Articles CPP Newsletter Online Online

Hamblet – Harvesting the Human

Wendy Hamblet – Harvesting the Human: Force and Persuasion in Human Societies
Concerned Philosophers for Peace Newsletter Online

Excerpt: Cultures are nothing but epistemic communities, sites where a people’s experiences are assigned collective meanings, evolving worldviews where truths, inherited from the past (“traditions”), are endlessly reinterpreted and reconstructed to articulate and explain new realities, new collective experiences of new generations that demand new explanatory schemata.

The opening pages of Plato’s Republic introduce the question of justice in human societies by staging a mock battle between force and persuasion enacted between Socrates and a group of his friends as the latter attempt to bend the old philosopher to their will that he stay on for the evening festivities of the Piraeus festival for the underworld goddess, Bendis. The friends press Socrates with a playful threat of force: “You must either prove yourselves the better men or stay here,” which inspires Socrates to ask, “Why, is there not left the alternative of our persuading you that you ought to let us go?” (emphasis mine). The question is met with the ominous (if jesting) response that foreshadows Socrates’ fate: “But could you persuade us if we refused to listen?” (Ē kai dunaisth’ an, ē d’ hos, peisai mē akouontas;).

The mock battle between persuasion and force, played out by Socrates and his friends in the opening lines of the Republic, ends by confirming what the mock battle demonstrated: that persuasion is impotent against sheer force. Despite the initial failure of persuasion to win the opening battle, the contest between force and persuasion continues to rage in the background of this seminal work, the philosopher (Socrates) tirelessly enduring in his effort to persuade his interlocutors that their best interests lie with the life well lived, the life attuned to justice, and not with the life of taking others by power.

In the allegory of the cave (7.514 ff.) Socrates depicts how force and persuasion meet when state education shapes citizen minds to meet the needs of the political environment and in conformity to the will of powerful puppeteers of reality. We see in the imagery of this allegory that both force and persuasion have roles in producing desirable citizen-subjects: in an underground cave — cut off from alternative worldview options — citizen-prisoners are forced, their bodies and necks chained, to adopt a view of reality that is narrowly restricted to an ordered display of shadow-realities cast on a wall in front of them, while they are subtly persuaded by honors and prizes to give credence to the truths they are being fed. The conclusion of the allegory resonates unmistakably with Socrates’ own unhappy fate: the prisoners refuse to be set free from their chains and are prepared to take the life of any would-be savior who tries to free them from their fetters, because their chains provide the solid and comfortable reality that gives meaning to their restricted existences.

The cave allegory is a rich portrayal of the subtle and complex process whereby people come to be held enthralled by the schema of truth that reigns in their society. Plato appreciates a number of subtleties often missed in philosophical accounts of worldview construction. First, he sees that powerful elites use both political methods (force and persuasion) to stimulate citizen enthusiasm for the local system of truth: education works through bodily force and mental persuasion to gain the people’s allegiance to the “common mental world” that functions to keep them (the elites) in power and the society productive and orderly. Plato appreciates that education, far from the means to citizen freedom, is a subtle tool of citizen tyranny, its curricula always already politically determined, and though elites may jockey among themselves for private causes and projects, they actually compose a unified force in constructing the mythology that organizes the citizen-body for ordered productivity. Finally, Plato’s allegory reveals the troubling fact that the powerless victims of education’s propaganda are complicit in their own oppression, embracing the chains and the shadow realities that keep them in their restricted places.

Plato shows us a single model of education in Book VII of the Republic, and yet in the next book of the work, Book XIII, he describes many different forms of politeia—from meritocracy through tyranny. This single educational model for a spectrum of political forms suggests an analogous continuum of conceptual coercion that stretches on the one hand from the persuasions that leave the body unmarked to the far extreme of brute force, whose signs are etched in the body. Indeed, in the previous six books (II through VII), as Socrates constructs the kallipolis, we witness not the slightest sign of brute force employed in the beautiful meritocracy but, rather, the citizens are subtly persuaded — disciplined — by music, gymnastics, singular occupations determined by birth, and restricted interaction among the various classes and occupations, to embrace their roles in the state and become productive citizens.

The persuasions of the beautiful city are not accomplished with moral arguments. Socrates has already demonstrated in the opening mock battle that moral arguments are futile as persuasions. The kallipolis calls upon unabashed deception to win over citizen compliance; “noble lies” achieve the polis’ productive goals. A myth of origins (the myth of metals) explains the city’s rigid social organization and its vocational traditions (flexible borders notwithstanding), and the myth of a prophesied alien invasion maintains the status quo of power relations, keeping the philosophers in power, the guardians in the gymnasia, and the workers in their fields and workshops.

However, among all these lies, Plato does not deceive on the matter of the goal of the kallipolis: individual “goodness” (compliance to their productive roles) brings the general “happiness” of the state. Plato is clear: the objective of the polis is not individual happiness, an admission that haunts the reader with questions about what general happiness might mean, if it is unrelated to individual happiness. The answer may be found by filtering the paradox through the reigning values of the Greek world: the kallipolis sets aside individual happiness for the sake of the state’s ordered constancy, modeled by the heavenly bodies. The best city turns out to be precisely like the worst tyranny in this one single respect: its dedication to the ordered, stable endurance and productivity of the system.

The persuasive mythology of noble lies and the ordered, productive role-separation among the citizens are the keys to achieving ordered stability in the best politeia, the meritocracy. At the far opposite pole of the political spectrum (tyranny), the gently persuasive educational model gives way to the more force-driven educational methods, such as chains, tortures, whips, and an occasional execution. But what is rarely noticed is that the objective of the two models is identical: citizen “goodness” (compliance to their productive roles) for the sake of the general “happiness” of the system (its ordered longevity).

One glaring discrepancy comes into view in comparing the social control methods of the meritocracy with those of the tyranny — the degree of effectiveness of the methods. Ironically, persuasion is infinitely more efficacious than force in maintaining citizen “goodness.” The forceful methods that scar the skin and break the bone may alter the behavior of citizen-subjects, but the persuasions of political mythology and daily, disciplined practices seep down to the soul of the citizen-subjects. Physical submission to the will of the ruler is the order in the tyranny, but in the gentler state citizens do not simply concede to the wishes of their social masters; they embrace with their hearts the worldview of their masters; they cling ferociously to the policies and procedures that oppress them. Persuasion engages the will of the citizen to make her an active accomplice in her own degradation. In his essay, “Freedom and Command,” Emmanuel Levinas captures succinctly the subtle intercourse between the will of the powerful and the freedom of the victim, along the force/persuasion spectrum:

Free thought is not simply the consciousness of a tyranny exercised over our animality; it is not a mere spectator of this animality agitated by fear and love . . . [Tyranny] has unlimited resources at its disposal, those of love and wealth, torture and hunger, silence and rhetoric. It can exterminate in the tyrannized soul even the very capacity to be struck, that is, even the ability to obey on command. True heteronomy begins when obedience ceases to be obedient consciousness and becomes an inclination. The supreme violence is in that supreme gentleness. To have a servile soul is to be incapable of being jarred, incapable of being ordered. The love for the master fills the soul to such an extent that the soul no longer takes its distances. Fear fills the soul to such an extent that one no longer sees it, but sees from its perspective.

Levinas makes no distinction between persuasive and forceful methods of tyranny, though he does maintain the distinction between victims oppressed in body or in soul. He hollows out that distinction in terms of the subject‘s conceptual freedom: the victim of physical force remains conceptually free, her autonomy intact even when corporeally shackled, because she retains the capacity to recognize her own oppression. Up to the very moment that the tyrant’s brute force extinguishes the subject’s life, the tortured body is a dais which stages the sovereignty of the victim, whose very flesh, recoiling from the whip and chafing at the chains, protests the injustice of the blows it suffers. But the gentle persuasions that seduce the mind negate the very will of the victim, extinguishing her freedom at the inner core of her being. Persuasion, far more insidious and powerful a resource for educating, elicits compliance prior to thought, prior to awareness, colonizing the victim’s heart.

A Bunny Tale

The spectrum of politeia with their diverse educational methods for eliciting citizen “goodness” (compliance to their productive roles in the system) comes to fable in Richard Adams’ children’s story, Watership Down. The models of community presented in this tale clarify the methodological distinctions between political models. Watership Down tracks the epic journey of a group of rabbits on their way to a promised land, Watership Down, where legend has it they may live in freedom and peaceful security. When their warrens are poisoned by underground gassing, the survivors make their way through a variety of rabbit communities, the two extremes of which are Cowslip Warren and Efrafa. These two warrens have differing organizational structures, differing methodologies for managing their citizens, but they seek the common objective of eliciting the “goodness” of the individuals. In each case, a unique life experience is lived, passed down from peculiar histories, and in each, mythologies are called upon to explain inherited behaviors, to justify power relations, and to hold the community intact and productive over time. Each too has its private pains and sufferings, which mark the precise site where the social control methods take hold.

The gentlest community discovered along the journey is Cowslip’s Warren or Shining Wire Warren, a rabbit dwelling built by humans for the harvesting of rabbit meat, though humans rarely appear in the community and their influence is not readily apparent. From the rabbits’ perspective, this is an ideal community, because everything necessary to blissful existence magically appears as needed, giving this warren the ostensible atmosphere of a society dedicated to rabbit welfare. Thus no one thinks of running away and no chains or fences are needed. The rabbits of Shining Wire Warren are, in Levinas’ terms, servile souls, who no longer take their distance. They do not have an obedient consciousness; they simply live the truth of the master, assuming that the community serves their interests. The only telltale mark of their oppression is the general atmosphere of eerie melancholy, which hangs over this rabbit paradise, a melancholy that lingers in the background and colors the smallest detail of daily existence, though it only emerges into consciousness when one of the fold goes missing (caught in a snare), revealing the limits of their freedom and the deadly price they ultimately pay for their ready comforts.

Cowslip Warren is the polar opposite of the highly organized Efrafa Warren encountered later in the rabbit trek. Here life is tightly structured, much like a military fort, rigidly controlled by its government under the iron grip of General Woundwort, the dictatorial Chief Rabbit. The least detail of every day’s activities is monitored, rationalized, and controlled, right down to the organization of tribal units, by divisions or “marks” determined by scars etched into the rabbits’ bodies (i.e., “The Right Hind Mark”). The rules governing permissible behaviors are elaborate and pervasive, even to the number of allowable births per class. A council of hench-rabbits helps General Woundwort keep the rabbits under the strictest control. Persuasion is used to support the system. Legends of mythical enemies beyond the borders support the necessity of strictly military-style organization and fearsome leaders. Fear, physical pain, and threat of execution are the primary weapons of social control in this community.

Watership Down thus depicts, in these two radically different political models, how sheer force alone seldom staves off the revolution of the oppressed as effectively as well-devised functional mythologies, which engage the propagandees’ complicity in their own enthrallment. Cowslip Warren’s reigning mythology that the society is organized for the good of the rabbits is very different from Efrafa’s realpolitik mythology that blames external enemies for the unfortunate brutalities of the system; yet both worldviews function to an identical end — to quell dissent among an oppressed population that exists for the benefit of those who harvest them and their labor. Efrafa is the more openly oppressive, but the open brutality against resisters illuminates the greater effectiveness of the mythology of the free welfare state for keeping the consecrated order. There is no rebellion in Cowslip. The pains of Efrafa are readily visible in the scars etched across the citizen bodies that sort the population into its tribal divisions or “marks.” Cowslip’s pains are invisible, much deeper, etched into the souls of the rabbits, evidenced only in the profound melancholy that pervades the entire community.

Harvesting the Human

No state on earth is a true meritocracy; Plato unequivocally asserts this politeia’s impossibility at the close of Book IX of the Republic. But all the other regimes in Plato’s catalogue of devolving political forms detailed in Book XIII did exist in the ancient world and continue to hold sway in the modern era. All political forms lie somewhere along the spectrum from pure meritocracy to pure tyranny, but the farthest extremes are unlikely to be found in their pure forms in the real world. All politeia serve some societal members more and others less or not at all. All leaders serve their own desires and interests to greater or lesser degrees. No system overtly admits to the exploitation of its lower classes; each has its dominant ideology that explains the differences in freedoms and benefits in terms of the general “happiness” of the state; each reinterprets and justifies the injustices of the system as unfortunate collateral effects necessitated by a threatening world or serving the objective of the general happiness of the group.

Adams’ children’s tale, like Plato’s political treatise, illuminates the fact that the gentler, less openly autocratic system is far more effective for gaining citizen compliance to the roles assigned them in the society. These works evidence that the form of citizen education that leaves the body intact and unscarred but disciplines the mind to accept as desirable certain ways of being-in-the-world “turns the soul” of the citizen, co-opting her very will. The victim so reoriented no longer freely sees the powerful forces that control her but sees through the will of the powerful. Thus the persuasive educational approach is the far more effective technique of social control, because it engages the complicity of victims in their own exploitation.

By not speaking about the disappearance of members of their fold, by refusing to dialogue their pain, by accepting their melancholy as the necessary price for their full bellies, the rabbits of Cowslip Warren become complicit in an industrial conspiracy that will ultimately harvest them all. These rabbits, far more than the cruelly oppressed rabbits of Efrafa, have willingly embraced the political terms of their oppression, clutched their social roles with their hearts so they can see no alternatives. Without fences or chains, they live the false freedom that Jacques Ellul ascribes to “mass society” in his seminal work, Propaganda: “all are tied together and constitute a kind of society in which all individuals are accomplices and influence each other without knowing it.” Citizens in mass society, like the rabbits in Cowslip warren, have ceased to be true individuals, thinking for themselves, and critically weighing up the merits and flaws in their life and their society, but have become “part of a current flowing in a certain direction.”

Western capitalist democracies place themselves on the spectrum of political forms at the gentle end of the spectrum; their citizens for the most part share the conformist features of mass society and they believe they are free and their societies exist to serve their interests. These contented citizens form a “current,” quickly mounting to a vast global tide, flowing to MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart to unthinkingly support a system that exploits them physically, fiscally, and psychologically. Citizens of modern capitalist societies, as the rabbits in Cowslip Warren, assume their productive and consumptive roles in their societies, mindlessly, without fences or chains. They have been “educated” to their consumptive/productive habits at a far deeper level than reason or will. Citizen compliance to system goals is no longer willingly offered, because will has been coopted by the omnipresent mythology that their societies are organized around their best interests, that their laws and internal policing practices, as much as their foreign policies, are dedicated to their well-being. People move about as they will, pursuing this or that vocation, having as many offspring as they wish, and speaking freely and openly with their neighbors.

The dictatorships of the Middle East and Asia, where well-armed regimes with powerful armies openly restrict citizen movement and break up communities of discourse that threaten revolution, perform an important service to Western mass societies, acting as extreme counter-examples to their “free and egalitarian” systems. However, if Plato and Adams, Ellul and Levinas, have their theories right, Western democratic systems are far less free than any dictatorship. Their social control methodology, which leaves the bodies unmarked, coopts the will of the citizen-subjects and enslaves them as “servile souls.” The only evidence of their pain is the epidemic levels of melancholia, as pervasive among the citizens of the “free” West as in the Shining Wire Warren.

Plato is correct: even the best state is organized for the general happiness of the state (its productive endurance) and is unconcerned with individual happiness. This explains why, in Western politeia, there exists a virtual epidemic of mental diseases, from depression to anxiety to drug and alcohol dependency. One in ten people in the United States, including millions of children, load up on antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs to make it through their day. Moreover, since drug and alcohol dependency is deemed a crime in the USA, the epidemic of depressive disorders coincides with another social disease, simultaneously spiraling out of control. The burgeoning prison population renders the tax-supported prison-industrial complex one of the most profitable big businesses of the modern world, if a travesty in terms of recidivism and human suffering.

How does the mythology that “the American way of life” is the paradigm of societal excellence maintain in the face of this overwhelming evidence of the general suffering of its people? The propaganda of the “American Dream” posits that anyone can be successful if one works hard. That allows the (socially and materially) unsuccessful to be blamed for their sorry condition. The myth of the American Dream, as pervasive as melancholia in the least socially mobile state of the free world, conceals the inequality in opportunity that plagues the lower classes and keeps them chained in their lowly condition of poverty, illiteracy and hopelessness.

Traditions in every society enlist members in certain behaviors; people do the things they habitually do because their forbears did those things before them. Behavioral customs are deeply implicated in the conceptual arrangements of any given society. Members embrace traditions before thought, before critical awareness, because they see their life choices through their traditions, rather than seeing traditions as a choice. But even where choice remains open, those most exploited by a system often willingly take up their roles in the system, embracing their own exploitation and assuming their degraded ranking, because accepting the system’s traditions purchases their sense of belonging to the group. And who, more than the system’s most alienated victims, so desperately craves belonging? Circumcisions, hazings, and other painful rites of passage, as much as religious confirmations, sacraments, Thanksgiving dinners, bar/bat mitzvahs, and secret handshakes and salutes commit members of an organization to a level of allegiance far more profound than rational arguments can persuade.

The importance of engagement in ritual acts is underscored by Ellul. This is why he names action the first critical task in securing commitment to propaganda. An action elicited from the propagandee is a concrete enactment of commitment, he argues, because an action compels the actor to adopt the desired worldview to justify the action after the fact. Confirming the futility of mere persuasion, Ellul asserts that one does not get to a “readily mobilizable human being,” engaged at a profound level of commitment, by engaging a person on the level of intelligence or by activating her critical thinking. Rather, the propagandee must be “penetrated” in a general climate of “sociological propaganda” that renders certain acts sheer common sense within the given context. Overwhelmed by “repetitions, explanations and proofs,” the propagandee is compelled by “common sense” to act in accord with the logic of the setting and in so doing, she becomes one with it, penetrated by it. Penetration begins with the body, with disciplines and fleshy commitments, rituals and traditions. Penetration begins with an act.

People conceptually embrace the master narratives of their societies because these help them to make sense of what they already do, what their people have always done. Anthropologists agree: rituals come first; then myths arise to articulate and explain those otherwise incomprehensible acts and give meaning to people’s lives and their worlds. Stories reinterpret a people’s collective sufferings and celebrate their collective triumphs. Cultures are nothing but epistemic communities, sites where a people’s experiences are assigned collective meanings, evolving worldviews where truths, inherited from the past (“traditions”), are endlessly reinterpreted and reconstructed to articulate and explain new realities, new collective experiences of new generations that demand new explanatory schemata.

Despite the vast levels of melancholia evident in modern mass societies, these politeia are generally deemed overwhelming successes, triumphs of freedom and egalitarianism. This is because mass societies are especially vulnerable to the spread of propaganda. Master narratives construct a discursive cage around the deviants — neurotics, hysterics, addicts, perverts, felons, delinquents, insurgents — a cage which contains their symptoms as aspects of their “natures,” while masking the causes of their disease in the environments that “nurture” their pain.

The causes of social disease are self-evident and pervasive in modern mass societies. These are dis-spiriting times. The destructive and dehumanizing values of industrial capitalism have been expounded at length by experts. According to Jacques Rancière, an all-encompassing consumer “sociality” enthralls the dwindling middle classes and blinds them to the spiraling disenfranchisement of the poor worker, which class they will shortly join. Technological society, ruled by experts and their carefully constructed edifices of knowledge, grants only the illusion of freedom and equality, while destining us for loneliness and isolation, Richard Stivers warns. Michel Foucault reveals, through his many genealogies, how modern systems painlessly “discipline” people into docile, productive, efficient workers, shaping their souls to the needs of the system. Yes, these are fatiguing, soul-gripping, spirit-stripping times, but few can see the reality, for the dancing shadows on the cave walls. The discursive cages constructed around the victims of mass societies blame the victims for their illnesses.

But the sickened human beings of mass societies are a predictable product of their environments. Their social diseases are predictable outgrowths of their modes of being-in-the-world, the lifestyles and modes of interaction to which their environments educate them. Being follows after doing, as surely it motivates future articulations of the entrenched behaviors. We become what our environments shape us to be. That is precisely why the most effective propaganda programs aim primarily at action. “The action-reflex,” Ellul asserts, is but “a beginning, a point of departure” that serves explicit ends. Action changes who the actor is; its ends are ontological: propaganda transforms the propagandee into a different sort of being. He becomes a “religious man,” a proselyte, under the thrall of an organization’s propaganda.

Belief on the order of religious faith follows swift on the heels of action, as the actor scurries to justify and give meaning to what he has done. An act undertaken under the spell of propaganda is more than a mere act; it represents a self-sacrifice, a self-crucifixion, a martyrdom of individuality to a sacred ideal. This is because an act, undertaken under the thrall of propaganda, is more than an individual’s act; it becomes infused with a sacred ideal, a transcendental signifier, that reigns across the community.

Transcendental signifiers short-circuit critical awareness and critical thinking because one does not, cannot, question the god. Action undertaken under the rubric of the shared ideal compels the proselyte to a level of commitment from which she can never rationally retreat. Ideals call forth acts of faith, and faith, by definition, can never be trumped by a rational challenge. Action creates faith, and faith compels further actions. This is why the proselyte hardly ever turns back once she has enacted the initiatory deed. “Action makes propaganda’s effect irreversible,” confirms Ellul. Mass societies, such as our Western capitalist democracies, are environments on the order of the melancholic Cowslip Warren, perfect organizational environments for the spread and maintenance of propaganda. For one reason: we are off our guard.

We imagine ourselves to be well-educated but we fail to understand the connection between education and propaganda, exposed in Plato’s cave allegory. Moreover, we imagine ourselves well-informed, with a steady stream of ready information from a plethora of media always at our fingertips. But that information is strictly limited to a very few sources, the media, plentiful as its forms are, carefully filter what reaches our minds. This permits simultaneous communications of a single vision of truth from a variety of sources, repeating, confirming, explaining and endlessly proving the excellence of the status quo, so that resistance can only ever be sporadic and fragmentary. Like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, citizens are subjected interminably to “continuous propaganda [that] exceeds the individual’s capacities for attention or adaptation and thus his capabilities for resistance.”

The media’s constant bombardment with an endless deluge of facts, too dense to be processed critically, breaks down people’s psychic defenses and freezes their critical abilities. Ellul brilliantly describes the dilemma:

A surfeit of data, far from permitting people to make judgments and form opinions, prevents them from doing so and actually paralyzes them. They are caught in a web of facts and must remain at the level of facts they have been given. They cannot even form a choice or a judgment in other areas or on other subjects. Thus the mechanisms of modern information induce a sort of hypnosis in the individual, who cannot get out of the field that has been laid out for him by the information.

The “field that has been laid out” by propaganda breaks down individuality and erodes alternative communities of truth, sources of alternative values, alternative ideals. This is all the more the case the more that mass societies are driven toward the economic extremes of the late capitalist era. The stark atmosphere of cut-throat competition for jobs and the latest techno-products increasingly fragments small sites of belonging that might serve as alternative centers of truth, alternative identity hubs and sources of healthier values.

“Mass society requires mass consumption [and] there cannot be mass consumption without widespread identical views as to what the necessities of life are,” Ellul states. Widespread conformity of viewpoint and action — mythology and ritual — combine to serve a common end—confirmation of the ideal. According to Ellul, the United States is a prime example of a thoroughly propagandized society, because here the psychological soil is well-tilled to a common self-consciousness. Its citizens, however individually diverse, share a fundamental psychological unity, a general “conscious, explicit, theoretical” understanding of who they are together — beneficiaries of a supreme excellence, the “American way of life.”

The myth of the ideal state appeals to the subject’s sense of the sacred by providing “an all-encompassing activating image [that] pushes man to action precisely because it includes all that he feels is good, just and true.” Like “fish in water,” Americans are perfectly adapted to their environments, embracing it as ideal, and it predisposes them to certain faith-driven actions: they are easily provoked to reject anything that fails to dissolve into the “melting pot.” Whatever is different and stands out on its own runs the risk of provoking patriotic rage. “[A]nti-Semitic, anti-Communist, anti-Negro, and xenophobic currents of opinion” are easily aroused to lethal levels of fanatical outrage, though provocateurs, according to Ellul, are not necessarily attached to any certain political party, but only to certain, often unidentifiable, interest groups heavily invested in the status quo.

Ellul, a French philosopher of the last century, targets the United States as the primary example of a mass society under the thrall of propaganda. He paints Americans as uniformly committed to their ideal, “the American way of life.” I reject this monolithic view of Americans. I believe that such hyperbole undermine the credibility of Elul’s argument. In short, his theory of propaganda, taken to this extreme, begins to sound like so much propaganda — all-embracing, lacking nuance, and denying the relentless spontaneity of life and the resiliency of this rich tapestry of uncommon people.

A more accurate description of this, and indeed of any, mass society would recognize that any cultural site has its singularity in the unique ways that its infinitely diverse and constellated parts come together and pull apart from the norm, how the parts contest with the whole. Societies are fluid orders of forces, competing tensions of belonging and non-belonging. Though America may generally applaud the ideal of an “American way of life,” its diverse constituents hold infinite articulations of what that “way of life” comprises. Even as devotees continually surrender their individuality to the ideal, alternative voices from every sector raise new resistances and contestations to the entrenched traditions and shared cultural meanings that bombard them on all sides.

Histories grow bodies in explicit ways, the fleshy bodies of human beings, the cultural bodies of dominant myths and rituals, and the institutional bodies that encode those myths and rituals in state policies and procedures. Hundreds of years of the propaganda of “manifest destiny” have oriented many American propagandees to uncritically perform certain kinds of actions in the name of their ideal—the American way of life. Actions evidence the deep effects of propaganda and the religious fervor with which it is embraced, while cruel punishments suppress opponents of the ideal. America acts mercilessly against its internal defectors (criminals, civil disobedients, and assorted whistleblowers), just as against its opponents in the international community (“rogue states” and their “insurgent” populations that stand in the way of American big business interests).

Alternative lifestyles and values cannot help but come into view, not only as mistaken, but as corrupt and perverse — as “evil.” Thus deviance and opposition, at home or abroad, is bound to trigger in devotees a wild-eyed patriotism, which guarantees that deviants, wherever they are found, will be met with “shock and awe” retribution by armies of self-righteous defenders—extremes of sentencing for minor crimes and death for more despicable villains. However, the very acts that evidence the ideological fervor of the propagandee also evidence the irrepressible difference that exceeds propaganda’s reach. The zeal of the faithful is equally matched by the courage of the broad chorus of counter-voices that refuse to prostrate themselves before the god.

A host of American individuals (Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, and many others) form alternative communities of truth (public media, fair trade NGOs, minority support groups, environmental activists, the “99%”) that daily witness their resistance to the pervasive propaganda. They stand in brave defiance of the ideal, despite the threat of brute force (police brutality and broad institutional suspensions of due process) and the ubiquitous bombardments of persuasion (corporate media monopolies and blockades of public media). These brave beacons of change form the ranks of a strong tradition of political and moral rebellion that, within the belly of the capitalist beast, challenges the wars of aggression, the internal oppressions, and the myth of the ideal state.

In every state, educational methods are applied to citizen bodies and souls to compel compliance and foster productivity. Of the two methodologies, persuasion or brute force, the gentle persuasions of propaganda are most effective. A servile body gives its labor until it expires or until the revolution arrives, but the servile soul gives her heart to the homeland and sends off her children to its wars. But neither method functions without remainder. An excess lingers to witness the violence of destructive ideas and dehumanizing lifestyles, as surely as scars mark the bodies of the physically tortured in tyrannical regimes.

The unhappiness of individual citizens, the pains induced by their alienated productivity, increases in direct proportion with the “happy” longevity of the system that serves the very few. But no system, however effective its educational techniques, remains forever constant and invulnerable to alternative truth. The irrepressible resilience of the human species against both force and persuasion is witnessed most purely in the fresh young faces of the peaceful demonstrators on college campuses and in city parks across the American continent, as they weather the elements, the night-stick blows and the painful tear-gassings to bring about a different ideal of justice than that which their system reveres.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.2

Walking with Gandhi at 100 by Gail Presbey

Presbey, Gail M. “Walking with Gandhi: 100 Years of Satyagraha,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26.2 (Fall 2006)

On this 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s first satyagraha action of September 11, 1906 in South Africa, I find myself reflecting on Gandhi’s method of walking, or marching, to his goal. Gandhi would organize and orchestrate long marches which would swell with people and arrive at specific symbolic destinations. The marches wed physical endurance with mental toughness and tenacity, making visible to the eye struggles toward ideals. They were community builders, as people walked together, meeting each other, talking, and finding fulfillment in accomplishing something together.

Does the method still work 100 years later? Peace activists still pursue marches, sometimes hundreds of miles long, to different destinations symbolic of peace and justice. My friends from the Catholic Worker and Jonah House had such a walk last year. Calling themselves “Witnesses Against Torture,” they walked across Cuba to the gates of Guantanamo, the U.S. base that holds so many prisoners in legal limbo as part of the U.S.-led ‘war on terror.’ (Read the group’s statement as they set off for their walk: While the whole world does not necessarily take note when a small group walks somewhere (depending on the level of mass media publicity, which might be small), certainly the people they encounter on the road have an unforgettable experience. And the marchers themselves are changed by their walking meditation on the road.

During the Spring of 2005, I walked for two weeks with a group of five hundred marchers who wanted to re-create Gandhi’s famous Salt Satyagraha march from Ahmedabad to Dandi, in Gujarat state, India. They picked the exact dates of his march to mark its 75th Anniversary–March 12 to April 7. Of about 500 marchers, 82 were from Pakistan and 36 from the US, Europe, Australia and China. There were no marchers from Latin America. The only marcher from Africa that I met was an Indian who lives in South Africa.

My account that follows points to ‘culture clashes’ that were experienced by myself and some of the other marchers from abroad. The account tells it ‘like it was’ and is not some idealized or romanticized version of the march. In fact, if you read Australian historian Thomas Weber’s book On the Salt March you will realize that even Gandhi’s march was filled with strife, disputes, and questions about which way to go. Gandhi made certain rules for the marchers that they found very hard. Acting in unison involved enforcing some discipline which was not always accepted gladly. This strife is not necessarily bad; such is the stuff of life. Peace activists know how to roll with these punches, to communicate with each other, and to work through such problems.

On March 11, I arrived at Sabarmati Ashram, which had been founded by Gandhi, and was the place where the original march started. It was now the gathering point for those who wanted to go on this Gandhi march. The ashram is on a picturesque waterfront with a huge museum and the original house of Gandhi the way it was when Gandhi was there, with his spinning wheel in a sparsely decorated room. You really have the sense of stepping back in time when you go there. Sometimes I felt like the Gandhians were like the Amish or Mennonites of India. Their simple, non-technological lifestyle is a contrast to the bustling cities of India, and their buildings had been temporarily converted to dorms for the people who were coming for the march.

There were two large contingents of marchers from the Congress Party. Roughly they’re like the U.S. ‘Democrats’ in India. They were generally progressive but still corrupt and power hungry in part. One group was the Congress Youth Group. There were two representatives from each province in India. The other was the Sevadar, the “Army of Service” that is organized like cadets.

It was controversial among the Gandhians when Tushar Gandhi (organizer of the march and Gandhi’s great grandson) got the Congress Party’s endorsement for the walk, but the party was the only contributor for the expenses of the walk. So a large majority of marchers were from the Congress Party, walking in straight lines, dressed completely in white, some carrying flags, others barking orders like military officers. I was a little surprised about this costuming and decorum, but I found out later it was a longstanding tradition which Gandhi himself insisted upon. The rest of us, the international marchers, did not like to dress so sharply and did not like lining up. We were more like a group you’d see in Seattle protesting the WTO, grabbing an old t-shirt stuffed into a backpack and wearing it for the day. So there was a real culture clash. A few late-night meetings were called to try to bridge the cultural gap. There was also a large contingent of senior citizens in our group.

Everywhere we went there were Congress politicians coming out to greet and be greeted and garlanded, and they would get up on stages and give their political speeches. Tushar said the famous Gandhians he hoped to get to come and give us educational talks about Gandhi all bowed out once the Congress Party sponsored the march. He said he had no choice, he had many expenses. It made me feel a bit awkward about marching when I hadn’t realized there was a controversy. But maybe the Congress Party is not so bad. As one old Gandhian told me, who else is there? The communists are on one side, the communalists (reactionaries) on the other side. The Congress is the only party for progressive social and secular democracy, he said. But, when I saw Tushar put a garland around a statue of Indira Gandhi I couldn’t believe my eyes. What would the famous Gandhian J.P. Narayan think? Indira was responsible for the repression he was fighting against, back in the 1970s.

These kinds of dilemmas are perennial. Back in the U.S., we wonder whether we should back Democratic candidates even if they aren’t clearly against war, because the Republicans seem worse. Gandhi spent many years within the Congress Party, and was even offered its Presidency in 1929 (although he declined). But at a certain point he left it in 1934, saying it was too much of a compromise with his ideals to stay within it. Despite this parting of the ways, Gandhi couldn’t stay away from the Congress Party, and he often took an active role in Congress Working Committee meetings, and addressed Congress gatherings. The Congress Party had the numbers, so if you really wanted to shape national politics, you had to work with them. And Gandhi couldn’t remain satisfied with his self-imposed marginalization on his idyllic but out-of-the-way ashrams for long. So, the Congress Party does have some legitimate claim to Gandhi being part of their heritage.

Before we marched, Tushar Gandhi gave us a talk on the details. The walk was supposed to be 240 miles and 24 days. I slept in an attic room with others, and I heard mice munching on something during the night. We woke at 4:00 a.m. on the 12th, because we had to pack our bags and have them ready for loading on a truck by 4:30. Then we had to pass through lots of security to get to the main launching event at 5:00 a.m. (a lot of Indians are early birds like this, and Gandhians are especially so). It was really quite amazing to see such a crowd so early. The Congress Party people were on stage, with Sonia Gandhi the main speaker and point of attraction for everyone. After that we all streamed out and filled the streets of Ahmedabad. Traffic had been blocked off. It was early morning and all shops were closed, but still the streets were lined with cheering crowds. Every time we got near a school, all the students in their uniforms would line the streets. There were even five elephants all painted and dressed up.

Whenever we passed a Gandhi statue in a main square, we found that someone had built steps and a platform up to it, and all these dignitaries went up there and put garlands on Gandhi. There were banners and billboards everywhere. Everyone was selling products using Gandhi’s face. We did all this marching until 10:00 a.m. with no breakfast or even tea! When we got to the Muslim part of town the housing got smaller and more makeshift, with corrugated metal roofs. People still came out to look at us, but not so much to cheer (I don’t know why). A fellow marcher speculated that, no matter how much Gandhi tried to reach out to the Muslim community, he was still considered a Hindu religious figure. Then we got to a resting spot for the hot afternoon hours and had lunch.

During lunch I met a 90-year-old man who met Gandhi in 1931 and was arrested in 1932. He is called a “Freedom Fighter” (a specific title given those who were imprisoned by the British for resisting colonial rule). He is from Uttar Pradesh, and his name is Mewalal Gupta Arya. He is a lively character who got into some verbal disputes (mostly tinged with humor) with the march organizers on occasion. In the afternoon, as we marched again from 4:00 to 6:30, I walked with Mewalal. He was leaning on me and carrying the flag of India. He was really going at a good clip for his age. After a while he got tired and took a ride (as did many of the more elderly marchers) on the camel wagon that was processing along with us. Around sunset we came into a beautiful small town with a big temple, where we stayed for the night. As with all our stops, the Congress Party had arranged for a cultural performance, with students dressed up and doing traditional dance.

The second day we marched again. Mr. Mewalal walked the whole morning at a fast clip. When we reached the resting spot there was not much rest, because we were treated like celebrities. So many boy students were there; they asked my name and where I was from, over and over again. As they crowded around me, I looked at some film cameras and felt like I was on reality t.v.! Some girls in fancy outfits showed up carrying jars on their heads.

This scenario repeated itself over and over for the five days of marching: up at 5:00 a.m., pack, breakfast at 6:00, so-called “prayer” done military style in marching orders. I learned one nice song Gandhi wrote about Hindus and Muslims being one, “Ragupati Raghave.” It is a song that insists that the core tenets of Hinduism and Islam are compatible and so there should be no strife or discrimination between members of different religions. Then we would be marching in the morning from 6:45 a.m. to about 10:00 or 11:00 a.m., when we’d duck out of the sun, and either rest or be stuck in a public program with speeches in Gujarati. Then there was lunch, and a chance to rest, but often there was not enough space among marchers to all stretch out and nap. Only a few mattresses, rare green grass, usually mud, but sometimes beautiful temples and architecture. Then at 4:00 p.m. we’d venture out into the hot sun again, and march until 6:30 or 7:30 p.m. We’d march straight into a public gathering with audience, speeches, and music performance. We’d have dinner at 8:00 and meetings until 10:00 or 10:30. We’d shower in portable showers, a great balancing act. Then it was time to get a bit of sleep, watching out for mosquitoes.

The march was always for me a curious mix of heaven and hell. The walking I liked! The scenery was interesting. One never knows what will be in store. Were we going through towns? Rural areas? Would it be quiet and beautiful, or will we be battling traffic that wants to run us down, gagging on fumes all afternoon? There was some of both. Will crowds be cute and friendly, and throw rose petals at us? They did. Will the guys get rowdy when they spot their favorite or not favorite politician en route shaking hands? When things got pushy and too exuberant I kept my distance. Sometimes people lined up and stared at us as we walked by and I didn’t know if they liked us or not. Sometimes, rarely, there were no people for a stretch. Sometimes people waved from their balconies and rooftops. I got to see all kinds of houses and buildings, from mansions to hovels. We crossed a river with the camels and carts. And the many conversations while walking were impossible to sum up.

I interviewed three freedom fighters arrested during Gandhi’s “Quit India” movement in 1942. It is really complex. Almost all committed some acts of violence, even though they knew in some sense that Gandhi was for nonviolence. They each had a reason or rationale for what they did. Some noticed the tension between their acts and Gandhi’s philosophy, and others seemed oblivious to the contradiction. It is as if “Either A or not-A” just doesn’t apply for them. Maybe Joseph Campbell would say I am trapped by the rules of Western rationality! Of course Gandhi had plenty of contradictions himself. One woman I interviewed was Rukshmani Bhatia, who began getting arrested at age 14 for challenging the British and demanding India’s independence. Born in 1928, she was a real spunky youth and a joy to interview. Then there was “Shanti Dada,” who at the age of nine walked for two miles in the original march in 1930, accompanying his father. He was not marching the whole march this time, only one day. He told me that the march was a drama of dust and noise, with no ahimsa, no truth here. It was all a political stunt, he said. He had devoted his life to poverty and serving the poor.

There were others. Durabai Naik addressed a small group of us. He knew Gandhi since childhood. He is now 89 and insists on doing as much of the march as he can. He started to break down and cry when he remembered his meetings with Gandhi, how he nursed Gandhi when he was ill. Another woman also cried when talking about Gandhi, as if the beloved Mahatma had just got shot yesterday, her emotions were so raw. Other conversations with younger marchers in their 60s, like Kumar, or Venkatra Mayya, were very insightful. Then there were some other folks I couldn’t quite figure out, like the three Gandhis. There were three old men who dressed up just like Gandhi, had the round glasses, the dhoti and shawl. They carried walking sticks and liked to strike poses in front of cameras on stage. It was like the Indian version of the Elvis impersonators. I didn’t know what to think. These guys would get garlanded while we walked. I even saw people bowing and touching the Gandhis’ feet. Every so often they would group up just so people would really do a double-take. But mostly they were independent. And then there were times when people in the town would dress up some of their kids as miniature Gandhi’s. They were so cute.

One day we ended up at Sri Aurobindo’s ashram. It had very interesting architecture. All piled in, and the Congress folks did some om-ing, singing, and acclaiming of Gandhi, which I thought was interesting considering Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo had a lifelong debate about the use of violence in independence struggles. It’s another example of that great Hindu tolerance, just add another god and don’t worry. Gandhi’s right, Aurobindo’s right, what’s your problem?

On the 17th we had a so-called “rest day,” because Gandhi originally rested one day per week. But the day was filled with activities. We went first to a cooperatively run dairy that Sardar Patel helped to organize. We then went to the university and heard four speakers on Gandhi. Two spoke in English, two in Gujarati. One professor was interesting; he covered the context of the original salt march, why Gandhi chose salt, and why he went to that part of the country. But we were whisked into the Vice Chancellor’s office for tea and introductions, and then whisked off to the next venue, with no time for questions or discussion of the issues. The next venue was a beautiful temple where we heard women singing, got prasadam from a guru dressed in orange, and then went to a fancy auditorium with a beautiful garden named after Gandhi’s close associate, Sardar Patel. There several freedom fighters got awards from Tushar Gandhi, along with garlands and scarves.

I mentioned that there were a lot of press around. They all flocked around us internationals, wanting to know why we bothered to come to India to go on this march. A young man named Greg from Hawaii, tall and good looking (like he would win on “Survivor”) was chosen for a daily column in one of the newspapers. Several people interviewed me and filmed me with t.v. cameras. I have no idea if they ever printed or showed the material. At first I really wanted to avoid them. But others said this is part of our work of spreading Gandhi’s message and showing that the march is not only about the Congress party wanting to win elections. So I agreed to be interviewed.

Sometimes it is upsetting to get filmed or photographed in your daily life. Once they came into our tent and said they wanted to film us setting up our beds! Once Sheena from Australia wanted to teach us reflexology foot massage; several of us set up and were following her instructions when the t.v. cameras arrived. The next day we ended up on the front page of the paper, a big photo of us getting our feet massaged. I didn’t like all this special attention just because we were from abroad. But some have used it to our advantage. One U.S. activist said people all over the world were fasting from sunrise to sunset to protest genocide in Darfur, and he got over 20 of us to agree to do so. Basically this meant skipping lunch. I said I would try. By 5:30 pm after 11 hours of fasting, and walking in the sun, I felt shaky, so I had to break down and eat a protein bar. Oh well, 11 hours for Darfur. He got the Sudan issue in the papers.

I had no private life on the march. Even the tent had eight people. Two nights we were put up in big halls with thirty women. Two women got sick and were vomiting; imagine they had to vomit in front of 30 people. But then I guess there are plenty of hospitals in the world like that. Over the course of the march I saw seven of the international marchers taken to the hospital, mostly from the heat, stomach problems, or fever; some with foot or leg problems. I had to take a break. On March 18 two women were in the hospital and another three were too sick to walk. They were going to ride the camel wagons. So after 56 miles I decided to take the train back to Ahmedabad. The only train at that local stop was the unreserved train. That’s how Gandhi always preferred to travel. It was kind of like taking the subway from the Bronx. Half the people were neatly dressed on their way to work. The other half were street children and women from the rural areas. Lots of litter was strewn over the unclean cars. But in general it was fine, because people were polite, and I loved watching the scenery out the window.

In Ahmedabad, I attended a very good workshop on Conflict resolution held at the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, a university begun by Gandhi especially to help the Harijan (low-caste) and indigenous non-caste students. The workshop was run by Dr. Devavrat N. Pathak, an inspiring Gandhian academic. He is 84 years old, but still very sharp, animated, and up to date on all the latest issues in international politics. He was assisted by Dr. Sadhana Vora, an astute elder philosopher who has written a thesis on the ethics of the Bhagavad-Gita. Speakers talked a lot about India-Pakistan tensions. I also used this time to go to their library, which had about 5000 books on Gandhi, a most amazing collection. I highly recommend this center to those who wish to pursue a scholarly study of Gandhi. It was there that I had a chance to read Thomas Weber’s study of the Salt March, which gave me a new perspective on the march I was walking in 2005. He had walked the entire march in 1983 to find people who had remembered the first march of 1930. I found out that Shanti Dada, whom I had met on the march, had been Weber’s guide through most of the walk.

Gandhi was always emphasizing spinning thread the old fashioned way (on a “charka”) as a kind of prayer. At Gujarat Vidyapeeth the students and some of the teachers and administrators spin every day for half an hour. It is quite a sight for an American professor to see a room full of hundreds of university students spinning thread as a communal prayer. So I figured I would try it. I knew from watching the students that it’s not easy, that the thread breaks a lot. Either you pull it too fast, it gets weak and breaks, or you spin it too much, and it gets too tight. I figured I will not be very perfect in the beginning but why not try anyway. So I had a spinning lesson, and then I did the daily spinning. Not very well, but I did it! I tell you, prayer time whizzes by faster when all your attention is on a string breaking or not.

While in Ahmedabad I also stopped by the St. Xavier’s Social Service Society run by Fr. Moses, who is a Jesuit. They have been doing a lot of charity work with slum dwellers who camp out along the Sabarmati River. And they did a study which implicates the government in the Gujarat riots of 2002 (where Hindus killed about 2,000 Muslims). While the “official” version of the story is that some individuals got swept up in anger, the study alleges that the killings were planned. For example, there was a shortage of gasoline canisters for the two weeks prior to the riots, because someone was hoarding them. Then, these canisters were used to ignite shops owned by Muslims. Fr. Moses thinks that someone in the government may be implicated, because shops that had a Muslim business partner but seemed to the public to be owned by Hindus were also burned. This means that those who targeted the shops likely had access to property or tax lists (see the 2002 book, Racial Hegemony: Gujarat Genocide, by Paul Mike S.J. and Aloysius Irudayam S.J.).

Part of this serves as a background for why the Congress Party was sponsoring the Gandhi march. They used to win the elections in Gujarat, but a few years ago they lost and were replaced by BJP. Some Congress members will be frank and say that the Congress politicians had slipped up and become corrupt, and that’s why they lost. But, the BJP is very intolerant toward Muslims and is pushing a right-wing agenda. So Congress wants to win Gujarat State back. This march helped their party regain the limelight. Interestingly enough, during the days I was in Ahmedabad, an international “situation” flared up. Governor Modi had been invited to come to the United States to be keynote speaker at a conference for South Asian Hoteliers (many of whom are from Gujarat State). But the U.S. Government denied Governor Modi a visa, citing his role in the Gujarat riots in 2002. Modi was angry. Headlines one day said “Modi Declares War on America.” It was a little odd to be an American walking around the streets of Ahmedabad while the Governor was “declaring war” on your country. Reading some news articles, I found that it was my own Congressman from Detroit, John Conyers, who played a big role in having Modi denied a visa. I was proud that my own country, and my Congressman, were doing something right, to defend the human rights of others.

Then I rejoined the march in the city of Surat. When I got there at 9:00 p.m. on the 1st of April, everything was especially in disarray. I found Katie who told me that the march into Surat had been the hardest of the whole march, because there the crowds were thickest and very chaotic. The police escorts were not controlling the enthusiastic crowds who wanted to mob the marchers. One contingent got separated from the others and ended up getting lost. Marchers were in shock sharing stories of how crazy it was. All the food was already gobbled up, but Katie told me a group went off to an air conditioned hotel for dinner, to celebrate Archana’s birthday. So we tried to catch an autorickshaw to catch up to them. But crowds of curious teen boys gathered around us, so many that they became a traffic obstruction and we couldn’t even see the vehicles approaching on the road. I thought, what am I getting myself into? Sure it’s great that so many people want to turn out to greet the march, but do they have any conception that it’s about Gandhi, or what Gandhi stands for, or is it just a novelty?
The dinner was fun because I got to see a bunch of the marchers I hadn’t seen during the two weeks I was in Ahmedabad. On the way back from the restaurant the rickshaws got lost and took us up and down the streets of Surat, where so many people were lined up sleeping on the sidewalk and curbs. It was mind boggling.

Luckily, the next morning in Surat the crowds were still big and enthusiastic, but pleasant. As usual, people lined up to greet us, and others waved from their balconies. A really off tune band played songs that I identified (to the incredulity of my fellow marchers) as “We shall overcome” and “Jingle Bells.” We passed an ice factory, and some textile mills where workers came out to greet us. Later in the day, some great drummers accompanied us with a mobile amplifier that broadcast a singer’s voice. I enjoyed marching with them, although it was nearly impossible to carry on a conversation. We were showered with flower petals and handed roses as we walked. Mike, who had often commented on the irony of having armed police with rifles accompany our peace march, was able to stick a flower into the barrel of one policeman’s gun.

Some of the days blur into others, but this is what I remember from snippets of the march. At one stop we were shown the huge tree that Gandhi camped under, which is a kind of shrine now. At the same camp in the evening, the municipality decided to spray our camp to kill the mosquitoes. Other campers said this was the third or fourth time it was done. I never saw anything like it. Men carried machines that whirred like loud vacuums and shot out huge white clouds of foggy insecticide. The whole camp was covered in the dense fog. I didn’t know what to do. So I ran into the internet truck to escape from the fumes. Several other people did the same. We watched through the windows at the surreal landscape outside. It took about 20 minutes for the clouds to dissipate. We were all wondering what breathing in such clouds might do to our health. By the way, yes there was an internet truck! The connection (via mobile phones), however, was usually painfully slow, because we were not often camped near a big city with mobile phone towers. While I am on the topic of challenges to the environment, I remember that at one stop we were served lunch on paper plates. Then as we were marching in the afternoon, a truck filled with our paper plates pulled up to the side of a hill and emptied its contents, to join the other scattered pieces of who knows what blowing around in the area.

As we were marching, sometimes it would be in the peaceful rural areas, and then sometimes the traffic would heat up, and we marchers would be pushed everywhere on the road, sometimes by our own support vehicles, which would have Congress flags pasted all over them, but which would nevertheless honk and push us marchers off the road so they could pass. Whatever town we stopped in we would always be greeted by VIPs, so when the cars got really aggressive we figured, ‘there go the VIPS, running us over on their way to get to the town ahead of us to greet us so warmly and with a big smile.’ And the same on the way out of town.

Mealtime was always an amazement, because not only were we 500 marchers fed, but often times also members of the community. Huge vats of food were prepared and dished out to people sitting in rows on the ground. Often, colorful tents were set up to shade people from the sun’s scorching rays. I forgot to mention that temperatures often climbed to 42 degrees centigrade, which is somewhere around 110 degrees according to the chart in my travel book. If you were out in the sun it felt like your clothes were being freshly ironed on your body. That’s why we would stop marching somewhere between 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., and resume at 4:00 p.m. It was still hot at 4:00, but by 5:00 it was starting to be cooler. The high temps were no doubt behind the problem some marchers had with heat stroke and dehydration. On top of it, our bottled water supply was not as constant as one would like. Sometimes there were no bottles in sight. So when bottles finally showed up, I would want to stock up, which means carrying 2 or 3 bottles of water in my backpack while we’re walking five miles. But that’s better than dehydrating! The last two days I just had to buy bottles from grocers because the supply for marchers seemed not to be there. And the food! I was strict and would not eat uncooked vegetables or fruit salad that our cooks prepared. We had a special catering crew to cook non spicy food for our “international” contingent, but they had to cook on the move and did not have good facilities or clean water. Everyone uses their hands to serve food, and our caterer kept taking off his head scarf and scratching his head a lot. Not to mention the flies.

We started getting closer to the ocean. The air started getting damp and salty. Then finally came the day to walk the last stretch to Dandi. That was the day Sonia Gandhi (leader of the Congress Party) was supposed to walk the last four miles with us in the evening. We internationals decided to have a press conference to explain the reason why we were marching. Several felt the need to explain this because the march had been so dominated by the Congress Party. We wanted to say that we were there because we wanted World Peace. We were inspired by Gandhi’s message of nonviolence. Some from our group noted that while Congress was getting a lot of political mileage out of saying they were sponsoring the march, they were still purchasing F 16’s in an arms race with Pakistan. So we worked the day or two before on a common statement. We expected this common statement to be read at the press conference. To our surprise it was not read. Seems one member of the group still wanted one sentence changed the night before, and the guy who was typing it got fed up and said never mind, let everyone just give their personal statements. Well, such things happen when you have a lot of personalities and not much time to hash out an agreement. We had picked six spokespersons who now gave their personal statements, which were all great and covered a lot of the same ground as the common statement anyway. Several women from our group decided this was the day to wear saris. They had bought them along the road. So they all dressed up in their saris, which was a real photo opportunity for the journalists who gathered.

After all that, Tushar and the other Indian man overseeing the press conference started inviting others up. They brought up Alison who was 82 from Australia and who had marched the whole way. Tushar had the folks from Ireland stand up. And then there was a photographer from the U.S. who had joined the march (on his motorcycle) to take photos for the last few days. He took the opportunity to make a speech. He began by stating that he had won Oscars, Emmys, etc., for his photographs and that he had visited 100 countries. He then told Indians that everywhere in India were advertisements for American products. But he said that America is not the solution, it is the problem. And then he repeated it a few times for emphasis. I was a bit upset. Sure, there was some truth to what he said, but I thought he said it uncarefully. Yes, consumerism is a bad thing, but it doesn’t only come from the U.S., and not everyone in the U.S. is part of the problem. There were a lot of people working for peace and poverty eradication and against consumerism. Just a few minutes before that, one man from India had introduced Thea as an American who does not even have a t.v. set in her house. And, if we want world peace, don’t we have to work together to change America? What good does it do to demonize America, act as if since America is the problem, the rest of us were innocents or victims who must now gang up on the problem? It’s fine if the target is the “system” of exploitation, but a whole culture from A to Z and all their people? I told the photographer this later. He said I had a point. But he said he felt so strongly that he had to say what he said, because he thought Indians worshiped America in a sick way, so they had to be shocked out of it by saying an exaggeration in the other direction. (Hmm, kind of like Malcolm X saying whites were devils with no souls?)

Well, from my limited perspective, I don’t think Indians idolize America so much. Their country was adamant in pursuing nonalignment all during the Cold War. Their industry is based on self reliance, making in India the products that Indians consume. The streets are not filled with American cars; they’re all made by Tata motors, an Indian company. (Unless you say that the idea of the car is American, in which case I add, why not include the American idea of fuel emission controls?). The clothes are made in India according to Indian fashion style (except maybe for the teenagers and college students). The t.v. set is filled with Indian t.v. shows, and the theatres are filled with Indian films starring famous Indian actors. O.K., every so often there is an “Uncle Sam’s Pizzeria” but that is an exception, not the rule.

And I guess I should not neglect the fact that so many Indians want to go abroad and live where they can make money and send it back to India. (Even Gandhi did that, but he felt guilty about it: “We go abroad in order to make money, and in trying to get rich quick, we lose sight of morality and forget that God will judge all our acts. Self-interest absorbs our energies and paralyzes our power of discrimination between good and evil. The result is that instead of gaining anything, we lose a great deal by staying in foreign countries.” (Introduction to Ruskin’s “Unto this Last”). However we should note that he was talking about Indians in South Africa 100 years ago. Indians have gone to England, Kenya, Uganda, the Caribbean and South America in search of job opportunities. Well, perhaps more go to the U.S. than other countries, but is that evidence of a sick love of America? Perhaps I am being too defensive.

Just after the press conference, poor Alison, the 82-year-old marcher, collapsed. Turns out it was heat stroke. She had to be rushed to a hospital and hooked up to an i.v. She did not make it the last four miles to Dandi, imagine! Well she did make it to Dandi in a vehicle, so she was with us in the end.

Someone told me that sometimes when marathon runners see the finish line they collapse, just short of their goal. Interesting, because Alison had been a marathon runner! Sheena, her daughter, was horrified. She thought her Mom had just had a heart attack or something. But Alison revived later the same day.

So later that afternoon Sonia Gandhi showed up to lead the last stretch of the march, four miles. She was surrounded by large numbers of police, and a jubilant crowd that was running and pushing. We were told to wait five minutes before following. At the end of the day’s walk was a huge statue of Gandhi reaching down and picking up salt. Everyone was jubilant. We had been carrying our “World Peace” signs that we made for the press conference. Some people were adding their own slogans. Josh’s said “Salt the World with Peace.” Some of the Pakistanis changed their signs to say “Atoms for Peace.” I didn’t understand. They explained that they wanted nuclear power for peace, and they should be allowed to build their reactors. I wasn’t thrilled about this idea. One tricky group of Pakistanis got me to pose for a photo with them before I knew that was what their sign said – he had actually flipped his sign over the second before the photo was shot. For all I know, now there could be a photo of me advertising nuclear power in Pakistan.

Later the same evening we were supposed to have our photo taken with Sonia and Tushar Gandhi. We were arranged in groups of twenty. After waiting forever, Sonia came out, and she and Tushar quickly sat in the middle of each group for a quick snap. I don’t know how we were ever supposed to get a copy of these photos. Then it was time to have dinner with Sonia. All 500 marchers were invited, but the gate where people entered was small, and there were guards checking to make sure all who entered had their ID from the march. There were several crashers who wanted in anyway, either because they thought they were very important people who must meet Sonia, or because they were young men with nothing better to do but try to get a free meal, I guess. So there was a huge ruckus of pushing and shoving and shouting. Those who were denied entrance refused to vacate and tried to block the entrance for others. Several of us just hung back, reluctant to try to enter until things calmed down.

Finally Tushar personally took up the job of being at the gate and allowing people in or not. We got in and were served the most delicious meal of the whole trip! It went on and on with so many delicious foods. And there was a kind of “shrine” to Gandhi in the middle of the room, with lots of candles burning.

The next morning was the day, April 6, when Gandhi went to the beach, took a dip, then picked up a handful of salt and declared that he had broken the salt law. So at 6:30 a.m. a contingent of us went with Tushar for a dip in the ocean. It was hazy and warm. Myself, Katie and Catherine from England, and Sheena from Australia were the women from our group who went in. Otherwise it was only the men of the march swimming. Afterwards Katie was writing “Peace” and “Shanti” with a stick on the beach.
Now the 6th was the day of the huge rally where 300,000 people were expected to join Sonia at Dandi. Each town had been given four trucks to fill up. So most of us marchers were afraid to go to the rally.

The camp was surrounded with wall-to-wall people. Our evening destination was Karadi, the town where Gandhi went after Dandi and the place where he was arrested. Some people wanted to catch a vehicle, but I knew I wanted to walk. So I went walking with Nicole from Ireland and Aueriel from Spain. We waited for Sonia’s helicopter to land at 11 a.m., then took off walking. It was the most strenuous walk of the entire journey in some ways because we faced a never ending sea of pedestrians and vehicles flooding in the other direction, on their way to the huge rally. It was a nonstop row of trucks bursting to the brim with passengers as far as the eye could see. The good thing was, since we were near the ocean, there was a good breeze the whole way so I didn’t really have to smell any of that truck exhaust. When the vehicles were all in one row it was not so bad, but sometimes the VVIP’s would honk their horns and pass up all the trucks, meaning all us pedestrians had to get off the road, hanging onto a footpath in order not to end up in a ditch.

Right in front of my eyes I saw two people hit by vehicles badly enough to push them a few feet. I think they were mostly okay, but who knows what bruises or maybe broken bones they could have gotten? I really wonder what goes through the minds of VVIP’s when they’re willing to mow down members of their constituency on their way to commemorate the nonviolent Gandhi. But I am sure nothing has gone through their minds. Their drivers just drive as they have always been taught to drive, as ‘professionals’ who get there fast. As we were crossing a bridge, just about to enter the town of Karadi, a gust of wind came and blew my hat off and over the bridge, down into some tall reeds next to a river. There was no way I could see how I could get down there to rescue it. I was just grateful that it happened so close to the end of the march.

Auriel, Nicole, and their friend Swamy and I stopped to get cold sodas at a little shop, and they played with a cute little girl. Then we ran into others who had just hitched a ride with a truck and ended up at the same spot. Here we turned left and went the last mile or so to the place in Karadi where Gandhi spent his last night before arrest, a place that is now a museum. It was so peaceful, next to a small lake. The ‘museum’ was a display of old photos. The floor in the big room sagged in the middle. There was the little thatch building, just as it had been when Gandhi stayed there. We rested up as stragglers came in over the next few hours, all with their tales of how they coped with the crowds. By now our group was small, only about 100. The Congress marchers were going home after the rally, and the Pakistanis also took off. So there were us internationals and about fifty Indian marchers who had not been associated with Congress.

The evening program included the presentation of a play on the life of Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s close friend and personal secretary. It was a good play, over two hours long! One got the impression that, for better or worse, devotion to Gandhi took over Mahadev Desai’s life. He ignored his family members and his own need for rest in the non-stop struggle for freedom through nonviolence. His example is encouraging in some ways, but disturbing for its workaholic excess. I am always struggling with what to take from Gandhism as a healthy model, and what to reject as unhealthy for myself.

The next morning we were very unceremoniously given our souvenirs of the march – a gaudy, large and clunky trophy of Gandhi’s hand holding salt. It reminded me of ‘Thing’ – the hand that used to come out of a box on ‘The Addams Family’ t.v. show. Someone else said it reminded her of the last scene of the film ‘Carrie’ where the hand reaches out from the grave. In any case it was not designed by people who thought about the fact that marchers were travelers who had to manage this heavy, breakable trophy in their luggage. All jokes aside, it was wonderful to receive such a souvenir. Tushar and others praised it as a beautiful work of art.

There was a program in the morning, attended by students from the elementary school nearby. I noticed up front was Shanti Dada, who I hadn’t seen since I interviewed him earlier in Boriavi. I got to give him the photos I developed of him and to accompany him the rest of the day. It is funny because, in the meantime, since having met him, I was able to read Thomas Weber’s book on the Salt March. In that book Weber says that Shantilal was driving him crazy in a hundred different ways, because Shanti Dada was always trying to do it his own way instead of the way Weber wanted it done. So I knew of the background of the strife between them, but I didn’t mention any of this to Shanti Dada when I met him. Of course he didn’t bring it up either but acted as if he and Weber were best of friends!

At this point, marchers got into two buses and headed for the Dharasana Salt Works, where the big satyagraha action took place in May 1930 (just after Gandhi’s arrest) in which so many people were hit by police with steel tipped lathi sticks. They had a memorial there, which we visited. Many people had died in that confrontation, where protestors remained nonviolent in the face of police brutality. There was a public program and we marchers were put on stage with Tushar. The music was great, a singer with a beautiful voice. Then we were fed. We got back on the bus. The landscape changed and was very barren. They said this is where the soil is full of salt. It reminded me of Utah. Then we went to a train station. This was a new station constructed on the historic site where Gandhi was put on a train by the British during his arrest. The story was explained to us, and we were given plaques commemorating our participation in the march. Then we got onto a train, one car was reserved for us, and we went to Mumbai. The march was finished!

After going back to Pune, where I was living, it dawned on me that it would be fitting if I went to visit Yerwada Jail in Pune, where Gandhi was taken after he was arrested at Karadi and put on the train to Mumbai. I figured the only reason Tushar didn’t bring the whole group here was because people’s international flights were from Mumbai. So the next morning, I found it. The jail was made of that usual British grey brick, but with brightly painted blue and yellow trim. I asked the police if I could take a photo. I realized it was a long shot, and they said no photos allowed, but they asked me if I wanted to see the cell that Gandhi was kept in. I said yes! I explained I had just been on the Dandi march. The guy said another marcher had just been there – and he pointed over a ways and I saw Robert, one of the marchers from the Netherlands. I was really surprised. I was not the only one who had that idea that morning. So we were both let in to the prison, where first we had to meet the head warder for permission. Above his large desk was a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. (On each side was Indira and Rajiv Gandhi). There were also portraits of Sardar Patel, Nehru, and others imprisoned in the jail. It is not every day you see a prison where the former prisoners are displayed as famous heroes.

Another jailer took us to the yard for political prisoners. There was a big mango tree that Gandhi used to sit under. There was a statue of Gandhi in the courtyard. The trees and plants were well kept and beautiful. Along one side were the prison cells. In each cell was a big portrait of which prisoner used to be kept there. Then there was a book for visitors to sign. So obviously they had preserved this whole wing especially for visitors. As they explained, this yard of the prison only held political prisoners. I thought it was interesting that the guards with us were so proud of the fact that they worked in a place that had imprisoned these great leaders of India (or maybe I have somehow misunderstood). I guess it’s a sign that Gandhi and Nehru and others were imprisoned to free India from the British, and now the jail is run by Indians, not the British. But as I remarked to Robert, there seems not to be a critique of the idea of prisons themselves. Prisons go on, imprisoning the criminals, and I know Gandhi had a critique of treating criminals that way. He thought that so-called ‘criminals’ were marginalized by society, and that they needed more acceptance and trust from others, rather than ostracization.

It was a nice coincidence that Robert was there at the same time. He is an anthropologist who studies a matrilineal community in Sumatra. He’s been to India twice before. He wanted to see Mahatma Gandhi Road, even though I warned him that it was just a shopping street. He was going back to Mumbai, and then the Netherlands the next day. All of us marchers have been dispersed, back to our homes. But several of us have had our paths cross again, or have kept in touch. In Mumbai, Louise’s flat served as a meeting place for several of us marchers, from India, Netherlands, and the U.S. But the most remarkable paths-crossing story happened to me in Mexico a few months later. I was attending a conference on Women and development in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and met an Indian participant there. She told me that she recently met an American who said she had gone on the Gandhi march. That woman, Joyce, had shown her the newspaper that had our pictures on it (the famous “foot massage” photo), and she recognized me as one of the persons in the picture. That’s how I found out Joyce lived in San Miguel. We had a very happy reunion.

Since then several of us marchers have met up at the annual Gandhi conference at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. Each one of us is still active in peace projects in our home communities. Our work continues, but of course we are forever changed, and strengthened, by the many miles we traveled on Gandhi’s road.


Articles by Gail M. Presbey also appear in Constellations, International Studies in Philosophy, International Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Value Inquiry, Human Studies, International Journal of Applied Philosophy, and Philosophy and Social Criticism, among others. She also has a longstanding involvement in Peace and Justice Studies and is Executive Director of CPP.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.2

Peace Studies between Infinities by Ian Harris

Harris, Ian. “Peace Studies between the Two Infinities,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26.2 (Fall 2006)

Between the terror of war and the promise of justice we struggle. On the one hand, the study of violence leads us to contemplate the horror of World Wars, omnicide through weapons of mass destruction, and the dreadfulness of human cruelty. Gazing at Goya’s etchings, “The Disasters of War,” we witness the horror of humans torturing others. On the other hand, the study of peace allows us to appreciate how just and considerate humans can be to each other. A careful look at the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Rigoberta Menchu, Mother Teresa, Bertha von Suttner, or other peace activists, provides glimpses into the best of human nature. Reading about the work of Desmond Tutu to reconcile the sufferings caused by the apartheid regime in South Africa illustrates the power of forgiveness to heal deep wounds.

There exists a dynamic tension in the struggle for peace. Peace studies presents an ideal of peace as a goal that we can subscribe to, not necessarily something we can achieve. On our best days we may resolve conflicts with family members, friends, and fellow workers, but still in the cities we inhabit, there are murders, rapes, and other acts of aggression and psychological manipulation. We may momentarily experience calm, but as we look around us we are assaulted with the images of violence. We live in countries that commit acts of war and use the so-called legitimacy of government to help the rich amass huge fortunes at the expense of the vast majority of people suffering in poverty. We slaughter animals for food. And so we wake up one morning and, to our horror, find ourselves thinking that it is impossible to live nonviolently. Don’t we all have blood on our hands?

Indeed, conflict is omnipresent. We can never really be ‘at peace.’ Anybody who thinks she is at peace is wearing blinders. Events may evolve to the point that an individual feels at peace, but around that person is a sea of conflict. The neighbors next door are fighting. People are suffering, and animals are dying. The whole universe is in a constant state of entropy. ‘Peace’ implies a constant struggle to manage conflicts in ways that aren’t destructive. Although ‘peace’ connotes passivity, it must become an active notion.

Imagine you are swimming in a large body of water. The wind dies down and you are swimming calmly. You feel at peace, but then winds of whip up waves and you struggle to stay afloat. Suspended between hope and despair, harmony and chaos, order and disorder we will never truly be at peace. Like the Charioteer in Plato’s Phaedrus, we all drive the twin horses of passion and reason as we charge through daily life. As Sartre pointed out, we are suspended between being and nothingness, our desires for peace blown astray by hurricanes of violence.

Still we have the will to choose our existence and how to resolve our conflicts. We are free to be violent or peaceful. We do not have to strike back at those who dominate us forcefully. We can turn the other cheek. Nor do we have to accept our oppression. As we learned from the Civil Rights Struggle in the United States, we can organize nonviolently to fight the violence of injustice. We can also leave spouses who physically and psychologically abuse us.

The challenge is to act peacefully in a world where ‘peace through strength’ is used to resolve conflicts, and where ‘strength’ is mistaken for the threat of violence. Most of us–raised on corporal punishment, aggressive entertainment, violent media, and police force–believe that striking out is the best way to subdue evil. Kept ignorant about the ways of peace, we are not taught about nonviolent alternatives. Thus, humans who are attracted to violence as a path to security fail to see its long-term damaging effects. They despair of peace. They do not appreciate the power of speech, law, agreement, and compromise to build bridges between different cultures. Therefore, the dream of peace remains a chimera.


Ian Harris is Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he conducts research in peace education and male identity. Prof. Harris is the author of “Peace Education, Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities, Experiential Education for Community Development” (with Paul Denise), and “Peace Building for Adolescents” (with Linda Forcey). He is director of the International Peace Research Association Foundation, and a founding board member of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. In 2004, he helped to launch a new publication, Journal of Peace Education.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.2

Renouncing the Territorial Impulse of Zionism by Norman K. Swazo

Swazo, Norman K. “Renouncing the Territorial Impulse of Zionism: An ‘Unorthodox’ Commentary,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26.2 (Fall 2006)

Students of Middle East policy who are observers of the scene of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute have long had a tendency to see the State of Israel as the proper vanguard of a post-Holocaust Jewry intent on ‘Never more!’ being faced with the prospect of genocide.1 To sustain ‘Jewish powerlessness’ (of the sort European Jews experienced prior to WWII and during the Nazi genocide), the contemporary Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim argues, is to indulge “in a moral luxury.”2 Fackenheim, an avid supporter of Zionist ideology, recommends to all post-Holocaust Jews a “614th Commandment:” “they are forbidden to give Hitler posthumous victories”—Jewish survival being paramount, even if Jews are “unable to believe in a ‘higher purpose.’” Hence, for him, the survival of the State of Israel is a sine qua non to the future of Jewish existence.

For Fackenheim, whatever is to be said of “the state’s Jewish essence” is to be “democratically decided,” like the 1950 Law of Return, the insistent sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem consequent to victory in the 1967 war, or the exclusion of Palestinians in their claim of a right of return and rehabilitation. Fackenheim shall not speak of “the Messianic dream,” long cherished in Jewish faith: “The Messianic Jerusalem is beyond the sphere of the political. It is therefore also beyond the scope of political philosophy.”

Yet, the reality of more than fifty years of armed conflict in the region raises serious questions about the validity of the Zionist impulse that originated and sustains political commitment to the State of Israel today. We in America tend to forget that the supposed ‘vanguard’ of post-Holocaust Jewry had and yet has its detractors among Jews themselves who envision an ‘other Israel’ in the interest of Judaism and legitimate civil society and out of concern for the true spirit of a people charged to be a light to the world and to see in contemporary humanity the children of Avraham.3 To question the existence of the State of Israel, especially in light of high crimes committed under the Sharon administration (not to mention the most recent decisions of the Olmert administration), is no ‘anti-Semitic’ thought. It is, instead, a fundamental recognition of the fact that Zionism and Judaism are twain, and that the State of Israel is itself a manifest primary cause of anti-Semitism in the post-WWII world. Fackenheim has it wrong: So long as we sustain the atrocities of the Israeli government, as it (like the USA) insists on exception to a host of UN Security Council resolutions and applicable international law, we sustain a significant injustice to that portion of the world’s Jewry who would all too quickly surrender the State of Israel in the interest of a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli and broader Israeli-Pan Arabic dispute. In contrast to Fackenheim, Albert Einstein had it right even as he rejected the invitation to lead the State of Israel. His foresight speaks to a timely anticipatory assessment of tragic consequences to the Zionist impulse, when he said:

I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from the practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight without a Jewish state.4

For all those who, themselves Jewish, see the history of the Middle East for what it has been (even as they condemn terrorism on both sides, thereby including in this condemnation state terrorism, for which the State of Israel is unquestionably guilty), it is high time to rethink the question of what it means to give Hitler ‘posthumous victories’ in the face of ‘State of Chutzpah.’ Let us not acquiesce in the modern myth that the modern state is a benign and beneficent entity, thereby essential to the life of a people.

It is the continuity of Judaism and the Jewish people that is essential, not some long-ingrained but mistaken commitment to ‘the imaginary geography’ according to which a land is somehow the dominion of a sovereign people. Ahad Ha-Am (pen name for Asher Ginzberg) said it precisely:

Apart from the political danger, I can’t put up with the idea that our brethren are morally capable of behaving in such a way to men of another people; and unwittingly the thought comes to my mind: if it is so now, what will be our relation to the others if in truth we shall achieve “at the end of time” power in Eretz Israel? If this be the “Messiah,” I do not wish to see his coming.5

But, surely, one must remind again and again when memory fails or events blur the truth: Zionism is not Judaism, and Judaism—not Zionism—will rightly say: Ani ma’amin beviat ha mashiach—I believe in the coming of the Messiah—for here, wholly, centrally, and invincibly, is the spirit of the Jewish people sustained, no matter the vicissitudes of human power. Farewell to sovereignty, in deed …


Norm Swazo specializes in ethics in international affairs and has published on themes of world order and global policy. He is currently editing a volume on culture and human rights as well as publishing articles on ethical issues in international health research. He is professor of philosophy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


1. In case one reading this commentary should object to my remarks as a position taken by one not Jewish, the fact is that I myself am Sephardic Jewish in heritage, descendent of Jews (then having the surname “Suasso” and “Suaso/Suazo”) exiled from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition.

2. Emil Fackenheim, “A Political Philosophy for the State of Israel,” in his Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Philosophers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).

3. See Edward C. Corrigan, “Jewish Criticism of Zionism,” Middle East Policy Journal, Winter 1990-1991, Number 35. Also see Norman K. Swazo, “The Neturei Karta’s Ethical Challenge to ‘The Metaphysics of False Redemption’ in the State of Israel,” Disputatio Philosophica: International Journal on Philosophy and Religion, No. 1, 2003, pp. 103-145. For more recent yet historically continuous dissent on Israeli security policy, see public pronouncements by Gush Shalom (“The Peace Bloc”), which has long taken a stand opposed to a “‘national consensus’ on misinformation” within the State of Israel [website:]. See, for example, the Gush Shalom commentary by Uri Avnery, “State of Chutzpah,” in English translation at and in Hebrew at (dated 09 September 2006; accessed on this date). The recent armed conflict between the Israeli military and Hezbollah in Lebanon in particular manifests Israel’s (and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s) chutzpah, says Avnery, as he reminds of the aptness of a statement by Winston Churchill with reference in this case to Olmert: “The right honorable gentleman sometimes stumbles on the truth, but he always hurries on as if nothing has happened.”

4. Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950), p. 263.

5. Corrigan, note 2.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.2

Tripoli: 9th Provisional World Parliament by Patricia Murphy

Murphy, Patricia. “Tripoli: 9th Provisional World Parliament,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26.2 (Fall 2006)

I was glad to encounter two other Concerned Philosophers for Peace when I arrived at the World Parliament in Tripoli, Libya on April 11th. Drs. Nikolay Biryukov and Alexander Chumakov, both of Russia, contributed important ideas and questions to our legislative sessions during the Parliament, which passed Bills banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, ordering the US to quit the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba military base, and creating the Office of the World Ombudsman. We also received a delegation from the African Children’s Congress who presented an appeal (unanimously accepted) to introduce legislation for the prevention, control and eradication of malaria in Africa.

A final and general statement entitled “The Tripoli Declaration of the Ninth Session of the Provisional World Parliament” includes the following:

We condemn the militarism, war-mongering and global chaos caused by both the large and small nation-states of the world. This world-wide violence by nation-states, and its inevitable response in horrific acts of terrorism, are intrinsic consequences of a world where nations recognize no enforceable law above themselves…. At this concluding session of the Provisional World Parliament, we call out urgently to our brothers and sisters in every country of the earth: stop the madness, stop the slaughter, stop the destruction of human beings and our planetary environment. Join with us in ratifying the non-military, democratic Constitution for the Federation of Earth.

Dr. Balouki of Togo graciously agreed to host the next World Parliament, June 21-25 2007 in Togo, Africa. For a more comprehensive report, go to, or the homepage of Dr. Glen Martin, The African Office of the Provisional World Parliament is: B.P. 680, Kara, Togo, West Africa. Fax: 228-660-1812 and 228-660-1104


Patricia Murphy teaches at St. Joseph’s University, holds a Ph.D. from Temple University, and has long-standing connections with CPP and IPPNO, for which she serves as Chair of the International Advisory Board. On September 26 she joined an action at the US Senate Building, sponsored by the National Campaign for Non-Violent Resistance and the Declaration of Peace. At the action, Prof. Murphy reiterated her belief that the war in Iraq was a mistake and that we must work for a swift and peaceful solution. She also voiced her opposition to violations of the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners. When she joined in a procession carrying a coffin, she was one of 71 people arrested that day. The photo on the cover of this newsletter shows Prof. Murphy’s cuffed hands with Gandhi doll and flag. The photo by Nikki Kahn originally appeared in the Washington Post on Sept. 27 (PH2006092601779.html).

Articles CPP Newsletter Online Resources V26.2

Lt. Watada’s Initial Statement of Conscience

Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26.2 (Fall 2006)

June 7, 2006

by Lt. Ehren Watada

Family, friends, members of the religious community, members of the press, and my fellow Americans—thank you for coming today.

My name is Ehren Watada. I am a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and I have served for 3 years. It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices. My moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not those who would issue unlawful orders. I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect those soldiers, the American people, and innocent Iraqis with no voice.

It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order.

The war in Iraq violates our democratic system of checks and balances. It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law. The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice, but a contradiction to the Army’s own Law of Land Warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes.

Normally, those in the military have allowed others to speak for them and act on their behalf. That time has come to an end. I have appealed to my commanders to see the larger issues of our actions. But justice has not been forthcoming. My oath of office is to protect and defend America’s laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath today. Thank you.


On June 22, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the unlawful Iraq War and occupation. Lt. Watada has been formally charged with contempt towards President Bush, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and missing movement. Reprinted from

Articles CPP Newsletter Online

Hiroshima and Recent Nuclear Policies by Joseph C. Kunkel

Kunkel, Joseph C., “Hiroshima and Recent Nuclear Policies,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

August 6 is a day to remember the 100,000 innocent victims of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Three days later the U.S. bombed Nagasaki. I believe we best pay homage to these victims by examining where we have been and where we are going toward eliminating the scourge of nuclear war. When I first examined the data in 1980, the United States and the USSR each had over 25,000 nuclear weapons that averaged more than the destructive capacity of the Hiroshima bomb. How many plausible enemy targets existed to absorb such destructive capacity? Still, Ronald Reagan in 1980 campaigned for more nuclear weapons.

Over the years since Hiroshima, a number of nuclear treaties have been negotiated to curtail this threat to humanity. Among the most important are the START reduction treaties, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the multi-nation Non-Proliferation Treaty. These treaties aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals, halting national efforts at defending against such weapons, and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to have-not nations.

A few years into office, Reagan did an about-face and began talking about reducing nuclear weapons. He concluded in 1987, with a willing Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces or INF Treaty. This treaty eliminated, with full verification, superpower intermediate-range ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles from the European theater and elsewhere. Such weapons represented about two percent of these nations’ nuclear arsenals. In the wake of this treaty George H.W. Bush concluded the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or START I in 1991. This treaty, again with full verification, placed a cap on the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons in both the United States and the USSR/Russia at 6,000 to 9,000. This treaty is in effect until December 5, 2009.

These reductions were reached under the umbrella of the ABM treaty, concluded by Richard M. Nixon in 1972. This treaty proscribed either superpower from experimenting with or deploying a defensive missile system. The rationale was that neither superpower would make deep cuts in its offensive nuclear arsenals if the other side was fielding a defensive missile shield. To counter a nation with a defensive system, an opponent first needs to take out or override that system; hence more, not fewer nuclear weapons are needed for national security. The genuine fear remains today that one nation will become an invincible world empire, having both defensive weapons to defend and nuclear missiles to attack according to its own reasons. Reagan, when he first started campaigning for defensive missiles, claimed the United States would eliminate its offensive missiles after it got a defensive shield, but no foreign leader believes that angle.

The international Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was formulated in 1968 while Lyndon B. Johnson was president. NPT separated nations possessing nuclear weapons from those not possessing nuclear weapons, with the idea of stopping the spread of nuclear nations. This set up a double standard, which antagonized the have-not nations that wished to be treated equally. Under NPT, the five nuclear nations in 1968 promised to provide the know-how for have-not nations to produce nuclear power for energy, if those have-not nations would submit to nuclear inspections of their acquired peaceful energy facilities. The nuclear powers, of course, would not undergo such inspections. In return, the nuclear nations agreed to seek an end to the nuclear arms race; thus in the long-run removing the two-tier system. Treaty signatories also agreed to an extensive public review of the working of the NPT, every five years starting in 1975.

The major stumbling block of this treaty has historically been Israel, which among a few other significant nations has not been a treaty signatory. The problem is that over the years Israel has acquired (with help) a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, but has been protected from sanctions by the United States who denies that Israel has these weapons. Even after photographs of Israeli facilities appeared in the London Times, the United States allowed Israel to prosecute and jail the whistle-blower without any sanctions being placed on Israel. The United States still covers up Israel’s nuclear weapons, and its negative ramifications for peace in the Middle East.

By contrast in the Middle East, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, it was understandably pushed back. Afterwards, however, nuclear inspectors were sent in and discovered that Iraq was within a year of building its first nuclear weapon. The team of inspectors in Iraq destroyed the nuclear labs, and the missiles that could target Israel’s nuclear arsenal, while searching for and destroying chemical and biological weapons. By the fall of 1998, the international committee reported to the United Nations that all nuclear weapons had been removed from Iraq. This was viewed worldwide as a victory for weapons inspections; serious inspections do work. But the United States misrepresented these and subsequent 2003 findings, and invaded Iraq and overthrew its government to pre-empt the use of a nuclear arsenal that did not exist. So, Israel can have nuclear weapons for its security but Iraq cannot. Today, Iran may be seeking such weapons, and we are seeing how it is handled.

The USSR dissolved in 1991, and the superpower nuclear arms race came to an end. So what has happened in the past fourteen years since the United States emerged as the only superpower? Since the USSR had placed its nuclear weapons not only within the territory of Russia but also in three other former republics, the United States agreed to assist an economically weak Russia to finance the transfer of all Soviet nuclear weapons into Russia. This action allowed the number of nuclear nations to remain at six, rather than increase to nine. South Africa also announced in 1993 that it had built, under its apartheid government, six nuclear weapons, but had dismantled them and joined the NPT before turning the reins of government over to the African majority.

At this time too the United States and Russia began taking the aforementioned START talks seriously. START I, which was signed by George H.W. Bush in 1991, went into force in 1994. William J. Clinton worked on bringing START II into force, which would have reduced the number of deployed nuclear weapons in Russia and the United States from 6,000-plus to around 3,500. Talk of START III also circulated.

Part of the U.S. response to the end of the cold war was a feeling that nuclear weapons no longer served a needed military function. In this spirit, the U.S. congress in 1992 placed a temporary moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing that would become permanent in 1996. The idea was that if nations no longer tested nuclear weapons, then such weapons would slowly be removed from military fighting options. In this time-span the United Nations entered into discussions of an international Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The treaty includes the emplacement of 321 monitoring stations worldwide to assure that no nuclear weapons are secretly tested. These work like earthquake monitoring stations, except they are searching for nuclear explosion markings. These stations are today in place, despite what has become of the treaty itself.

In 1995 the Non-Proliferation Treaty came up for renewal after twenty-five years. The cold war with its military buildup in Europe was over; the major powers were significantly reducing their nuclear arsenals; and a comprehensive test ban, applicable equally to both have and have-not nations, appeared imminent. So, the nations of the world voted to extend indefinitely this non-proliferation pact. The peace community was elated, and began looking for non-nuclear issues to address.

After the U.N. General Assembly approved the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 by a vote of 158-3, Clinton signed the treaty for the U.S. Then the anti-nuclear climate worldwide and in the United States began to change. In 1998, first India and then Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, becoming the seventh and eighth nations to possess nuclear arms. In 1999, a Republican controlled U.S. senate voted against ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

In 2001, George W. Bush assumed the presidency, with a more aggressive view of the use of nuclear weapons. He refused to re-submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the senate for ratification. This action killed the treaty since all of the 44 advanced nuclear nations, either with nuclear weapons or on the threshold, had to ratify the treaty in order for it to go into effect.

In December, following the awful 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush, citing the need to protect the security of the U.S., withdrew the U.S. from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The U.S. wants offensive and defensive weapons. This was the first such withdrawal of a signatory to a nuclear treaty. As a result of Bush’s action, Russia, feeling it had to reconsider its security needs, pulled out of START II, ending the START string of reduction treaties with START I, which expires on December 5, 2009. This was followed in 2003 by North Korea for its security reasons pulling out of the NPT. The situation is bleak for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Indeed for four weeks this past May, 150 nation representatives met in New York at the 2005 NPT review; the delegate distrust was so bad that the first three weeks were spent on approval of the agenda. The United States demanded that the review focus on North Korea and Iran, while most other nations wished first to discuss the new U.S. policies on nuclear weapons. The review ended in disarray.

In May 2002, Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) as a weak substitute for the lost START II treaty. This less-than-500-word treaty calls for a reduction of “deployed” (the word does not appear in the treaty) nuclear weapons in both the U.S. and Russian arsenals to a maximum of 2,200 weapons by December 31, 2012. However, SORT does not call for the destruction of weapons or delivery vehicles that are not deployed. Additional nuclear weapons may be retained as reserves. Neither does SORT include any verification method, nor any interim stages in reducing weapons to the 2,200 maximum. Lastly the treaty expires on December 31, 2012, which incredibly is the same day for both parties to have their deployed weapons reduced to 2,200. Similarly a clause allows either party to withdraw from the treaty upon three months written notice. As I said, the treaty is extremely weak and is viewed that way by most nations. It is a treaty of a “sort.”

Bush also announced that in addition to defensive missiles the U.S. would research and deploy two new offensive missiles. (The U.S. would become world empire.) One new weapon would be a large nuclear warhead fitted onto an earth penetrating missile that can obliterate mountainous caves. The second new weapon would have a small nuclear warhead – a fraction of the Hiroshima power – that could be used by conventional forces. These new nuclear weapons would allow the U.S. to use such weapons of mass destruction as though they were conventional weapons that did not emit radiation. Bush appears to believe that the threat of nuclear arms can only be removed by military force, a position that places the entire world in danger. We have our work cut out for us, if peace is to prevail.

Joseph C. Kunkel is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Dayton where he teaches a course in ethics and modern war. He is an associate editor of the Value Inquiry Book Series (VIBS) and, within VIBS, past editor of the special series Philosophy of Peace (1994–2003). He has coedited two books and written a number of essays that examine various aspects of power, militarism, and peace. He has been a member of Concerned Philosophers for Peace since its inception in 1981 and has served as executive secretary from 1989–1995, and as president in 1997.

Editor’s Note

As this newsletter goes to press, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) on March 15 released a report outlining a chronological shift in USA military policy toward “Global Strike” capabilities that include offensive nuclear “conflict.”

By December 2006 says the FAS report, “The U.S. Department of Defense is scheduled to award a contract for the Integrated Strategic Planning and Analysis Network (ISPAN) which is used to develop, verify, and produce OPLAN 8044, CONPLAN 8022, and theater support plans.”

“It is important to understand,” writes FAS report author Hans M. Kristensen, “that the Global Strike mission and CONPLAN 8022 are different than previous missions and plans both in their intent and capabilities. Although promoted as a way of increasing the President’s options for deterring lesser adversaries, Global Strike is first and foremost offensive and preemptive in nature and deeply rooted in the expectation that deterrence ‘will’ fail sooner or later. Rather than waiting for the mushroom cloud to appear, a phrase used several times by the Bush administration, the Global Strike mission is focused on defeating the threat before it is unleashed. In its most extreme sense, Global Strike seeks to create near-invulnerability for the United States by forcing utter vulnerability upon any potential adversary. As a result, Global Strike is principally about warfighting rather than deterrence.”

See: Global Strike: A Chronology of the Pentagon’s New Offensive Strike Plan, by Hans M. Kristensen and the Federation of American Scientists (March 2006) –gm

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Perversions of Democracy by Wendy Hamblet

Hamblet, Wendy, “Perversions of Democracy and the Need for Global Federalism,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (2006)

“Most people are bad judges in their own case.” Aristotle (Politics. 1280a15-16)

1. The Problem of Democracy

When one looks across the globe today, a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the utopian fantasies that died with it, the least discerning observer is forced to admit that these ideological finales have failed to usher in the anticipated new age characterized by freedom from oppression, universal human rights, and the triumph of human dignity. It seems that democracy’s promises are failing as badly as communism’s had. In fact, given what John Stockwell has named “The War Against the Third World” that has been fought under the guise of the battle for democracy, and that has resulted in the brutal deaths of millions upon millions of third world peasants in response to their demand for these coveted goods (human rights, human dignity and freedom from oppression), one is tempted to suggest that democracy turns out to be as brutal—if more subtle—a tyrant as any communist dictatorship. What has gone amiss in the democratic dream that has led to this state of affairs where, in the very name of democracy, democratic leaders across the third world are deposed and replaced by bloody dictators, and their peasant supporters slaughtered when they seek to realize the rewards that democracy promises?

This paper considers where democracies have gone wrong between the utopian blueprint and the dark realities of its global realization. By attending to the warnings recorded in Aristotle’s account of democracy in the Politics, and considering the socio-economic realities of the first democracy in Athens, I shall consider whether democracies of the modern era have indeed been corrupted as true democracies by their agenda of a globalized capitalism, or whether the blueprint has always gone morally astray in its accounting for the needs of the demos it claimed to serve.

2.Aristotle On the Special Nature of the State

Aristotle traces the development of the state genealogically, and from the bottom up, so to speak. He begins with an account of the family, a human grouping that, formed by nature and bound by blood, seeks as its primary goal the continuation of life, the whole unit dedicated to the flourishing of each of the constituent parts. It is in the name of this goal that the family directs its attentions toward the accumulation of wealth. This material goal, according to Aristotle, remains the teleological framework within which come into being the earliest forms of societies; that is, early communities dedicate their energies toward the simple accumulation of wealth, promoting the welfare of the whole for the sake of securing life for each of the members.

Only when the threat of their extinction was less nagging, as penury gave way to wealth, did “states” proper come into being. For Aristotle, this material self-fulfillment marks the threshold of the evolved nature of the thing as it comes to serve a higher goal—the quest not for mere life but “the good life.” This emergence is not a simple enlargement of the task of material accumulation, not a mere collection of wealthy families, but, rather, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It becomes a new kind of thing—a state. The state now “truly come[s] into itself [by] becoming toward the best it can be.”

The “end of the thing,” the reason for its being, becomes its striving toward its own ideal form. Self-sufficiency is certainly tied up in this final goal, but the nature of the thing has so qualitatively evolved that it now mirrors the activity of the gods, seeking after a final and not a material goal. The evolution into statehood is proven in the fact that the reason for its being has become a good in itself and not a good for the sake of. That is, the thing to be preserved has become worthy of preserving by virtue of its becoming directed toward the good in itself rather than toward the “goods” that give life. Again, the whole proves to be greater than the sum of its parts.

A further ‘good” emerges with the coming to be of the state. Only within a state can a human being fulfill its peculiar excellence. States enable individuals to realize themselves as the rational and political animals that they, by nature, are. And this active seeking after excellence is the “just result” of states proper, according to Aristotle. One who lives outside the state therefore is not rightly said to be “human.” The alien is either a monster or a god, “a bad man or above humanity.”1 So the state is the setting within which humanity’s fullest good becomes possible, because, like the state, a person’s true telos is the seeking of excellence. “If [a person] has not excellence, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals.”2 The natural outcast, explains Aristotle, is a lover of war and may be compared to an isolated piece in the game of draughts.

Let us summarize the argument thus far: Now, the good of all things is that which preserves them, and, as we have seen with the family and early communities, their good exists in their striving for continuance. They seek mere life in the quest after material wealth, a good that is for the sake of. In the case of the state, with its higher goal of goodness in itself, material accumulation is left behind as its driving motivation and the state seeks after “the good life” (eudaimonia). Let us consider the meaning of this ancient Greek term in its fullest unfolding of nuance. Heraclitus had said: Ethos anthropoi daimon. The ethos of anthropos is daimon. To extrapolate, the fullest ethos (the most comely being-togetherness-of-all-beings) in its form peculiar to anthropoi (human beings) is given the special name of daimon. So, eudaimonia, the being-well-daimon’ed of anthropoi, is the most comely coming-togetherness of human beings within a cosmos of all beings coming together in a comely way—people living ethically.

Since the integral lawfulness of the cosmos is just, for Aristotle as for the Greeks in general, we may say that the family and the early human community deserve to be preserved precisely to the extent that they serve their rightful goals, the extent to which they take care of the vital needs of their member parts, the individuals and the families within their trust.3 Similarly, the state, with its higher function as its driving goal, deserves to be preserved to the extent that it seeks to realize the good toward which it strives, contained in the rich articulations of eudaimonia. So the state deserves to be preserved to the extent to which it promotes the being well-daimon’ed of its citizens, the extent to which it helps to bring about the “comely coming-togetherness” of its citizen parts as parts of a greater whole, their ethical fulfillment within the whole of all beings within the whole of the cosmos.

3.Aristotle on Democracy

Now, when Aristotle speaks of the kinds of states wherein human animals can best realize their goal of surpassing mere nature and fulfilling themselves as rational and political beings, he finds the defining characteristics of that state in the judicial and deliberative opportunities extended to its citizens. When Aristotle launches into a more profound treatment of the various forms of governments that might provide those necessary opportunities, he engages in a more exacting definition of states, differentiating between “true” forms of governance and those merely pretending to be so, according as they meet the requirements of justice. True forms of government, he explains, are those which govern with a view to the common interest, and “are constituted in accord with strict principles of justice [keeping to the goal of the good in itself]—but those that regard only the interest of the rulers [reverting to the mere good for the sake of] are all defective and perverted forms, for they are despotic, whereas a [true] state is a community of freemen [enjoying equal rights and privileges before the law, according as they merit].”4

A true state seeks “the good life” for all its constituents, and whether the number of rulers is one, few, or many, the degree to which the rulers serve the citizenry marks the degree of their verity as rulers and marks the degree of the verity of the state; whereas the degree to which the rulers serve the interests of themselves marks the degree to which the rulers are less legitimate and the degree to which the state is but a “perversion” of the ideal.5

Aristotle continues with his description of true states. Kingship is the best form of government where it is true, that is, where the king serves the good of his people. But where that system has become perverted, redirected from the interests of the ruled to the interests of the ruler, we call this perversion tyranny. Echoing Plato in the Republic and elsewhere, Aristotle affirms that the greater danger lies with the greater men, who are like the proverbial girl with the curl, when they are good they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid. So monarchy is the most risky form of true government, because its perversions are the most horrid, its governing resources being concentrated in a man of most powerful capacities.

Aristocracy is the next best form of government when it is realized in its truest form, because power is concentrated in the hands of the nobles (aristoi) who have the excellence (arête) of birth, rearing, education, soldierly training, and natural disposition to be counted upon to do the best for all out of the nobility of their natures. But, when the good men (aristoi) are replaced by simply the few men (oligoi) without regard for their merit but on account of their wealth, the aristocracy becomes perverted and falls into oligarchy. The oligarchy is not quite so dangerous as is the fallen monarchy simply because the men who rule are not aristoi but less capable men, so their capacities are less potent for evildoing as for good. And power being shared over a greater number of these less capable men, the moral fall of the state is not so extensive, the perversion not so abyssal.

This leads Aristotle to posit a constitutional government as the best of true states and the best choice for all states because its risks are less ghastly. The constitutional government has greater numbers of good men to balance its true form, and, even if its trueness collapses, its perversion in democracy risks less than other forms of government, because its greater number of less capable men provides greater balance to the mischief of the whole by virtue of the diminished capacity for corruption in each of these lesser men. In fact, Aristotle improves the diagnosis when he adds the following clarification of their prospects in his concluding assessment of democracy: “For the many, of whom each individual is not a good man, when they meet together, may be better than the few good, if regarded not individually, but collectively.”6 Once again, the whole proves greater than the sum of its parts.

Aristotle then offers a genealogy that traces the evolution of the forms of states. In earliest times, good men were few, so cities made their benefactors kings. With time, more men of merit arose, forming a ruling class and together they desired a commonwealth, the good not wishing to be ruled by one, but to take their turns at rule. However, the ruling class fell into corruption, enriching themselves out of the public treasury (aristoi became degraded into oligoi). Thus did rule-of-the-best collapse into rule-of-the-wealthy. Love of gain and rivalries among the oligarchy diminished their number and left the few struggling for supremacy. Each, to strengthen his own position, turned to the masses for support, who, in time, turned upon their masters and established democracy.

This leads Aristotle to conclude that different types of people are best suited for different forms of government. Those who are capable of producing a race superior in the excellence of political rule are best fitted for a monarchy. Those who are ready to submit to being ruled as freemen by men whose excellence renders them fit for political command are best suited to aristocratic government. But for men among whom there exists a warlike multitude, constitutional government fits best. In any of these cases, when the form of government makes for a “true state,” the principle of reciprocity guides them. All shall have their equitable voice in state matters and their equitable turn at rule according as their merits qualify them. Merit is the measure of the justness of their rule. The excellent and not the wealthy must prevail if the best interests of the many are to be realized.7

4.The Collapse of Constitutional Government

Constitutional government is the best of alternatives for rule in states, because it is led by the best of the citizens and not by the merely wealthy. Meritocracy is necessary because the best will adhere to the laws and, where the laws are not held supreme, the constitution collapses. Aristotle states: “In all well-balanced governments, there is nothing which should be more jealously maintained than the spirit of obedience to the law, more especially in small matters, for transgression creeps in unsupervised and at last runs the state.”8 When intemperance creeps in and corrupts the rule of law, then, properly speaking, the state can no longer be named a state at all. “The law ought to be supreme over all—and only this should be considered a constitution.”9

Should the constitutional government become corrupted, Aristotle believes the resulting democracy will prove less dangerous than other corrupt forms of governments because, despite the aggregate incapacities of the many, the many together will improve the overall goodness of the whole. However, Aristotle warns that when the perversion of the constitutional government occurs, and democracy takes its place, extreme care must be taken, because the best may be replaced by the merely wealthy, and their “spirit of obedience to the law” is weak, and will easily be abandoned. When this happens, mediocre rulers become demagogues, wooing the multitudes with seductive words and flatteries, and persuading them not toward excellence, but enflaming their warlike features.

5.Questions about Modern Democracies

Aristotle is harsh indeed with his ominous forewarnings about the corruption of constitutions, but I believe that he has failed to foresee the most abyssal depths of corruption to which states can become degraded, depths demonstrated in the moral failure of modern capitalist democracies. To measure the success of modern democracies at achieving trueness of form, we must challenge them with the ancient questions about their forms and methods and motivating goals. Are they founded on the principles of justice—equality and freedom—for all their constituents? Do they, within their constituency, promote eudaimonia (the comely coming-togetherness of all human beings)? Do they support freedom and equality for all the beings that populate the earth? Do they govern with a view to the common interests or merely to the interests of the rulers? Does the principle of reciprocity between the free bring just measure to their decisions?

Or, when democracies form into party systems to raise up leaders in and over their constitutional bodies, is it money that talks to charm the people into casting their votes? Do the people have the option to vote for this excellent person or that one? Are the millionaire-rulers they elect (when election results are counted fairly at all) the best men, the meritorious excellent people?

Aristotle warns of the rise of “dangerous demagogues” who will flatter the many and favor the interests of the needy, rather than embracing the interests of the whole citizenry. Certainly the flatteries of the masses might be seen in today’s world, with the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the “defenders of freedom and democracy” that so often fulfills itself in calls to war. But if the rulers of modern democracies were unduly favoring the needs of the needy, would there be millions of homeless littering the streets of the richest democracy of the world? Would the wealthy’s race to the top in this richest of nations be carving out a socio-economic abyss into which the middle class is plummeting at the rate of 1.3 million people a year (that is, would 600,000 more children per year be falling below the poverty line)? Far from the needs of the commoners taking undue precedence, have the leaders of capitalist democracies today reverted to the accumulation of their wealth and forgotten the sacred charge of the statesman?10

Or worse, when the oligoi, replacing the aristoi, serve global corporate interests (invested in weapons, oil, and drugs) instead of their constituents, is not the rule of law within the nation at risk? And when corporations are larger and richer than countries, is there not the risk that both national interests and commitments to international law will be sacrificed to profit? Without rule of law, Aristotle has asserted, the state is no longer a constitution; constitutional rights give way to coercion and the republic gives way to tyranny. Furthermore, following Aristotle’s logic here, a state that has been corrupted to the point where law is no longer supreme, is not, properly speaking, a “state” at all. States only come into being when their goal serves the higher end of excellence for its own sake rather than for the sake of its rulers.

For Aristotle, states are desirable, because they serve the higher purpose of providing an arena in which human beings fulfill their natures as rational and political animals and thus overcome their warlike savagery and their enslavement to the material. The democratic state, in theory, provides a setting in which its citizens take their rightful part in the judicial and deliberative acts that fulfill their humanity.11 Aristotle made no distinction between citizens of different times and different places. All people in all democracies deserve freedom within their states. Those who are put to rule the democracy must always be the best of available men, those who have proven their merit and served their country well, and who submit to its laws in all things. Then they will serve its citizens by ruling them nobly and justly.

6.Degraded Ideal or False Reality?

We could argue whether current capitalist democracies are truly democracies at all, or whether the state’s foundational ideals (of freedom and equality) have been eroded by the greedy interests of the wealthy class. We could argue whether modern capitalist democracies maintain kratein in the hands of the demos, or if they compose an oligarchy of the rich and unmeritorious. We could argue whether modern democracies have fallen prey to that “misuse from within” that signals immanent collapse. Indeed, since the good of all things is that which preserves them, we might argue whether modern capitalist states have enough good in them to be worth their being preserved.12 We could argue whether the “disproportion” in rights, responsibilities, and freedoms that capitalist democracies grant to differing citizens erodes the integrity of the structure and collapses its constitutional base, as Aristotle claims it does. We could argue whether, when corruption infects the power-nodes of a state, it is certain to seep down to the depths of the entire structure, infecting every man and woman, every family, every part that composes the whole, as many anthropologists claim.

We could argue whether modern capitalist democracies continue to promote that excellence in their constituents without which those citizens revert to unholy savages and monstrous lovers of war, isolated pieces in games of global draughts. We could argue whether, when a superpower becomes corrupt, since a superpower serves as the moral exemplar for lesser states, the tragedy will afflict the global moral well-being; whether the world is destined to the onslaught of a global corruption that will take centuries—and perhaps millennia—to heal. We could argue, if one democracy does not respect the democratically-elected leaders of another democracy, whether all democracy is dead. To return to the opening query of this paper, given “The War against the Third World” that has been fought under the guise of the battle for democracy and that has resulted in the deaths of millions of third world peasants, we might argue whether democracy turns out to be as brutal a tyrant as any communist dictatorship. We could argue any one of these questions.

However, before we argue whether modern capitalist democracies are preserving “true” democracy, we must decide whether democracies per se are worth preserving, whether the ideal form was ever realizable.13 I shall close my paper with the argument that democracy’s fundamental principles of freedom and equality for all were a ruse from the beginning. Just as Bush’s proud boasts that his country composes a “beacon of freedom and opportunity” for all offers little of concrete utility to the homeless, the poor, the deserted mothers and fatherless children who dwell on the margins of America’s prosperity; so democracy in its Athenian roots, so philosophically rich, so politically self-righteous, so ethically trumpeted throughout the ages, offered little to the hungry and destitute families who struggled under its realities.

I am suggesting that democracy’s founding blueprint was also its founding myth, a true Platonic utopia. Since it is the work of philosophy to think politics in truth, let us finally admit the empirical truth of the façade of equality and freedom that compose the founding principles upon which democracies have always been erected. In ancient Athens, as in modern democracies, equality was not equal distribution of goods; it was equal opportunity before the law. When Athens abolished debt slavery, a new concept arose—eleutheria (freedom). With the erasure of this fundamental wrong from the polis, poor citizens came to recognize their possession of a “quality” that, in theory, permitted their separation from the slave population: eleutheria. Though the poor still lived lives no better than slaves, their citizenship in the community of “freemen” was now inviolable. So everybody got a share of the common good of the democracy: the rich well-born had their excellence (arête) and honor (tim), the wealthy had their prosperity (ploûtos), and the people (demos) had their freedom (eleutheria). But where people do not have enough to eat, can we truly say they have freedom? Freedom that condemns them to the fields so they cannot exercise their rights of citizenship? Freedom that condemns them armour-less to the frontlines of battle where they are free to die for their polis? Freedom that condemns them to ridicule and humiliation, to hunger and disease, to ignorance and hopelessness?

Democracy was born upon a fundamental ruse. Where there is not some degree of economic freedom, some degree of equitable distribution of goods, freedom is the quality of those who have nothing but the liberty to go hungry and die, and to curse their children to the same fate. The homeless and the poverty-stricken in the rich West suffer from the same deception as the poor of the Third World, the same deception as the demos of the first superpower, the deception that, even without bread or warm clothing, shelter or health care, democracy grants freedom and equality for all.

Modern capitalist democracies have forgotten the wisdom of the ancients. They have disregarded the warnings of the great thinkers. Accumulation of wealth has eclipsed the quest for the good life (eudaimonia) and seeking after excellence. They have lost sight of the notion of the unity of the virtues, inscribed in the heavens as the assumption that humaneness is the supreme excellence, human beauty is its justice, courage is its temperance, wealth is its noble-minded generosity.

So the question is not whether democracies have gone wrong in the modern era, but how far wrong and at whose expense? The question is, to maintain the deception of demos kratos, what new myths must be spun, whose miseries concealed, what embarrassing questions silenced? Until the emptiness of democracy’s promises are brought to the fore of political discussions, young idealists will continue to enlist in foul-purposed military campaigns, dying to preserve this illusion; foreign leaders will be assassinated and their peasants slaughtered to maintain this fiction; and foreign countries will be “liberated” into this shameless lie by massive carpet bombing, barrages of radioactive artillery, and seizure of their rightful resources.

Aristotle insists that the state is worth preserving to the degree that its form remains pure and its leaders remain in service to the good of the whole. Aristotle is critical of the insistence found in Plato’s Republic that a harmonizing unity should be imposed upon the varied parts of the state, even at the expense of the happiness of the parts. Instead, Aristotle contends that although the final ends of the various men within the state are alike in realization of their full rational and political life, men remain utterly diverse in nature and in talent, and this is happily so. It is essential that their diversity and individual merit not be sacrificed to the ideal of a homogenizing unity. Thus Aristotle affirms an attractive liberal-democratic ideal when he states: “The nature of the state is plurality.”14 Unity is not merely impracticable; it is undesirable as an end. Since plurality is the nature of individual men, it is critical that its preservation be secured by the very nature of the state.

Therefore, there must be established some principle whereby order can be maintained in the state without suppressing or erasing the prized individual merits of the members of that robust arena of difference. That principle Aristotle names the principle of reciprocity. Among freemen and equals, there must be equitable power. This maxim demands that governance of the whole must be shared in turn according to some order of succession. Justice again is confirmed: “It is just that they should all share in government.”15 This suggests a global fix for those nations whose capitalist economic structure has so perverted the foundational ideals of its political form. Just as in the individual nation the governing body (whatever its form) must ensure that the principle of reciprocity keeps the whole of things in a lively dynamism so that individual merit can blossom and special talent can freely unfold, so at the global level, what is needed is a governing body of oversight to ensure the principle of reciprocity reigns over relations among all nations.16

No human is an island. No nation a world. Common sense and ethics dictate that people must learn to share the planet in peaceful coexistence. A global federalism is needed to monitor the workings of that sharing and to keep rogue parts from upsetting the consonance that issues in the good of the whole.

Dr. Hamblet received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Pennsylvania State University in 2000. She is author of “The Sacred Monstrous: Reflections on Violence in Human Communities” (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2004), and the forthcoming, “Savage Constructions: A Theory of ’Rebounding’ Violences in Africa” (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi). Writes Hamblet, “I am interested in discovering how people who moralize against “evil” come to do harm to each other in good conscience (Holocaust and genocide studies, violence, human nature/nurture studies).”


1. Politics. 1253a3, c.f. 1253a27-28, 36-37, 1260b25-30.

2. 1253A36-37.

3. It should be noted that Plato employs the image of the shepherd as his metaphor for statesmanship. The statesman practices a higher form of governance than the mere politician, caring for his wards as shepherds for their sheep. The best states, like the world under the care of the god in the Statesman myth, before it is left to go its “natural way,” provides for all the needs of its members, and food is mentioned explicitly as one of the god’s gifts, freely supplied.

4. 1279A17-21.

5. 1279a17-21, 1281a1-2.

6. 1281A1-2.

7. 1288A14-16.

8. 1307B31-34.

9. 1292A30-33.

10. Aristotle names the middle class “the golden mean” of the state. When the erosion of this class is complete, will there be no force any longer to frustrate the excesses of the extremes (the neediest and the wealthiest)? Will constitutional rule exist no longer, as Aristotle claims?

11. Granted, democracy for Aristotle was not freedom for all, but freedom for the democracy’s freemen. Aristotle counted as “citizenry” (those who deserved the rights of freedom from oppression, full civil rights, and observance of their human dignity) the soldiering freemen of good birth, not slaves, women or other “disreputables” to whom no basic rights were due. In this, he was consonant with the founding fathers of the current superpower. Furthermore, equality was not equality of property but equal civil rights, a right to equal stature before the law, a right to equal voice as to its foreign policies and its decisions with regard to acts of war.

12. 1309a25-27, and 1309b23.

13. Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, Julie Rose, tr., (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

14. 1261a17.

15. 1261b1-3.

16. Benedict de Spinoza, in his Political Treatise, suggests that the state is worthy of preservation to the degree that its constituent parts are themselves most fully empowered. In a twist of Aristotle’s dictum, Spinoza claims that a whole is at its greatest power when each of its parts is permitted to unfold into its greatest power and fulfill its potentiality. No one part should overtake the rest (not even the sovereign, for Spinoza). The whole can be greater than the sum of the parts when the parts are fully self-empowered and coexist in their greatest harmony. See Hamblet, “The Disarming of Being: The Metaphysics of Benedict de Spinoza” in Prima Philosophia, (Cuxhaven and Dartford: Traude Junghans Verlag, January-March, 2001).


Aristotle. The Collected Works of Aristotle. Jonathan Barnes. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).

Jacques Rancière. Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy. Julie Rose, tr. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

On World Federation by Ronald J. Glossop

Glossup, Ronald J., “On World Federation,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

At the global level, a democratic world federation would provide a way of using deliberation to deal with global problems such as (1) putting an end to war and the availability of increasingly deadly weapons, (2) regulating the global economy and the behavior of transnational corporations, (3) controlling the worldwide transmission of diseases in both humans and animals, (4) managing those resources and areas which are beyond the jurisdiction of individual nations (e.g. outer space and the oceans), (5) halting the process of global environmental pollution (e.g. destruction of the ozone layer and global warming), (6) protecting universally recognized human rights, (7) dealing with terrorism and international crime, and (8) promoting a sense of global community which would override loyalty to ethnic, national, or religious groups.

One of the objections typically raised against the creation of such a world federation is that it could degenerate into a global tyranny. But such a tyranny could develop even in the absence of a world government. What if Hitler’s scientists had developed the atomic bomb before the Allies were able do it? What if a national dictator acquired some new bacteriological weapon that would kill everyone but a few of his supporters who had been immunized against it? What if a national dictator gained unstoppable power by controlling cloned super-warriors? Furthermore, what is the likelihood of democracy continuing to survive at the national level if the threat of war and terrorism is not checked by instituting the rule of law at the global level?

Above and beyond rebutting these objections, world federalists note that the danger of a tyrant taking over the world is much greater under the present semi-anarchic international system than it would be if a democratic world federation were created.

Another fact worth noting in the larger debate is that humanity has gained more and more experience in establishing stable democratic governments and checking the power of the leaders. We now know how to ensure the independence of legislative, executive, and judicial powers, how to incorporate a Bill of Rights into a constitution, and how to guarantee a free and aggressive press protection from governmental interference. The danger to democratic governments at the national level now comes mainly from military or political threats originating outside the country.

Thirdly, there are some specific arrangements that could be instituted in a democratic world federation to minimize the danger of its degenerating into a tyranny. Some of these are mentioned in my 1993 book titled World Federation? For example, instead of having a single President or Prime Minister, the executive function of the world government could be performed by a five-person Global Executive Committee (GEC). The world could be divided into eight or nine regions, each with relatively homogeneous cultural characteristics, and it could be agreed that no two members of the GEC could come from the same region. Each year one new member could be elected (probably by the World Parliament) to the GEC for a five-year term, and during their fifth year that member would serve as GEC chair. There could be a two-term limit for serving on the GEC.

Such arrangements should provide assurance that no single individual or nation would come to dominate the whole.

Another way of protecting against an overthrow of a democratic world government would be to have four somewhat autonomous police forces, each of which has personnel stationed all over the world. Each force would have its own officers, training schools, supply services, uniforms, and so on. Leaders would be promoted only from within their own force, and the four forces would be kept separate from each other (except possibly in athletic competition against each other). Volunteers would be assigned to the four forces in such a manner that there would be a similar mixture of nationalities and races in all four separate forces. Besides their professional training, members of these forces could be engaged in educational programs, in fighting international organized crime, in developing personal hobbies, and in providing humanitarian assistance in case of floods and other natural disasters. Even if a small group could manage to take control of one of these forces, there would still be three other forces to hold that one in check.

Obviously, there are other concerns about possible undesirable consequences of creating a democratic world federation, but we also need to keep in mind the probable undesirable consequences of not doing so.

Still another common argument against a democratic world federation is that it is not feasible. No one can deny that there are problems to be addressed, but that is not the same as saying that there are obstacles that cannot be overcome. We need to shift from a predictive mode of thinking (what is going to happen no matter what we do?) to a prescriptive mode of thinking (what should be done, and what am I going to do to help ensure a positive outcome?) There are problems to be addressed, so let’s address them.

We are intelligent beings, and we should be able to act constructively to deal with the global problems confronting us. At present, we face real threats from the unleashing of weapons of mass destruction, to the global spread of dangerous diseases, to irreversible environmental catastrophes, to extreme shortages of necessities such as water and energy. We should not need the threat of an attack from inhabitants of another planet to stimulate us to collective action. We need democratic government for our global community as well as our national communities.

“Our political and social conceptions are Ptolemaic. The world in which we live is Copernican. . . . There is not the slightest hope that we can possibly solve any of the vital problems of our generation until we rise above dogmatic nation-centric conceptions and realize that . . . we have to shift our standpoint . . . . “

From: Emery Reves, The Anatomy of Peace (Gloucester MA: Peter Smith, 1969), p. 29. This book was originally published by Harper and Brothers in 1945 and was republished by Robert Betchov in 1995 with no change in pagination.

Ronald J. Glossop is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Peace Studies at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and author of World Federation? (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 1993, Esperanto translation Monda Federacio? by Johano Rapley published by Glossop in Florissant MO in 2001) and Confronting War (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 1983, 4th ed. 2001). Glossop is active in several non-governmental organizations such as “Citizens for Global Solutions” (formerly “World Federalist Association”) and Esperanto organizations at the local, national, and global level.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V26.1

Cooperative Capitalism by J.W. Smith

Smith, J.W., “Cooperative Capitalism: The Missing ‘Human Face’ of Economics,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

Thank you professor Martin for those kind words and thank you for the opportunity to speak to your fine audience. Good Afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed a pleasure to talk to you today. A thousand theorists can massage these concepts for 100 years. But if one is going to get anywhere one must come to some conclusions. Thus I am laying this out with firm conclusions. If you have a better plan philosophical plan for to bring peace and justice to this world, let me know when you write your book. This is written from a perspective of honest capitalism; though attaining all the goals of socialism, one could easily call it supercharged capitalism.

Ron Glossup, in your paper presentation you asked me what was economic democracy and what was cooperative capitalism? America gained only its political freedom from the revolutionary war; Britain’s warships denied Americans the right to control their own trade. It was winning the War of 1812 that gave us our economic freedom and economic freedom is the essence of economic democracy. Analyzing America’s creation of a bloc of wealthy nations (Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, etc.) to stop fast socialism was done through cooperative capitalism, not through Adam Smith free trade. It was through studying the imperial nations utilizing cooperative capitalism to build powerful blocs to protect their monopoly system which taught me the enormous powers of cooperative economics as opposed to classical and neo-liberal competitive economics.

Professor Nic Tideman: Property rights, as structured, is the problem. As structured, it is not only the foundation of capitalism it is the foundation of our monopoly structures. That we no longer have monopolies is not true; monopolies are structured right into exclusive title to nature’s wealth. All wealth is processed from humankind’s heritage, the natural wealth on or under land.

As our system of law slowly evolved from aristocracy, more and more people gained more and more rights; partly through gaining rights to those exclusive titles to human kind’s heritage, those natural resources. Each gain in rights was touted as full rights but this was not, and is not, true. Due to wealth stolen from the impoverished world, and its broad distribution through military and other unnecessary expenditures, this is hard to see.

We think we earned all our wealth. Not so! A large share was stolen. Eliminate that stolen wealth and the wasted expenditures through which it is distributed and it can be mathematically proven that, under these exclusive titles to all humankind’s heritage, only a tiny elite could ever own land or their proper share of the wealth produced. In short, our system of law is very close to aristocratic law from which it evolved.

We all know Henry George’s principles that no one produced land thus those exclusive titles should be restructured to conditional titles with society collecting the landrent. Immediately land prices drop to 0, land monopolies vanish, landowners retain title to lands upon which they are productively employed, all have rights to land, lost values are compensated for through bonds, all other taxes disappear, and economic efficiency increases equal to the invention of money. Note how, under conditional titles to land, use-values are distributed instantly and without cost.
Through elimination of monopolies we are taught are not there, economic waste is largely eliminated.

Technology is only a part of nature waiting to be discovered. Place patents in the public domain through society paying inventors and those huge monopolies disappear even as those inventors are far better paid and consumer prices, as measured by hours worked to purchase products, shrink.

Consumer prices drop and the gambling casinos called stock markets, where those technology monopoly profits are collected, shrink to a stable market for investments. Economic efficiency increases equal to the invention of the printing press as again massive waste is eliminated and use-values of mankind’s heritage are distributed at minimum cost.

Money is only a social tool waiting to be discovered; and it was discovered 5,000 years ago. Each region and each community having equal rights to money capital and to created money eliminates those monopolies. Economic efficiency increases equal to the invention of electricity and again massive waste is eliminated and use-values of mankind’s heritage are distributed at minimum cost. Those monopolies disappear even as rights of ownership, use rights, individualism, and competition are not only increased, they are maximized.

Walk into the heart of any city. Look up at the glass skyscrapers. Walk in and look at the names on the office doors. Once one understands how wealth is distributed through waste and unnecessary labor, one realizes that an efficient society does not need the entire building, or the industries which built and serviced it, or the industry that built and serviced all its furnishings.

Through a system of stolen wealth distributed through the waste of wars and monopolies, roughly half the labor, capital, and resources are wasted unnecessarily. It is through this system of wasted labor, capital and resources—not through a system of rights—that we have a good living.

We have all read the statistics on wealth distribution; the top 1% own more wealth than the bottom 90%. Eliminate the wasted labor, capital and resources through which this wealth is distributed and we stand exposed as nothing less than a duplication of the aristocratic system that supposedly disappeared centuries ago.

Eliminate military waste protecting these monopolies, and the waste of those monopolies themselves, and there are enough resources on this earth for all. Under cooperative capitalism poverty can be eliminated in 10 years and a quality life for all can be attained in 50 years. That is “Capitalism with a Human Face.” Under Cooperative Capitalism the average standard of living would rise rapidly even as the GNP and the hours worked per person would drop by possibly half. That drop in GNP and hours worked measures the previously wasted labor, capital and resources, as the money flowed through those monopolies to drop into the coffers of those who produce nothing.

I will now demonstrate that the power brokers know all this very well. Where does this violence throughout the world come from? Many reasons are cited but lets push the rhetoric aside and follow some hidden threads through history.

(1) You are in China building one model car an hour and are paid $1 an hour. I am in America building one model car an hour and am paid $10 an hour. You like and purchase my model cars and I like and purchase your model cars (which of course is world trade.) We will price these model cars at the labor cost of production which, in an efficient society, is the true cost of production. At $1 an hour, you must work ten hours to buy one of my $10 model cars. At $10 an hour, working those same 10 hours, I can buy 100 of your $1 model cars. The capital accumulation or consumption potential is not mathematical it is exponential.

If the pay differential between equally-productive labor is 5, PUSH BUTTONS: the difference in wealth accumulation potential is 25-to-1. If the pay differential is 10, the wealth accumulation advantage is 100-to-1. If the pay differential is 20, the wealth accumulation advantage is 400-to-1. If the pay differential is 40, roughly the differential between China and America, the wealth accumulation advantage is 1,600-to-1. Your good living and my good living are based upon the theft of the wealth of the impoverished world as per that formula. High pay divided by the low pay squared SHUT OFF.

Immediately I will be challenged that China is industrializing rapidly. The truth of the matter is that, if cooperative capitalism had been our philosophical underpinning instead of exclusive title to all humankind’s heritage and other forms of monopolization the entire world could have quickly industrialized generations ago. Adam Smith free-trade philosophy and structural adjustment policies openly lower wages for the weak and thus increase the take for the powerful. This simple 6th grade math exposes the fundamentals of plunder-by-trade and turns neo-liberal free trade economics to dust.

The potential wealth produced by technologies under truly free and honest trade is many times that of a monopolized economy. Powerful people have always known this and have utilized diplomatic warfare, economic warfare, financial warfare, covert warfare, and, when all that failed, they turned to open warfare to keep those monopolies in place and that wealth flowing to the imperial centers of capital. That same suppression of equal rights to the wealth-producing-process is on in full force today.

Powerful societies once plundered-by-raids. But 800 to 1,000 years ago they learned to plunder-by-trade. Within the walls of the walled cities of Europe during the Middle Ages, also called the Free Cities of Europe, there were no resources. And remember, all wealth is processed from resources. When the serfs came to town and observed the looms and fulling vats and other primitive industrial capital that produced cloth, leather, and other consumer goods, they said, “Why we can do that.” Back to their villages they went to produce their own cloth, leather, etc.

Now what happens to this city if it does not challenge the villagers? Down the tube they go. That is their living. Here is a quote is right out of the classics on the Middle Ages: “The struggle against rural trading and against rural handicrafts lasted at least seven or eight hundred years. All through the 14th century regular armed expeditions were sent out against the villages and looms and fulling vats were broken or carried away.” Ladies and gentlemen: That battle over who will control resources, control the wealth-producing-process, and thus who ends up with the wealth produced is the violence and wars ongoing throughout the world today.

Those city states became nations and a share of the natural resources it took to be a powerful and wealthy nation still lay beyond their borders. Thus the empires of old, there were only seven of them, rushed across the world to claim every square inch of the earth. That there can be more than one empire is a contradiction in terms. The most powerful always set the rules of unequal trade. So those battles over the control of resources and the wealth-producing-process continued.

In World Wars I and II those empires broke themselves battling over who sets the rules of unequal trade. They now no longer had the wealth to maintain control and the whole world started breaking free. Africa was planning on a United States of Africa. If that continent ever organized as one nation they would in short order be the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth. The world’s darker races would now dominate history. Equally important, they would now have equal power to write history. They who write history control history. What I am telling here are only corrections of falsifications of history whose purpose was to control history.

That the world broke free and there are no empires today is pure fiction. That struggle over resources and the wealth-producing-process continues to this day; witness the current effort to gain control of what was admittedly a brutal Iraq which was only the initial move to gain firm control of the oil of the Middle East. Trying to figure out the reason for our massive covert actions kept secret from our citizens was once my passion. I finally found that answer. The reason we do not see it is that we are at the heart of this empire and we live within its created beliefs of enemies. Created beliefs in enemies—that is how the masses of every society are controlled.

Americans are not aware of it, but over the past 50 years we have covertly destroyed countries breaking free, whose only threats were that they were establishing governments more democratic than ours. This would cause the loss of control of those resources, loss of control of the wealth-producing-process, and would expose and destroy the current monopoly structure.
Notice how neatly the inconvenient history of America’s destabilization of emerging free nations and the reality that we have a monopolized economy are buried through the false writings of history. Today’s professors are not to blame. This system of control through control of belief systems of the masses has been in place for centuries. The academic and financial rewards for supporting these belief systems are high and the penalties for standing against them are normally devastating.

If you challenged the system 300 years ago, off came your head. Today is not that much different. If you in academia were to stand up and seriously challenge the system you would be immediately ostracized, you would get no promotions, your research projects would not be funded, and you may lose your job. So essentially your head still comes off today.

Each new crop of students trust what they are taught and they go on to teach the next crop of trusting students. Thus what I have laid out, no matter how simple and solidly cited, is largely unknown. How does one get better citations than 6th grade math, the classics on the Middle Ages, America’s founding fathers, and all this evident in today’s fast moving current events?

That the soft sciences teach beliefs protecting wealth and power, as opposed to an open discussion of truth, is easy to prove. America’s founding fathers rejected Britain’s attempt to impose Adam Smith free trade philosophy upon America. Friedrich List came to America, became an American citizen, and helped educate Americans on how to protect their industries and markets. He then returned to Germany to write his classic, The National System of Political Economy.
Every nation which successfully developed did so under the principles of Friedrich List. None, zero, zilch, not one, ever developed under Adam Smith monopoly rules hiding under the title of free trade. Yet, once the U.S. was industrialized, and as the old imperial powers collapsed, America immediately replaced Britain as the imperial power imposing Adam Smith fictitious free trade upon the world.

This reversal of reality can only have been accomplished through the power structure having firm control of what was taught in the university system. When America first formed, academia can only have taught the positives of Friedrich List and that Adam Smith free trade was a system of theft of weak nation’s wealth. For a century or so we mouthed support for sister colonies even as behind the scenes we backed imperialism. Then, after WWII, reversal of reality was imposed full bore by academia and full faith in Adam Smith free trade, as far away from reality as it is, is solidly in place today. We are all unwittingly, until we expose these simple truths, a part of that system imposing those fictitious beliefs.

That the imposed beliefs of society protecting a power structure and their unearned wealth can be so far from reality is a matter of deep concern; not only for the massive violence and oppression it imposes upon weak people but for its potential of mankind destroying itself. Twice before, each over a millennium ago, societies were poised for an industrial revolution. I have not researched what derailed the imminent Industrial Revolution in China, but I have looked into what derailed it in our culture. It was through imposing belief systems protecting a power structure, just as I outlined is ongoing today.

Sixteen hundred years ago, all around the Mediterranean, societies were well developed with substantial educated populations and with large libraries and cultural centers. In short, they were intellectually and culturally advanced much as we are today. Under the alliance between the Roman Empire and the church in 324 AD, all other religions and the empire’s educated came under assault. Over a period of 350 years all the libraries within the Roman Empire were burned, education was taboo, Hellenic culture centers were destroyed and their priests and educated were assassinated or forced underground.
Those 350 years of assassination and suppression of the educated classes dropped Western Society into the Dark Ages. They no longer had the educated people necessary to run their economy.

In the Library of Alexandria was a functioning steam engine. An artifact dated to those times was deduced as could only have been a battery. This means that, except for those suppressions of other people’s rights, the phones, trains, cars, planes, and TV sets of today could have been invented and in use 1,200 to 1,500 years. Run an Internet search using the keywords “libraries, burned, Christian” and you can read that story.

The irrational belief system we function under today is not that much different than the belief system which dropped us into the Dark Ages 1,600 years ago. The 40-year nuclear Cold War standoff could easily have destroyed the earth. A Pentagon study just released concludes that a global warming of six degrees is imminent and could make much of the earth uninhabitable.

Most will say there is no indication of suppression of the educated today. What about this wasteful and destructive monopoly system being touted as efficient and peaceful? What about the suppression of nations breaking free being recorded in history as a suppression of dictators and us as the bearers of the flag of peace, freedom, justice, rights, and majority rule?

The successful breakup of Yugoslavia and the current assault on Iraq under the same cover stories are only doing openly under a cover story what was done covertly for 50 years. Worldwide, between 12 and 15 million were killed and tens of millions more died due to the destabilization of their economies. Plain and simple, we are living under an imposed belief system of enemies which suppresses freedom and rights even as we tell each other how good we are and how we are trying to help other poor souls; just as that alliance of church and state did when it destroyed its own culture 1,600 years ago.

Eliminate the waste of battling over the earth’s resources and there is enough on this earth for all. It is time we shared with the world’s impoverished. After all, all wealth is processed from nature’s wealth and most those resources lie within their borders. We are wasting the very wealth that should be producing a quality lifestyle for both those impoverished people and ourselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen of academia and the media look at burden on your shoulders today. Either we break out from under these imposed beliefs protecting a power structure and their stolen wealth or we are riding a run-a-way train to disaster.

Those of you struggling to get reality out there this is your moment in history. The belief system put together to justify control of Iraq’s resources is in tatters. Where for 50 years good books, in the soft sciences, were published only on the fringes and sold only a few, today, quality books, in the soft sciences are published by the mainstream press, sell millions of copies, and there are so many good titles I quit trying to keep up.

For 50 years the mainstream media and the university system faithfully blanketed society with a belief system of enemies. This hid the real purposes of violence imposed upon the world by the very nations putting out the propaganda; suppressing those nations attempting to gain control of their resources and thus control of their destiny. Now there is substantial reality as to those depredations right on the evening news. Dish TV has three channels of full-bore reality alternative news interviewing people by the dozens who lay out reality just as I am laying it out to you today.

People are good. If they knew, they would never tolerate oppressing weak people. With your help, the reality that we are the suppressors of rights, not the carriers of rights, should burst upon them. Ladies and gentlemen. You have the opportunity to go down in history as the generation that brought peace and freedom to this earth with a quality life for all. Lets do it.

With a Ph.D. in political economics, J.W. Smith has written broadly and lectured widely at conferences around the world. He is founder and director of the Institute for Economic Democracy and author of Economic Democracy; The World’s Wasted Wealth; and Co-operative Capitalism. This keynote speech was delivered at the Seventh International Conference of the International Philosophers for Peace (IPPNO), Radford University, Virginia.