations, probably, for global economics to raise the standard of living for everyone. In the meantime, Americans are left in a sort of economic backwater, a zone where all but the wealthiest Americans are stuck treading water, and rather brackish water at that. We don’t really want to be in this financial limbo and we may not stay here for long. Hopefully we will find a way up and out, a way back to the prosperity that makes America hum, that calms twitchy Republican plutocrats, and gives us back our optimistic spirit. What we can’t know is how long it will take for this to happen, and whether we will be able to pull another rabbit out of our magic hat and find the next thing or things that will take us to a new prosperity. Perhaps on our enforced hiatus from prosperity we will learn to enjoy a bit of languishing, to slow down a bit and embrace a simpler lifestyle that values intangibles like family and friends and leisure and that does not so much rely on collecting more and more stuff, things, objects we never have any time to appreciate.

Must everyone in America have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances? I just saw a photo taken by someone on Google+ that shows a Central Asian mother and daughter making cheese. They are squatting in a hut with a straw floor forming perfect mounds of fresh cheese on a wooden board probably getting ready to sell their cheeses at the local market. Obviously the contrast between these two “kitchen” scenarios exposes the distance the world must travel before there is any real economic global equality of opportunity. If we find a way to restore the upward trajectory of our economy the distance among nations will continue to widen or at least maintain its current proportions. However, I don’t expect that we will lag behind on purpose waiting for people in other nations to catch up.

In addition, economics is not the only sphere of human activity that has been stirred by globalization. An absolute torrent of hostility has been released, most of it religious in nature between people who adhere to a set of stern religious laws and have practiced this demanding religion since antiquity.  So we find ourselves in the midst of a religious firestorm, a maelstrom that was unforeseen by most of us. If you read science fiction, especially Frank Herbert’s Dune books, the idea of jihad probably did not come as a total surprise, but still, who knew; not us “ugly” Americans. We did not know that modern communication devices like computers and especially cell phones, and the penchant for tourism that arose with transportation advances and increased prosperity would, just like disturbing a hive of hornets, produce culture shock after culture shock, foment anger and violent reactionary responses that would lead to the threat of terrorism that has arrived on America’s (and the rest of the industrialized world’s) doorstep and which has become a new fact of life.

Who knew that there are many people who would want to resist globalization, who treasured their traditional lifestyle, their religious isolation and who, once change began to rock their world, awoke to a passion of missionary zeal that Allah requires once the infidel is right in your backyard. Christians ought to understand the often unintentional cruelties of the call to carry a foreign religious mission to “pagans” and “nonbelievers”. Many of us did not foresee that what seemed like just simple economic change would resonate through every level of the diverse cultures around the world and make diversity one of the largest issues involved in globalization. Untangling these belief issues and lifestyle issues requires delicacy and time, not strong weapons in the American arsenal. We are spontaneous, well-meaning, earnest, clueless; bulls in the china shop of global human interactions. We are not known for either patience or delicacy.

Now that globalization has begun, it probably can’t be stopped unless we go into another “dark” age which seems unlikely. But the globalizations we are experiencing will probably not do away with nations, nor will it probably do away with religions, at least not in any of our lifetimes. Can we wend our ways through the minefields of culture shock and religious intolerance and economic rises and falls to form a more perfect union of the world’s nations that could bring to our little planet health and peace? That is the challenge of this particular era of human history. Will environmental forces trump all of it and drown us in global environmental crisis? We live with that challenge right now. Yikes. I wish I believed that this all arose from our belief that all men are created equal (and perhaps some of it did) but most of this nexus of change arose from greed. Oh well, we are what we are. Surprise! The key words in all this are delicacy and time.