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Peace Work and Movements
at the Turn of the Century



By Jan Oberg, TFF director



- "A burning passion coupled with absolute detachment is the key to all success."

Mahatma Gandhi




1. Peace Movements Come, Go and Change

While peace movements come and go, people's wish for peace is a steady undercurrent of civil society and civilised society. Whether there is peace and whether there are movements depends entirely on the definitions applied. Peace can be found in a situation, in a structure, in invisible values, and in a moment's revelation. It does not always have to be constructed by some kind of entrepreneur or actor.

Peace movement and peace work is global. However, in this essay I shall focus primarily on the movements in Europe. One can think of many reasons why the peace movement, or rather movements, of the 1970s and 1980s seem largely to have disappeared:

• Individual and social exhaustion together with a belief that the movements would be less needed with the dismantling of some of the nuclear weapons as well as with the demolition of the Berlin War.

• The Gorbachev factor. The peace movement was a major force for changing people's attitudes and undermining the two-bloc Cold War system. The women in it, in particular, did it together with dissidents in the Eastern bloc. However, the activists were taken by surprise, as was everybody else, at the crumbling of the Soviet empire and the rapidity of change in the political environment. They were outmanoeuvred as quite a few nuclear arms disappeared.

• Anti-nuclearism and anti-militarism was an 'easy' standpoint with a considerable potential for moralising. Only a minority in the movements seemed to recognise that not everybody in uniform was an enemy (the Generals for Peace being, of course, an exception).

• Activists became disillusioned when they found out how much time, energy and persistence it would take to bring even small changes, and deal with conflicts inside and between the movements.

• The movement was populated with the generation that grew up during the Cold War years in the 1950s and people in the flowery, youth rebellious Sixties. Like everybody else, they grew older. Thus, quite a few dropped out of the movements, put on a tie, bought a house, started a career (quite often in the state apparatus they had protested against); in short, conformed to the reality that be - and quite comfortably so.

• Many activists dissipated into other movements such as the environment, feminism, human rights, New Age and various kinds of spiritual, soul-searching individual endeavours.

• The Left, including the Social Democrats, which carried a considerable part of the movement, was struck by crisis in the wake of the demise of the Cold War structures, if not before. The welfare state and other distinctive marks was challenged by a triumphalist market ideology. Communism which was certainly the object of 'containment' and whose motives had been demonized by Western propaganda, turned out to be more rotten than even the most critical had suspected.

• Articulate personalities with a foot in the movements appeared to quite easily make a career in 'the Establishment', in governments. Thus, young Bill Clinton who avoided the Vietnam War has become a pretty trigger-happy President Clinton; youth rebellious leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Euro-Parliament MP with little similarity with the young Daniel on the Paris barricades. The German Green Party changed leaders over time from the likes of Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian to Joschka Fischer whose first act as Minister of Foreign Affairs in late 1998 was to condone the idea of NATO bombings of Yugoslavia.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook started out in CND and the present Indian Minister of Defence, George Fernandes, who became responsible for India's nuclearist policies and nuclear weapons test in May 1998, has pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and Luther King on his office walls and was one of his country's leading human rights and nonviolence advocate when a student at Delhi University. Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel, Regis Debray and Lech Walenza are other examples - together with e.g. anti-Tito dissidents - of people who changed their basic world outlook about nonviolence, democracy and civil society in order to reach top power positions - or did so upon having reached it. In passing, what distinguishes Mikhail Gorbachev was that, in contrast, he became a more radical reformist in domestic and international affairs after having taken office.

• Academic peace research which was often - falsely, I think - accused of being an intellectual branch of the peace movements has paid a price for institutionalisation, state financing and social acceptability by becoming increasingly more mainstream: security studies with a peaceful face rather than a predominantly strategic or military face. What it seems to have gained in professionalism as science has been lost in terms of innovation and exploration of new intellectual territories. Peace research now as then still deals far more with criticism than with constructivism, with the violent systems than with non-violence and societal peace building and peace culture development.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for understanding why the peace movement(s) disappeared since 1990:

• It's character as an anti-movement. One demonstrated for dis-armament, de-militarization, non-proliferation, non-violence and no-first use, etc. while little energy was spent on alternative concepts and policy-formulation. 'Establishment' people often won the debate by asking: But, what would you like to see instead? The interest in alternative military defence as well as in non-military defence and broader societal security policies never really caught on in the movements. And while being 'anti' it was not what György Konrad terms 'anti politics' with all its innovative civil-society potentials.

• They were social, collective movements with additional functions for its activists such as creating community, solidarity, providing opportunities for having a great time, feeling a sense of togetherness around some basic values and shaping the identity of a couple of generations in a turbulent time. The 1990s displayed more of an individualist ethos, either going out selling yourself on the market or going inward search for individual spirituality.



2. Shallow and Deep Movement

Using an old but solid distinction by Norwegian philosopher and life-long Gandhi scholar, Arne Næss - that between "shallow" and "deep" values, engagement and movement - one may venture to say that the broad peace movements that marched the streets certainly did contribute to dismantling the old Cold War structure and thousands of weapons, but it was nonetheless a shallow one for some of the reasons mentioned above.

There has, however, always been a deeper movement which is much less visible, smaller, more diversified and "fundamental(ist)" which can be identified by catchwords such as a philosophy of nonviolence in general, Gandhianism, reverence for life, a respectful attitude to fellow humans and 'enemies', whether practised among activists, in ordinary everyday life, in temples and monasteries, in alternative ways of living, in living in harmony with Nature, other cultures and human beings.

In any society, even the war-ridden ones, we find an indigenous peace potential that has been nurtured through generations, but often in the more humble corners of social and often religious life. We find it also in literature, music, art, theatre and other cultural expressions. It constitutes a huge reservoir that is called upon not the least in times of crisis and war.

It is not organised, has no slogans or political program. It has no single issue or platform from which to win over others. Its leaders are not elected, they are unconstituted and they would not dream about taking over government power positions. The practitioners of deep peace try to "walk lightly" on Earth.

Some of the practitioners we might think of here are, first of all, many ordinary citizens in any society around the world. There is a civil society everywhere with people who, even when completely unknown in the public, think and act according to peace-oriented principles in life's smallest as well as biggest issues. We might think of the Quakers, various spiritual leaders, authors and philosophers, dissidents and other citizens with civil courage to stand up against their own society's and their own government's policies of peacelessness. We may think of people and organizations who are built on genuine, unconditional generosity and conducting various types of life and soul-saving activities among those who suffer.

The deep movement does not see itself in constant competition with or confrontation against government power. It does something else - not "anti" but pro a larger aim, a vision. It doesn't do it primarily in a belief of rationality, but by intuition, experimenting and by setting a good example for others rather than forcing or persuading them to follow.

I believe that when seen in a macro-historical perspective, this is the sustainable peace movement. It is not fluctuate much with world events, neither is it ignorant, aloof or exclusively inward-looking. It is deep and develops long-term, it is pretty invisible in the public domain and in the media and defies photo opportunities. Without it, I believe the world would fall (even more rapidly) apart.

The deep peace movement perhaps doesn't show much movement, doesn't rise and fall. It simply exists because its workers can't do anything else. They see it as an existential commitment, based on principles that change little over a human life time. Sometimes it is an undercurrent, sometimes a countercurrent, in between it simply exists.

In summary, did the peace movement disappear? Yes, if we define it in one way. No, if we define it otherwise.



3. Old and Emerging Paradigms - and Myths

The 'old' security and peace challenge had to do with how countries could meet threats from other countries by means of weapons and strategies that would deter enemies and, if deterrence failed, would be capable of fighting and winning. It was as if created to be defined and monopolised by state apparata, governments and military establishments.

While peace movements of the 1970s and 1980s focussed mainly on weapons, they did not directly go and help people suffering in war. They demonstrated and protested against the Indochina wars and the coup d'etat in Chile or the invasions in Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, but few went there to alleviate suffering. What we used to call the peace movement marched the streets, wrote books, pamphlets and songs, protested government policies and stayed at home. Peace activists fought against mass-destructive weapons while most had never seen one.

Now the challenge of peace and security is located in civil society dynamics, in history, in human existential dimensions, in dissipating social and communicative structures. This 'new' type of peace challenge is way more social, societal, socio-psychological, requires knowledge about human beings and human society. The old peace focussed on the "inter" between countries and much less on the "inner" or "intra" of states and human society.

Today's peace activists march and criticise their governments much less and travel more to where violence is used. There is a direct "human touch" - working for peace means going there as a humanitarian worker, as a conflict-resolution NGO, as peace educators, as trainers in nonviolence, as early warners. This is a change of focus and a change of method, it is more selective or relative and concrete than the older peace activism which was ethical, distant (from the object), conflictual with militant governments, more "anti."

Popularly speaking, if the world needed strategists before, it now needs historians, psychologists, anthropologists and others with a social (science) background to explain what is happening. And it needs professionals in a field where few are yet found: impartial conflict analysis, mitigation, mediation and peace-building.

State actors, including ministries of defence and alliance structures such as NATO don't like that. For it spells the end of their practical near-monopoly over the definitions, the means and the debate about the real issues. NATO, on may argue, has been searching for a new raison d'etre since the demise on history's stage of both the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. The only way governments can operate now is to 'invade' a space in which they have basically no competence and define the issue in ways that permit them to remain quite central. The new catchword, therefore, as you may have guessed, is "conflict-management" and, where deemed necessary by the strongest, "peace enforcement."

It does not seem to bother the world of governments and their diplomats that they enter into problems or intellectual fields in which they have no experience and no particular professional competence or training. Peace politics, we are repeatedly told nowadays, means intervening with or without violent means in somebody else's conflict; the rich Western countries are neither threatened anymore by invasions nor party to these localised, far-away conflicts.

The conflict 'managers' have arrogated to themselves the privilege to tell parties what to do to either avoid violence or stop it if they have started it. Diplomats produce peace plans, re-structure whole economies and societies and tell the world two important things, bordering on myth-making to justify it all.

First, that their own countries are not historically co-responsible for the conflicts that have arisen, there are only 'inner' or 'domestic' dynamics, 'failed' states, atavistic motives or pure evil. Indeed, they tell us that it is two different worlds. So much for the theory of inter-dependence and the interconnected 'global village.'

And secondly, that they are out there in Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans basically or even exclusively to create peace. Thus, there are suddenly no strategic and economic interests, no arms export, no intelligence services and no mention of their need to re-define their own security identity through conflict 'management' and (NATO) peacekeeping.

In consequence, we are left with a dualistic world view: there are conflicting regions, evil leaders, rogue and failed states who create all the trouble in the one end, and there are us - God's chosen peacemakers and high moral judges - who bear no responsibility, historically and in contemporary terms, for these conflicts and therefore has a moral mission to 'help' particularly the good guys live in peace.

Put crudely, the Cold war rested on quite a few myth and a Grand Myth about the good "us" and the evil "others." The post-Cold War rests equally on myths and a Grand Myth about the peace-making "us" and the war-making "others." Both provides the West with a missionary zeal - and an identity through enmity plus a set of justifications for virtually any type of violence.

In the longer perspective, of course, this is bound to create conflicts in and of itself between civil society and its peace workers and movers on the one hand, and governments who are - and remain - the main actors of war at the same time as they see themselves as conflict managers par excellence. It's all embodied in NATO - the nuclear destroyer on the one hand and the societal peacekeeper on the other.

In this we may well see the embryo of a new, more complex and diverse, fluid Cold War. The essential structure is the same as the old one's.



4. Complex Conflict - from Peace Movement Toward Peace Work

For the peace activists all this means a much more complex challenge and a much larger need for professionalization. I believe that 'the peace movement' will come back only if we get a threat of major war between major powers - which I agree is not very likely to happen. Instead of peace movements we may see - or hope for - a much enlarged, diversified peace work.

At the shallow level the work aims at violence-reduction in everyday life. At the deep level the focus is more on peace education, the philosophy of nonviolence, alleviating suffering, creating a broader understanding of reconciliation and forgiveness (rather than revenge) and engage social actors in peace-building towards the creation of a peace culture in and among human society and with Nature.

The challenge of peace has diversified over the years. Like security policies have moved from the weapons to that of handling underlying conflict - which is in and of itself a step forward in terms of understanding as well as action - the spectrum of possible peace activities has expanded tremendously. There is much less of the visible, media-oriented peace movement and collective organization - and much more individual and small-group commitment compatible with long-term peace.

Thus, peace work today may take place in conflict regions, among suffering people; it may aim at empowerment and (re)creation of civil society; it may aim at increasing intercultural understanding and respect in increasingly mixed societies also in the West and focus on asylum seekers, refugees and guest workers. It may focus on community-building in big cities, on peaceful and mindful living vis-a-vis other people, other cultures and Nature.

The basic quality is that it aims at creating alternatives to the present world-encompassing culture of violence, and it does so in concrete ways, in action and not only on paper or in thinking. A peace worker is now one who is committed to do something for a small, focussed part of that larger thing called world peace, whereas it used to be one who confronted that whole peace and what threatened it most, namely nuclear annihilation. I wish to add that to me it encompasses an explicit commitment to non-violence in means and ends, in thought, speech and action, but I am able and willing to accept that, given certain norms and situations, there can be a genuine peace conceptualisation and commitment with a less "fundamentalist" value commitment. Peace must remain a pluralist, multicultural - however never corruptible - idea.

This is compatible with the general trend of our times - the individual, not the collectivity, expresses the ethos of the post-Cold War era. One may even talk about a "peace market" as shallow as it may appear - with the numerous individual consultants, small and big NGOs energetically selling their knowledge in one of the fields of peace (or 'peace') to governments, international organizations, via the Internet, personal networking and advocacy.

Some have no background in earlier peace movements; some have substituted radicalism with political correctness. For instance, if the general media-promoted understanding is that Bosnia is the most important conflict in Europe and the Muslim-Bosniak side the only victims, they will flock to Sarajevo - as did about 500 NGOs after the Dayton-Paris Agreement of December 1995. Simultaneously, the needs of people a few kilometres away will be ignored - as they are in, let's say, Brcko. Put crudely, CNN is almost to the peace/war "market" what commercials are to the consumer goods and entertainment industries, and thus fitting the shallow, politically correct engagement.



5. The Politically Correct Peace Engagement in ex-Yugoslavia

The price for all this seems to be that peace-oriented people and organizations increasingly ignore the larger structures of global violence in the one end and the ideals of genuine peace in the future in the other end. Concomitantly, criticism of nuclearism, militarism, interventionism and other violent features that have shown no signs of abating recently is virtually sacrificed.

Today's peace work does not seem to have many attitudes or any explicit, commonly agreed values. Neither are the peace workers explicitly critical of governments, presumably because they belong the the generation that has now basically taken over power and because NGOs have become more or less dependent on funding by the state or intergovernmental organizations. Some NGOs are now Near-Government Organizations.

Some - and certainly the present author - has been astounded by the meek critique among peace workers and peace researchers of what governments do in the name of peace.

Here are some examples of events from recent years: NATO expansion; bombings here and there by the US and other NATO members; simplified, black-and-white government and media analyses of complex conflicts; obscure media images of "good guys/ bad guys;" the systematic undermining of the United Nations as a peacekeeper; ongoing nuclearism; ever higher US military expenditures and arms exports; the near-total failure of Western (US/EU) policies towards reforms in and co-operation with Russia; the new interventionist mood in small countries such as Denmark and Norway which now endorse bombing raids against Iraq and Serbia without requiring a prior UN decision.

In the civilian sphere, the market and its conflict-creating potential is seldom the focus of peace research and peace work and, thus, "globalisation" - the creation of one authoritarian, world-encompassing economy is marketed as the answer to poverty, maldevelopment and exploitation and as a way out of what is probably the deepest world economic and financial crisis since the 1929. Few pay much attention to the connections between these dynamics and those of so-called 'ethnic' conflicts.

The list could be longer, the point is that none of this has raised intellectual and ethical criticism in proportion to the historical significance and potential long-term implications, not to mention the underlying values.

With increasing institutionalisation goes, it seems, decreasing willingness to be outspoken in public debate. More needed than ever before, this public debate is monopolised by governments and global media such as CNN (which by the way is often criticised by people who also say they have stopped watching it) and a news and 'truth' manufacturing industry closely related to economic, political and military power circles of the West.

In ex-Yugoslavia, to be more concrete, the international community of peace activists and researchers basically endorsed peace enforcement and any 'peace' plan that was negotiated and imposed by international 'mediators' and local presidents on citizens without the slightest consultation. Not exactly a model for future democratisation!

Croatia was "permitted" to drive out 250 000 legitimate Croatian citizens of Serb origin with the explicit help of the United States, the largest single act of ethnic cleansing in the region since 1991. Peace people went to Sarajevo to show solidarity with the Bosniak side which had, for sure, suffered the most but which also had fought nasty wars against all three sides - the Bosnian Croats, the Bosnian Serbs and against their own, the "dissident" Muslim leader Fikhret Abdic in the Bihac pocket, while maintaining that they had been left virtually unarmed and adhering to policies that embody anything but multi-cultural, democratic ideals.

At the absence of criticism as well as any alternative peace plan process - imagined or real - peace people also accepted that the Dayton Accords was a 'peace' plan, the best one could imagine. It wasn't and isn't. Nobody should ask that little of something called a peace plan. It has lead to the - predictable - result of introducing an 'occupation' or 'protectorate' by international authorities such as the Contact Group, the Office of the High Representatives etc., and all backed up with IFOR, later SFOR. It's peace from the top-down, no consultation with citizens, no real democracy, no reconciliation, no indigenous procedure, a constitution written by US lawyers, all important institutions run by foreigners - no peacebuilding, no peace education, no peace research, no willingness to create a momentum for civil society-based peace and development. And it was signed by three president, none of whom were legitimate representatives of the people living in newly recognised Bosnia-Hercegovina. In short, a negation of everything a professional in the trade would call peace.

Worst of all, no support for civil society and the 98 per cent of perfectly healthy citizens at the time when it would have made a difference. In favour of the Dayton 'deal' it is often asserted that it stopped the fighting, the direct violence. Yes, but it would break out if SFOR left. At best Dayton is thus a comprehensive cease fire agreement. We must dare ask for more and better peace plans in the future.

Most peace activists and peace intellectuals cared little for the developments in Croatia, a country which still has not made up with its Fascist past but celebrates it publicly and rehabilitates it Second World War leaders. For years, the situation in Eastern Slavonia had little media interest and, consequently, little interest among non-local intellectuals and activists (while many NGOs were involved in building peace in Western Slavonia).

Nobody struggling for genuine peace could defend the Serb leaders in Croatian Krajina, in Bosnia or in Serbia. But they should be able to differentiate between government peace-making and civil society peace-making and see that Serb citizens too have suffered, are entitled to human rights and deserve being part of an overall peace process. This has been denied them, in contrast to other peoples and nations.

In Kosovo, in January 1999 at the time of writing, the most simplified images have prevailed of what is an age-old conflict and one which did not start in 1989. Most peace people, including human rights advocates, expressed solidarity with the Kosovo-Albanians who - like the Bosniaks in Bosnia-Hercegovina - certainly have suffered extreme repression for years but also did not do so without a reason. With few exceptions, peace people have been unable to distance themselves from the brutality of both the Serb military, para-military and police forces on the one hand and the Kosovo-Albanian militants and KLA/UCK on the other. Once again, a complex conflict which can be viewed in a variety of ways and as a problem to be solve has been reduced to a pretty banal actor perspective where some are white, some black and conflict-resolution means punishing the latter.

Where was the intellectual criticism of the so-called Milosevic-Holbrooke "agreement" about Kosovo? Where do we find a qualified debate about the 'peace' process and mediation carried out now in the area by the OSCE and by US ambassador to Macedonia, Christopher Hill? We still seem to need some criteria, some standard for judging what is a professional and what is an amateurish conflict analysis, mediation and peace process.

In other words, it seems that peace people are as prone to go for good guy/bad guy analyses rather than conflict analysis and an investigation of complex problems and dynamics. They have also, rather surprisingly, been generally uncritical of what the international so-called community has done. Both in intellectual terms and in activist-political terms we seem to lack criteria of conflict management, conflict-resolution methods and peace plan production. If intellectuals, politicians and NGOs fared as carelessly in the field of economics or medicine, the world would be a pretty scary place...



6. It's All More Difficult Now

It is easy to be critical - as I am here - of much contemporary peace politics, whether by government or by NGOs. In a way, everything was easier before - two blocks, well-defined rules of the game, nuclear and other weapons were bad, the conflict between them (to the extent that it was not a theatre play aimed at disciplining the allies on either side into submission under their respective masters) was not attacked. It was not the goal to transform or solve the conflict between the Occidental West and East, it was conflict- maintenance and not conflict-resolution.

Now conflicts are addressed by everybody. Governments, NGOs and intellectuals now define security in terms of the ability to manage conflicts with a view to solving r otherwise end them. While the old East-West Cold War conflict never implied that the parties faced each other militarily, the parties in contemporary conflicts go literally at each other throats.

So the urgency is new. "Stop the killing," is a new public demand that did not apply directly in the old Cold War situation because the parties did not fight each other (although they fought each other by proxies). It was a cold war.

In addition, news and information travels faster than ever. There is little time for analysis and a public cry to quickly "do some thing" which is seldom the right thing to do. There is a feeling of everyone being overextended, there is donor fatigue and there is - admittedly - a 'conflict fatigue' that tacitly asks 'How can people around the world keep on doing these terribly inhuman things to their fellow human beings?'

There is a fatigue in the public that says 'We don't want complex analyses and pro and con arguments, we just want somebody to go there and stop it.' And there is a fear among citizens in otherwise rich and protected Western societies - 'Can it happen here too, is the world actually slowly falling apart by crisis in one sphere after the other, accumulating into civilisational breakdown?' It's a different question from that of the old Cold War, 'Can we all be killed in a "nuclear winter" - but it is growing out of the same deep, nagging fear of being targeted, the fear that the my life could change overwhelmingly, rapidly and violently, and in ways I can't control at all.



7. In Lieu of Conclusion - the Seven C's

The time we live in is characterised by overall transition, for which reason we call it the post-Cold War period, a term which only states a sequence but not a (new) quality of our times. But let me say, finally, a little about ways in which I believe genuine peace can be promoted:


Peace thinking and the Seven Cs.

It remains essential to feel and analyse and meditate on peace both when it is manifestly there and search for it where it is only a potential. And thinking is inseparable from emotions and from living it, experiencing it. There is still a tremendous task in front of us in bridging the gap between theoretical and field-based peace thinking and action. There is still a long way to go for all of us in the peace movement to learn to more constructive and less critical, more pro-active than re-active.

This is where the Seven C's come in handy, I think of them when in need: Compassion, Conscientisation, Constructiveness, Conciliation, Commitment, Communion and Contemplation. They were developed as a cluster with precise meaning by Tow Swee-Hin and Floresca-Cawagas in Weaving a Culture of Peace (in "Peace Education and Human Development," edited by Horst Löfgren, Lund University 1995).


Peace education.

As I believe humanity can learn to live more peacefully, I believe in all kinds of peace-promoting education, peace being built into other subjects at all levels from the home and kindergarten to lifelong educational practises, ending in some kind of old-age wisdom and contemplation.

I tend to see peace as a never-ending civilisational struggle to learn to deal with our differences in ever less violent ways. With this I mean all types of differences - biology, race, personality, nationality, institutions, culture, etc. By non-violent I include structural, direct personal, psychological, cultural and civilisational.

'Conflict prevention' is nonsense. What we want to avoid is not difference but the violence in dealing with difference. Without conflicts inside ourselves there would be no maturity. Without conflicts with our dearest there would be no change, no new turns and experiments. Without political and social conflicts, there would be no reason to struggle for democracy. With no conflicts there would be no freedom. The challenge is to learn to clash and co-exist - or live with our conflicts - as civilised creatures.


Peace work.

A down-to-earth practise serving to alleviate suffering from the many types of violence. It may be in war zones, in the neighbourhood, in recycling so we don't destroy nature, make it suffer if you please. As I see it, it is an everyday commitment and can be practised by anyone, no matter the background, profession or political outlook. But to succeed in some sense, we must learn the basic skills, train, read, think and listen - in short, become more professional.

I believe it will become ever more important to educate the media and work with media for educational purposes. New fascinating possibilities arise with Internet, e-mail, discussion groups, networking for global action. The Landmine Campaign was the first fine example of this potential. New technologies permit integrated learning in new environments, but should always be combined with the human encounter and with travelling in real and not only virtual space.


Peaceful living.

Or, perhaps better, mindful living: an ability to maintain a certain distance to oneself and smile and laugh and enjoy life, in spite of all. I am not arguing for dualism or selfishly being happy while ignoring somebody else's suffering. But it is a kind of Gandhian commitment - to follow, as much as we can, that inner voice which tells us what is right. If there is no inner voice but only an outward career, choose some other profession than peace. The quotation by Gandhi that introduces this essay means to live as selflessly as we can. In Gandhi's thinking, detachment did not mean aloofness but 'indifference' to the enjoyment of the fruits of one's action.

To me, it means doing also something else but peace work - in order to be able to do better peace work when we do. You may paint, listen to music, seek spiritual depths, be with friends and loved ones or do walking meditation in nature, even in wilderness - all to improve your ability, skills, empathy and one-ness with that bigger Whole of which we are part, to preserve inner peace.

It's imperative to get a sense of proportion in life, to be better able to see what it is realistic to strive for and hope to achieve and to remain a happy person - like Sisyphus who, as you may remember, have overcome the illusion that he will succeed rolling up the stone and make it stay there but is supposedly a happy human being. This means trying and trying again.

Since we don't know that peace is impossible, it should be tried. Maybe one day the stone will rest on the top. We only know the struggle is permanent and that each one of us can do our bit, not through barren criticism or hate, because we become what we hate, but through a belief, a vision, through empathy and through the Seven Cs - and even through dreams of a better world for all.

So, the intellectual nomad equipped with Sisyphus' mind-set and the 7 Cs seems to me to be a good model for the ongoing peace movements and our peace work - way into the Third Millennium.


Jan Øberg




© Jan Oberg 2000  


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