How has the world developed from a humanist point of view? Is the world a better or worse place to live in than 1 year ago? What can we do in our organisation and as individuals to contribute to the creation of the world that we all long to live in?
It was one year ago that the first events took place that would later on be called the Arab Spring. A Tunisian market trader set himself on fire and simultaneously awakened the hopes of people from Morocco to Syria, from Bahrain to Libya, who have been living under feared dictatorships for decades.
Within weeks the Regime of Ben Ali had fallen, the people of Egypt were occupying Tahrir Square until Mubarak would agree to leave power, and the seeds of the Indignados of Spain and the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York had been sown.
It is true that 2011 has given us in WwW moments of incredible joy and inspiration. It is possible that this year will be written about in history books as the year when the people of the world started to become once more aware of the huge power they have to fight injustice and an economic system that enslaves the people of the entire globe.
Yet, at the same time, although we see the end of the current world order approaching on the horizon, its final death spasms are creating violence in multiple forms all around the world. Whereas armed violence in Egypt and Tunisia seems to have been relatively minor, with national Armies swiftly backing the people, the situation in Libya has horrified us for months. The USA and Western governments have shown again the evil they are capable of when they justify military intervention with “human rights,” thereby emptying them of all meaning. Foreign intervention in the form of money and weapons created a war that only seems to have benefitted the oil companies. And now Syria is heading in the same direction...
The people, not only of the countries affected by social protests, but also those watching through their televisions around the world, have been manipulated through the media to believe that war is the only answer. But as Egypt and Tunisia showed, when the people withdraw their cooperation any system crumbles virtually overnight. It is true that more strength is needed to resist without violence, but war never works in anything other than a short term sense because wars always create the conditions for the next war.
In 2011 the subject of nuclear weapons was not heard of much in the global media. The NPT is not due for review until 2015 and although Iran is probably pursuing a goal of building a weapon, it doesn’t seem to be in conditions to test anything yet.
This of course hasn’t stopped the USA continuing their development of a missile shield programme, similar to the one that the Czechs resisted. And using Iran as a justification, the USA has announced new plans for a shield system with the involvement of Poland, Turkey and other countries. Russia, seeing this system as a direct threat to their own ability to respond to a military attack has recently increased their own military readiness and deployed missiles on the Polish border and elsewhere, ready to attack NATO installations. Medvedev has been broadcast on Russian TV speaking in the same terms that scared the world to its bones during the Cold War.
It is this increased tension, and the threat by the Russians to withdraw from the recently signed START treaty that has left many of us feeling the world is certainly more insecure at the end of 2011 than it was at the beginning.
In the financial world we have seen the opening battles in the War of the Markets. This is a frightening war that has started with an intense attack on the people of Greece and has spread to Ireland, Spain, Portugal and now Italy.
The IMF is going around the world “disciplining” national governments and forcing them to implement inhumanly hard austerity measures that are literally killing people. Two Prime Ministers have been removed from power in supposedly democratic countries and basically replaced by representatives of the bank.
The media once more support these actions telling the population that it is the only way, that the debt must be paid (even though it is not their personal debt), and that the world will come to an end if we don’t obey the banks...
We have been saying for decades that this global economic system doesn’t work. Or rather it works for a privileged few and leaves the rest of the world in a system of economic slavery. Whether you live in the slums of Nairobi or the luxury apartments of Manhattan you are at the mercy of the banks. The banks allow you to have money or not, they produce not a thing in the world and yet through their speculation they can bring a country to its knees overnight. Their decision makers have no democratic legitimacy yet they influence the decisions about health, education and social welfare of nearly all countries of the world.
We know this system is crumbling and 2011 has shown it at its worst. People around the world are starting to consider alternative ways of running countries without the world’s banks being in the hands of private corporations. In the mean time the banks are continuing their behaviour, sucking all public assets into private hands, and leaving no possibility for human beings to live in peace.
Yet we are hopeful, Silo reflected on this in 2009 in his video called the Experience and the TV show Sage of the Andes. “There won’t be an apocalypse.” He explained that we are in a moment of history when human beings have outgrown their ideologies, like a child outgrows its old clothes. Our 20th century ideologies of economics, religion, gender roles, human rights, sexuality, etc are all going through a severe period of questioning. Nothing we believed 50 years ago is as it is today.
Our lives have changed beyond recognition. The world is more connected, technology hasn’t just transformed the West, it has even reached the remotest villages of the poorest countries in the world. And at the same time a new generation is emerging that doesn’t take as its reference what the older generation says. Young people are deciding for themselves what their values should be.
Everything old is perceived to be unfit for purpose. Nothing works for young people, and something must be done.
This awakening of young people is truly the most astonishing aspect of this new moment. They are inclusive, able to involve people of other ages and conditions; an interesting difference from the clashing attitude of other moments.
We are seeing a resurgence of interest in the themes of nonviolence. Instead of violent protest, we are seeing more and more non-violent Marches around the world (something that we’d like to think we’ve influenced with the raising of awareness caused by our own World March).
So, as humanists and members of World without Wars and Violence, what can and should we do in such a global situation? It is true that we are a tiny organisation and we have no great financial resources to count on. We are not in every country and even in the countries we are in our strength is small. Are we then to say to ourselves that there is no value in our attempt to contribute to nonviolent social change?
No. We don’t believe this. A nonviolent and human society is not yet guaranteed, and even if Silo predicted that the other half of the system (after communism) will collapse without an apocalypse, there are many opportunities for violence to increase, and there are many opportunities for those who propose nonviolence to say something useful.
In World without Wars we will continue to work in the direction of a new society. We will continue to preach nonviolence because more and more people want to hear about it. And this contribution we will make is the best thing for the situation we are working in. We don’t need our name and our banner to appear in the headlines. It is enough for us to let future historians decide if the nonviolent movement was influenced by Siloists or not.
In any case, as individuals, and as an organisation, we will continue to propose the simple spirituality of treating others as we want to be treated, our Parks and meeting places will be places where communities of nonviolence will continue to be developed, and the reference that we give to the people will be the beacons of light that inspire lives.
As we write this reflection it is 2 years since 10,000 pilgrims journeyed to our Park of Study and Reflection in Punta de Vacas, Argentina to celebrate the end of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence. From that beacon of peace and humanity, World without Wars was refounded.
In 2012 let us return to the world of people with our heads and foreheads luminous with the idealism we have within us, secure that although the year ahead will likely be more difficult for the people of the world, this is only a small difficulty on the path we are taking, that our future is assured and that the violence we live with everyday is closer to its end.
With a big hug and best wishes for 2012.