What If Peace Broke Out? One Man’s View

October 7, 2010

by Ed Hemmingson

My thoughts here are in response to Oregon PeaceWorks’ call for personal visions of what the world might look like if “peace broke out.”  That term of course, is a satirical twist on the common expression, “war broke out,” which is used by the popular media, as though war were some wild beast that just got loose. In reality, war is the result of cold calculations by people in power who see it as being to their advantage.

Why No Peace?

When we consider “peace breaking out,” we must consider why we don’t have peace, considering that everyone I know would rather live in peace instead of war. I believe there is a rising awareness among the popular masses that wars are caused by the nefarious actions of people of power who benefit from the hoped-for outcomes of the wars they launch.

There are long-term visions of a peaceful world to which I subscribe and which are possible if we have the foresight and the will to do what needs to be done.  Whether we, as a species, can get there depends on our ability to survive the oncoming crisis that many are trying very hard to deny. It would be nice if we could just trust to technology, that natural changes in the weather occur and everything would just work out, and even preserve some, if not most, of “our way of life.”

For those of us who live in the northwest and enjoy the cleanest air and water, with no shortage of either, and who limit themselves to looking out the window, environmental problems may not show. Nevertheless, let us not be like the deaf man walking down the railroad track who doesn’t know of the locomotive approaching until he feels the tremor under his feet. Let us also not deceive ourselves into thinking we can wall ourselves off from the rest of the world and get by on what we have in the western hemisphere. There is no air that doesn’t go around the world; there is no ocean that doesn’t have a little mercury in it. Only ten percent of the large ocean fish are left. News reports now tell of people found floating after many days in the open ocean, not bothered by sharks.

The crisis we are seeing is a “perfect storm.” It is the energy crisis, the world food shortage, global overpopulation, lack of clean water, disease, shelter, the general depletion of finite resources and the general contamination of land, sea and air all at once, plus the current catastrophe of the world economic system.

The Vision

If we could implement a rational system based on real democracy, improvements could begin immediately. Plans to reduce world population could be implemented. Housing would be plentiful because a lot of buildings that only function now to make money could be modified for living space. Mass transport could replace most long distance automobile use. Cars could be limited to local use and could run on a quarter or less of the energy they now use.  Rail freight, as needed, could replace most long-haul trucks. A major portion of freight now being transported creates waste because it is comprised of similar kinds of products being shipped in opposite directions on the same routes, like log trucks meeting each other going north and south on the freeway. Necessary work could be cut in half if we eliminated the corporate financial structures — such as the war industry — the most profitable branches of the “corporatocracy” trying to rule the world.

The war industry — the economic foundation of the Empire — is the most debilitating aspect of the entire capitalist system, as it is not merely the annual military budget, but all the hidden costs that accumulate year after year. The destruction of finite resources, the interest on the national debt, all veterans’ costs, especially the human cost of the destroyed lives, living and dead, and the incredible destruction that occurs when weapons are used, plus the technical expertise in the design of ever-more-destructive devices, all are unnecessary and therefore wasteful.

Reallocate Financial Priorities

We must think not only of the dollar costs, but also the energy and resource costs of maintaining over seven hundred military bases around the world, a dozen or more aircraft carrier fleets, each capable of destroying a country, a staggering fleet of nuclear-armed missile-carrying submarines, each capable of precipitating nuclear winter, and the “off budget” secret military raids and political assassinations in any country our government sees a need to exploit.

Additional waste accrues in the advertising industry, which contributes nothing to the value of products, but adds immensely to the price paid. The banking industry is a world wide octopus with a thousand tentacles which reach into every facet of our daily lives. National credit card debt is over a trillion dollars.  (Banks and casinos have a similar foundation; they are both built from money that was given to them without their having produced anything. The only difference is you don’t have to patronize casinos.)

We need one national bank, run as a public utility for the benefit of the public, and just a few car salesmen, lawyers, etc. In general, parasitic occupations should be done away with.  Many of the “surplus workers,” freed from the needless occupations, would be transferred into useful service work such as education, medical care, retirement service, entertainment, general social service and anything else society considered important. The necessary work hours could be cut in half after building and or repairing the transportation system, reopening our own manufacturing facilities and a few other things.  Society in general could move at a slower pace. There could be more time to volunteer for various projects. There would be time for self-education, entertainment, sports, athletics, writing, making music, getting to know our neighbors and much more.  From the beginning, workers whose jobs were being phased out could be placed on full-pay unemployment until they could be placed into useful jobs. These payments would be important to the economy because they would provide a market for the necessities produced by others.

Think Outside the Box

I don’t believe we can produce the necessary current food supply without mechanized agriculture. This would be our first priority for the use of energy. I believe that if we eliminated the war industry and most of the other wasteful enterprises referred to above, (after all, how many car dealerships and gas stations do we really need? Couldn’t some jet aviation be replaced by high-speed mass transit?) we could capture enough energy to prosper on.

Those who run the system called “capitalism” — which closely resembles the board game “Monopoly” — have won all the money and property, and keep the system going by loaning us the money to buy what they must sell us to prevent the system from collapse.  The “winners” in this system want the people who have done all the work to produce the wealth that exists, to borrow from the winners, so those winners can keep on accumulating wealth that hasn’t even been produced yet!  They run our government also, because they own it.  (Best government money can buy! You don’t have to buy all of Congress, just enough to control it!)

One of the most dehumanizing aspects of this system is that due to modernization of industry and robots etc., millions of people have been forced into working only for the paycheck. They do jobs that don’t need to be done, do not contribute to society and are not personally rewarding to the worker.  How many “sales people” — from door to door magazine peddlers to Wall Street stock brokers — does a rational society need?

We need to establish the democracy that we never had. The change we need is revolutionary. Mass education is a must. No real changes can be made without vast majority support. It appears that the Empire is collapsing and it is imperative that the public at large understand the nature of the system — and that there are better alternatives — before it takes us all down with it, as did empires of the past.

There can be no real peace without social justice. The problems of the human race are world wide. No one country can solve them alone, but it seems that our country is at the heart of them. Therefore the best we can do is lead by example and offer help without guns to the rest of the world.  A quote attributed to John F. Kennedy, seems timely: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

It is time to think as one nation, one world, and to think outside the box.  Φ

Ed Hemmingson, an Oregon PeaceWorks Board member who lives in Albany, OR, has been working for peace since 1948.

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