Take Peace Studies To The Personal Level by Maurice Frank
There are university departments that study peace, and produce findings. Some present as academic opinions on international law around weapons of mass destruction: on whether the total destructiveness of a nuclear weapon just forbids you ever to use it, or whether you have no alternative when an aggressor is using it upon you. Peace studies and researches have not taken out of the realm of opinion the ethical dilemma between defending a society’s existence and avoiding doing cruelties to the aggressor’s society.
An ethic for peace easily implies an ethic against using any weapon avoidably cruelly, but it is practically daunting, potentially cruel indeed, to decide that at some point a society ceases to be entitled to defend against cruelties from an outside force. Between these pulls, the argument usually resolves into whether a practical and reliable non-nuclear means exists for a society to defend against a direct nuclear threat to submit to a conqueror, known as “nuclear blackmail”, or, supposing any so-called “conventional” defence has been defeated, any other option than having to accept a dire conquest.
Because clues to the answer for your own society come from observing society, they come from real life that we all experience. So we all have a say in it, from the university of life. Observation of a society’s character, to indicate what it could do in ultimate crisis, need not be left to a research profession, it affects us all, so we can all compile our own findings from what we see.
So, I observe society for evidence on whether a hypothesis matches real life: the hypothesis that this society could, reliably, carry out civil resistance, non-violent direct action and non-cooperation, on a big and united enough scale to defeat an occupation, succeed in motivating its withdrawal and allowing free society to be restored.
The proposition as I have often heard it, is simply of action without weapons to reach a position where society or the occupation is non-functional for the occupier and impractical to sustain. I impose no supposition about this action’s details. I take it as morally desirable for preservation of life, and all practicality that goes with that, preservation of food production and health systems, for this proposition to succeed and to be plausible to rely on. So any bias in my findings should be in its favour, giving it the benefit of the doubt if society shows any fit with it.
The fit I am seeking, is with the conduct, actions, and mutual relations, of the bulk of ordinary people, when they face moral choices about fairness when they are under pressure, when personal expediency is at odds with cooperating and standing together. Do they trust each other to stand together, and is that trust borne out? Do they get on well enough to make possible the trust and cooperation it would take for a mass scale unity of actions, which are personally inconveniencing or dangerous, to succeed? Hence, are they generally fair and civil to each other?
My findings from the university of life:
Rowdiness and jeering and macho posturing are very commonplace social behaviours in larger groups, and are not forms of communication whose content allows for logic and reason, or can be engaged with rationally. Any person who dislikes, or is intimidated by, or both, those behaviours needs to avoid large sections of society’s life – nightlife, football crowds, traditionally macho jobs, and any pubs where the customers don’t! ignore each other. Peer groups reinforce each other’s prejudices by showing ribaldry against outsiders who do not share the prejudice or any thought that one of themselves could stop sharing it. Resulting in folks embarrassed by their own musical tastes (Workmate: “You won’t tell anyone I like … “).
Ordinary folks are insultingly and uncaringly noncommittal about unfair things that happen to other people, every bit as often as bureaucrats are, making any excuse not to acknowledge the fair facts that are in your favour. The idea of “I don’t want to get involved”. The very common practice of using the word “unfortunately” as a weapon for asserting that breaches of fairness shall happen. Most people have an intimidating derisive streak in their characters, which comes out as soon as a prejudice is disagreed with or any fairness problem needs fixing. Smirking exists. Taunting exists.
Maliciously saying “you know…”[a fact you think they don’t know]”…don’t you?”, hoping to make them stuck for what to say, exists. The expression “shut up” exists, and is even used oppressively against involuntary sounds like coughing. When my supermarket points card could not scan because the bar code was eroded, and I showed this to a silly person who had intruded unrequested to show me how to scan it, instead of taking the point she said “shut up, I’m only trying to help”.
Peace researchers have helped to ensure that bullying scandals in the military are more known, while the rise of minority awarenesses like LGBT has forced it to become more admitted that bullying or other personally undermining behaviours can happen in workplaces. I heard (1988 Wales) of a man laughed out of a job on a farm for being upset to see them kill a chicken. These have all disproved the old prejudice that bullying only existed for children.
I know of the local autistic employment support service at present providing interventions against workplace exclusion, including in a workplace itself providing a compassionate social service! What is more alienating than the shut doors and shut hearts all around when there is no toilet open and you are wasting time hunting for an allowed place to go? That oppressive feeling of default negativity and unfriendliness you get in many places from looming security men with false-muscular armbands, and when walking town-centrally in the evening you see alienating bouncers on every door?
Transgender blogger Paris Lees wrote on “Why is Britain Driving Its Young Men Insane?” on the rigidity of lad culture, and men (who have found no other social outlets?) living in fear of doing anything counted as girly. A laddish workmate with his anti-gay view challenged (1991): “Look I don’t care about your philosophical stuff, it just ain’t normal.” Even in philosophical circles, an opinion on serving Nescafe, made very lightly and in passing, (2006) was answered “Don’t let’s bring ethics into it, this is the astronomical society not the ethical society.”
Nearly half of marriages and partnerships end in separation and we all know examples. Sad love songs are a big theme in pop music, we can’t avoid hearing them everywhere. Their popularity comes from familiarity of the things they describe: breaches of trust, cruel abandonments of love, uncaringness, selfishness, resulting alienation from love. Too many songs express agonised despair and desperate appeals to the reasonability for the other person to care about them.
The only mystery is how the folks got partnered in the first place: for nobody can take any step to acquire a partner without risk that it will count as sexual harrassment getting them into trouble. Comedy about these social agonies, and about undeserved humiliations to peers or failures of social dreams, is depressingly popular. Despite assault being a crime, comedy frequently and uncriticised shows successful assaults, and successful intimidations of smaller characters by bigger. Which links to the tragedy of domestic violence, I have known a parent of a woman who had to escape it, and popular comedy including Last of the Summer Wine and Laurel and Hardy enjoyed showing bullied husbands.
Blackadder 2 shows as a joke psychological damage from school bullying, for attributes not his fault, making its victim into a comic villain, who is then further taunted blamingly for that. Though more serious minds online acknowledge this is wrong, Youtube comedy audiences snort at sensitivity to comedy siding with an abuse that can really happen.
Days are often ruined emotionally by hurtful grumpiness, from a bus driver or a librarian or any type of official at a desk. Grumpy old men, with an alienated view of the young and interpreting every situation against them, are a permanent archetype in society and were many folks’ grandads including mine.
Many folks are irritated by leaflets and say no to them, closing their minds to whatever is in them. Stuck up idiots take offence at having lawns walked on. Stories of neighbour difficulties and flatmate difficulties, office politics. Faction fights and takeovers in organised societies, helped by a charity regulator that only acts on its own opinion of “public interest” and admits no duty to intervene in any given case, even when a charity’s bank account was seized using signatures not authorised by the members. Here in Edinburgh the social care department refused to find anything wrong with, or stop funding, Redhall Walled Garden for saying “cliquiness is life” and calling its own equal opportunities policy unenforceable in practice.
Even circles concerned with peace themselves can have an unpeacefully morally angry peer pressure to agree: viz the condemnatory peer pressure excluding any but the organisers’ views at a so-called “Regional People’s Hearing On Disarmament” held here on 6 Nov 1999, with purported findings from it sent to the UN! They did not include findings like these from observing everyday life for signs of how supportive and cooperative a society we are.
Observation is that the good and cooperative experiences are occcasional islands achieved with effort, and for far more of the time most of us are on very negative and conflict-laden default terms with each other. From each of the above aspects of everyday life, large scale common action, by people who can trust and rely on each other in it, appears impossible to create on demand, or instantly at the moment of needing it, out of a society with so much malevolent relationship. From the ways many organised groups and charities fall apart, the same appears so likely to happen, that it could not be relied on not to happen, to a project of defeating an occupation by NVDA (Non Violent Direct Action) civil action.
To any peace study that just studies how NVDA civil action could be done by an ideal willing society, then cites me morally to trust to it actually being done in place of the Bomb, the above study of society is my factual answer. I throw it into the pool of peace studies. It shows they need to study the peace missing from ordinary interpersonal society and how to remove derision and peer pressure.