The Broader Implication of Peace Activism
The scope of peace activism has broader implications than simply advocating peace or assuming an antiwar stance. In fact, the implications of peace activism connect to a diversity of sociocultural movements. Charles F. Howlett* writes, "Peace seekers have connected their actions to broader social and political concerns like civil rights, feminism, socialism, and ecological safety."
Peace activists are often fervent advocates for other social movements. Their identification as peace activists facilitates their ability to meaningfully contribute to other social movements because their ability to exercise tolerance, in attempting to mitigate conflict, facilitates the deliberative process of most organization.
Simply stated, the peace activist is specifically attuned to the plight of others. Peace activists can use their understanding of tolerance to negotiate peace as well as address the concerns of underrepresented parties.
The peace advocates may support the civil rights movement; in fact many abolitionists were advocates of peace. Peace advocates may support animal rights or ecological protection as well. Peace advocates are represented by both Democrats and Republicans and citizens from every corner of the Earth. In short, peace advocates are represented in nearly all social movements all over the world.
In discussing the broader implications of peace activism, it is important to recognize what the peace movement shares with other social movements. The peace movement and all the various forms of peace that comprise the movement are based on an acknowledged recognition of the destructive capacities of human beings, which is not to suggest, however, that all human beings will be destructive.
Human beings have a natural capacity for destructive behavior. As a child I remember reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and to this day it remains my favorite novel. Without the supervision of adults, the boys go primal. They revert to the brutality that was masked by their schoolboy uniforms. They immediately establish a hierarchy and select the criteria for inclusion. They decide who’s included and who’ll be excluded.
The willful process of excluding their fellow castaways, specifically Piggy, is a lesson in the manifestation of evil. The question one may rightfully ask is, “What was he excluded from?” Piggy was excluded from consideration. There was nothing about Piggy’s existence that had any meaning other than how it contributed to the group’s survival. Piggy’s existence was a means to benefiting the group. Once he no longer offered any meaningful contribution, he could be disposed of.
The peace advocate has to argue for Piggy. She has to inform the group that it was Piggy’s suggestion to use the conch as a means of gathering the group. It was Piggy’s glasses that provided the fire. The peace advocate negotiates between the potential brutality of the group and the recognized importance Piggy has despite his frailty.
The importance of this tension is nicely captured in The Silence of the Lambs, where is it suggested that if broadcasters use the young girl’s name it will be harder for Buffalo Bill to see her as a means to her flesh. He will be forced to see her for the person she is.
Similarly, animals cannot speak for themselves; a tree cannot speak for itself. They are as defenseless as Piggy. The advocate understands the bloodlust and seeks to mitigate that insatiability by appealing to Piggy’s worth.
Similarly, the peace advocate is an exemplary member of social organization because she retains this ability. She can express the value of a tree to the lumberjack. She can cause the meat eater to sympathize with the plight of the pig as it is hung to its death.
The implications of peace advocacy have a much broader scope than many give credit. The peace advocate is especially attuned to the plight of those that cannot fend for themselves. Peace advocacy, in its most general sense, is an attempt to negotiate with institutions or persons fully capable of exterminating both the advocate and the group or individual the advocate seeks to protect.
The peace advocate, then, is necessarily a protectionist. By protectionist, I am specifically referring to the position assumed by defending that which is target for exclusion – that is, exclusion from consideration.
Those who argue for the inclusion of women are feminists. Those who argue for the inclusion of minorities are civil rights advocates. Those who argue for the inclusion of animals are animal rights activists. Those who argue for the inclusion of our planet are ecologists.
What the peace advocate shares with each of these groups is an insistence for excluded groups to be included and considered. Peace advocates are pro-diversity, pro-tolerance, and pro-deliberation. They are pro-diplomacy and understand the difficulties of navigating between the bloodlust of those in power and defending those that cannot fend for themselves.
Not all those who support war disavow peace. Not all those who support peace disavow war. Discussing and understanding peace is far more complicated than simply trying to classify it in terms of war. As I have attempted to show in this section of the analysis, there is great overlap in the motivations and concerns between the peace movement and other social movements. A better understanding of how the peace movement influences other social movements is the first step in recognizing the power and profitability of peace.
* Howlett, Charles F. 1991. The American Peace Movement: References and Resources. Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co., p. xix.