1: The Politics of Peace

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Chris Dornan, Tuesday 26th February, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden.

Warning: this talk is intended to be (constructively) provocative.

If I were to buy a tub of ice cream and wanted to keep it for later I would put it into the freezer, not take a blow torch to it. It is a simple case of cause-and-effect, with the freezer option leading to the desired outcome. However, many peace and justice movements seem to take blow torches to their ice cream—at least from a Buddhist perspective (and it is doubtful that Buddhism is unique or even unusual in this).

Although peace movements understand a great deal about how powerful interests demonize victims in order to counter empathy and block just solutions, they don’t seem to understand the way that relatively powerless groups behave in the same way towards their powerful opponents with equally counterproductive consequences (especially where righting injustice is concerned). They often feed off anger and they maintain their own halls of demons (pride of place often being given to western governments and the arms manufacturers). And peace movements can be remarkably dysfunctional, as Scott Ritter explains in his book Waging Peace. I was told of a British MP who dreaded meetings with peace activists—they were so angry!

Considering the shocking record of the West for waging war, is this not a systemic record of failure of the peace movements with deep rooted causes in our Western philosophies and habits of thought? Would the peace movements be more effective if they aimed to transform conflicted situations through loving kindness?

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