Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Let's Abolish War

The abolition of the slave trade and the abolition of the death penalty had to overcome strenuous political opposition and apparently well-reasoned arguments as to why these were essential to the well-being, prosperity and security of society, but in the end the voice of reason and human decency prevailed (except of course in those barbaric states and nations that still have the death penalty).

Modern warfare is state-sponsored slaughter on an industrial scale, and 90% of the casualties are civilians. One senior British military official said it is now safer to be a soldier than a woman in a war zone. Isn't it time we said enough? Britain spends £45 billion per year on the military. Wouldn't we rather have funding for our hospitals, schools and universities, and our art galleries, libraries and museums? And wouldn't we rather not be a nation mired in shame because of the murderous consequences of our military escapades?

If you're not convinced, have a look at the following:

Simon Jenkins, 'Does Britain Really Need the Military?', The Guardian, 5th November, 2010
John Pilger, 'The War You Don't See', available to view for UK viewers on the ITV website until 14th January.

Jenkins argues that the British military establishment is maintained because of powerful corporate and political interests, and not because it provides any effective security for the British people in an era when conventional warfare is an increasingly remote possibility, and crime is a much greater threat to our security and well-being. Pilger argues convincingly that the media have been duped by politicians into presenting the public with a sanitised version of war, including the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that we have no idea of the true human cost. The film opens with a quote from General David Lloyd George, speaking to CP Snow, Editor of the Manchester Guardian, in December 1917: 'If people really knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know, and can't know.' Today, we do know and we can know. If we choose not to, we are culpably ignorant.

So, how about it? If we want happier new years for ourselves, our children and our neighbours in this global village, let's abolish war. Who and what are we fighting for? See the website of the Movement for the Abolition of War.


  1. But war is as Christian as apple pie - always has been ever since the early church was co-opted by the Roman state.

    Onwards Christian soldiers forever marching into wars of imperial conquest, bringing "Jesus", "God", and civilization to the "heathen savages"?

    The Tory prayer - praise the "Lord" and pass the ammunition.

    Right-wing Christians are fully committed to business as usual - while pretending otherwise in their characteristic double-mindedness.

  2. Yes, I think you're substantially right, but just a little over-simplistic in your analysis? War didn't stop when Christianity lost its political influence in the twentieth century. In fact, post-Christian and atheist regimes proved far more violent than Christianity's worst excesses.

    But also, implicit in your comment is the recognition that there is some deep contradiction between Christianity and war - so might it be more effective to campaing for better Christianity rather than no Christianity?

  3. In the 1960s and 1970s, Canadian anthropologist Jean Briggs studied two Inuit societies in the Canadian Arctic, the Utku and the Qipi. Both communities are isolated from the outside world and contact with non-natives is limited. The most striking observation Briggs made about these societies was that they were almost totally without violence. She attributed this to the values of ihuma and naklik, which are integral parts of the social fabric. Ihuma requires people to act in a considerate and non-violent way towards others. Conflicts are resolved without confrontation or aggression. People are expected to remain in control of their emotions under all circumstances. Those who fail to do so are considered immature or unreasonable members of society.

    Naklik is concern for the welfare of others. It encourages people to protect other members of society from adverse circumstances, such as physical danger or distress. Briggs concluded that the qualities of ihuma and naklik were the foundation for these non-violent societies.

  4. Thank you for this interesting post. It refutes the idea that humans are violent by nature, but the challenge we face is how to cultivate such an ethos of non-violence in far more complex societies, with the added complication of the military industrial complex which depends upon the perpetuation of war for profit.

    As Rene Girard argues, in such societies genuine peacemakers who refuse violence will find themselves the scapegoats who are sacrificed to maintain social cohesion.


Comments and contributions are welcome so long as they respect the rules of courtesy and respect, which is not to inhibit robust disagreement.