Author Archive

Nice Beliefs Prevent Peace

February 6, 2009

A friend voiced this frequently found opinion in an email today:

UntilNathan Otto basic survival needs are met in these [poor] countries peace isn’t possible.

Actually, we can have world peace before these basic survival needs are met. In fact, I would be astounded if we could meed basic needs globally before we abolish war. War is one of the worst ways that prevents these needs from being met. Desperation, according to Paul Collier, economist and author of “The Bottom Billion”, is not a big driver of war.  Surprised? I was too. The reason is brutal economics–which is probably why they call economics the dismal science. Here is the simple reason desperately poor people rarely or never wage war: it costs a lot of money.

Even “cheap” war requires food, ammunition, transportation, and supplies. War is always very expensive relative to the population–even in the USA. A starving or desperate population simply does not have the resources to wage war. Even though desperation may fuel acts of cruelty, outright war, with political or economic objectives, in a poor country is typically not sustainable without some form of outside economic input.

Imagine you are starving, weak, and desperate–you might fight for a moment of survival, but you don’t have the energy or motivation to fight a war, until maybe you eke out enough food and ammo to get out of your immediate dire situation.

War often happens near scenes of desperation and starvation, because war is a cause of famine. Refugee populations, fleeing death and destruction, or often just the rumor of death and destruction, are cut off from food, water, shelter and health care. But generally the soldiers acting as agents of the mayhem are well enough fed and supplied to continue the violence, often directly against a civilian population.

War in desperately poor areas is usually financed by extractive industries pumping cash into the hands of warlords and corrupt politicians. It’s not the fault of the companies, or of the corrupt politicians, as it is the entire system we ALL participate in, that lets us buy minerals and timber found in our computers and furniture that finances war and corruption without our knowledge or consent. We peacemakers need to look at and change these systems to increase transparency, so that our purchases support peace.

Get Your Slave License

January 25, 2009

During the movement to abolish institutional slavery, there were those who wanted to improve the institution of slavery, to regulate it, to establish rules for the humane treatment of slaves, to limit the number of slaves, to tax slavery and so on. But what the abolitionists knew is that human slavery is intolerable as an idea, that the very root of slavery is wrong.

Improving slavery was not wrong—improvement in the human condition is good.  But imagine if every slave master had to have a government-issued photo ID Slave License and be regulated and inspected by the State Slave Health Committee to verify that he or she is treating slaves humanely—does that sound like a country you want to live in?

There are those who try to improve war, to conduct war with minimum civilian casualties, to make sure that wounded humans have access to medical care, to prosecute those who break the rules of war with systematic rape and torture. These people are doing needed work in our present system that allows war–but does that sound like a world you want to live in?

We found ways, even much better and more efficient ways, to get the work done that the slaves were doing before they were freed. We already know ways to resolve political conflicts much more cheaply and permanently than war can ever do. With peace safety practices, with a changed world system that takes war off the menu, we can abolish war.

Peace is the safe practice of political conflict. If there is no political conflict, there is no possibility of war. If there is political conflict, where there is a direction taken by a political leader or entity toward violent conflict, then it is the responsibility of the rest of the world to effectively intervene for the safety of the whole world.

Oscar-Winning Filmmaker Malcolm Clarke on Peacemakers

January 13, 2009

Amber and I are in New York, staying at a friend’s apartment on the West Side. Today we welcomed Malcolm Clarke to afternoon tea. Malcolm won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subjects for his 1988 film “You Don’t Have to Die“. He’ has won other awards too numerous to mention.

Filmmaker Malcolm Clarke

Filmmaker Malcolm Clarke

What’s most amazing to me about Malcolm is his radical courage in telling a truthful story. He’s done stuff that would make most of us wet ourselves–he mentioned an incident in which his assistant received a letter bomb addressed to him… because he followed a suicide bomb squad around for weeks and made a documentary about them for ABC News, called “Terror in The Promised Land”. He also sneaked into a maximum security prison in South Africa disguised as a priest, with a camera hidden under his cassock, and when he was filming another documentary in Beirut a member of his crew was tragically murdered.

We asked Malcolm what movie he would make that would help cause world peace. He said that the moving stories of numerous on-the-ground peacemakers in war-torn areas was the best untold story out there. He praised these people with “dirt under their fingernails” who understood what it takes to work for peace when it gets sweaty and dangerous. He said that in every horrible conflict area he has been to–and he has been to a lot of them–he finds people working under dire conditions, under the constant threat of death, to bring peace to their nations and homes.

These people choose themselves. They are determined, tireless, usually anonymous, and often are harrassed and even killed by those who wish to continue the conflict. He told the story of one Iraqi woman to worked in three-month intense shifts bridging tensions between Shia and Sunni Moslems in her country. She had to travel with a posse of bodyguards just to survive, and the stress was so great she had to take breaks of several weeks to recover–but she succeeded. He mentioned famous UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, killed in Iraq in 2003, and how he had a special genius for diplomacy that was so effective, people were scared of him.

Every war has embedded peacemakers trying end the insanity; putting their lives on the line for peace. Every true warrior has this same impulse–protect and serve, enforce the peace, help the wounded, the women, the children, the sick, the elderly, the young people who are the ones planting mines and firing artillery. Men and women both fight to bring peace back, to get people talking, to build bridges, to increase trust–that all sounds like soft stuff, but it is hard, and it is easy to get killed doing it.

Over the next five years, we at P:5Y are going to build tools for all of to support these radically determined peacemakers, to help them, the learn from them, to tell their stories and implement a Global Peace Treaty to commit the family of nations to the practices of peace safety that keep us ALL safe from war. We all know there’s no “over there” anymore: there is only one human family, and today war comes home sooner rather than later. It’s time to abolish war for good.

You and I will probably not be called to make the sacrifices these anonymous peacemakers do. But we can praise them, support them, give them resources, and give them our time–because if we don’t, one day war  will come to our homes.


The current conversation about peace and war is killing us

January 6, 2009

Peace seems boring or wimpy while war is dramatic or macho. War is black and white, do or die, mission failed or mission accomplished. War is “take orders”, peace is “think and talk”. War is hot-headed, action-oriented, while we see peace as “slow down”, about options and talking. War is crisp, fact-filled communication, peace is vague, theory-filled discussion. War and its outcomes are immediate and obvious, whereas peace doesn’t have definite lines. War is urgent, exciting; peace is relaxed, reflective.

Peace seems complicated while war seems simple.

But peace is good, and war is bad. War is not just bad, it is wrong. Even if you think war wasn’t wrong in the past, it is definitely wrong today. It’s not wrong to defend yourself or your country from attack—I’m saying the whole idea of politically organized mass murder, rape and destruction is wrong and outdated like slavery, human sacrifice and stretching people on the rack are outdated.

Are we going to let ourselves just throw up our hands and give up because peace seems overwhelming? NO! “Overwhelming” is a paper tiger—practicing peace safety is far less overwhelming than war—just ask any combat veteran, war widow or rape victim.

What if we did the ju-jitsu and took all the stuff that makes war appealing and use it for peace? That’s what P:5Y does: World peace is now clear: and end to all politically organized violence. It is urgent: we make peace or we all perish. It is measurable: worldwide violent conflicts decrease, then cease.

The NUMBER ONE global mission: push through a Global Peace Treaty among the family of nations. More on the specifics later.

2009 is the year that peace got clear, urgent, doable. This is the year peace organized itself into an army, made clear missions, and started accomplishing them. Peace set priorities, took action, kicked ass. Peace has a deadline.

World peace is giving orders, taking orders, communicating crisply. You can be a foot soldier or a strategist or a quartermaster for peace.

This year, we need recruiters: we need you join the peace army and talk your friends into joining too. On February 14 we launch Peace in Five Years, along with the next version of www.p5y.org which will let you bank your hours for peace—more on that later.

Invite all your friends on Facebook to join the Peace in Five Years cause. Follow @amberlupton or @ottonathan on Twitter. Talk about peace as safety, peace as doable, peace as urgent, interesting., definite.

Oh, and yes, creating world peace is a LOT easier than war. It may seem like a lot of effort, but just think about it for yourself: establishing the worldwide practices of safety from war is less effort, less cost, and WAY more benefit than fighting even one major war. P:5Y is focusing, collaborating and making it EASY for YOU to create world peace.

PS: ending war in the next five years is easier than taking longer. Let’s get this done so we can move on to what’s next for all of us in world where war is systematically prevented.

Take charge of your army

December 30, 2008

Reader Wolf Halton commented:

“We will have to help the military-industrial complex, with its thousands of jobs and millions in income, to find a socially acceptable outlet for its creativity.”

Wolf is right–no one is left out of world peace, or it’s not world peace. Today, politically organized death and misery is still socially acceptable. By February 14, 2014, together we will make it illegitimate.

Past peacemakers have criticized the military and arms-makers, often in strong terms. Criticism has its place, but we don’t have time for much inside our peace deadline.

Honestly, who is criticizing whom—who exactly is the military-industrial complex? Is it the soldiers who volunteer to serve and get a college education? Is it the managers and employees of corporations who win military contracts? Is it the taxpayers and bond-buyers who pony up the money? Is it the citizens who enjoy the protection of the military?

Only you can answer the question for yourself, but I think that the military-industrial complex is…you and me.

Here’s the upside—here’s where you get to feel powerful—if you are the military-industrial complex, then whose army is it? That’s right, it’s your army! All you have to do is say what you want done with it.

Really—it is that simple. Start saying what you want done with your army. Peacekeeping? Great! What should the army, navy, air force and the rest of the military-industrial complex be doing that represents you? Be specific—your military needs specific missions.

We are talking about the most disciplined, focused, goal-oriented force in the world—whether the US military or your home country’s army. The military wants, at the root of their ideals, to fight for something good and win. The military wants to protect—and we definitely need protection from the danger of war (by peace safety practices–another blog coming soon).

Notice that you have been asleep at the wheel. Your army is restless and unfocused, your army doesn’t have a mission that inspires it, your army has been taken over and used by ideas that are not representative of you! This is a disaster, an emergency, a world crisis! Your army wants orders that it can get behind, a direction to victory, triumph, glory and honor! Don’t expect your military resources to figure out what they should be doing–that’s your job. You define what victory is, what the mission is. If it’s my army, and it is, then the mission is to keep the entire world safe from the danger of war.

Your army is MISERABLE! Your air force is UNHEALTHY! Your navy is making circles in the ocean and wasting lives, money, goodwill. Your military is being used to make us unsafe. Forces of corruption have crept in to your army. We don’t need to criticize the corruption–we just need to give our army something useful and fulfilling to do.

It’s not too late—speak up about how your immense resource should be used.

Do these exercises to start taking command:
1.    Call anyone you know in the military. If you don’t know anyone, then find someone. Say to them, “You are giving your life to the military. What mission would most inspire you to serve?” Then listen with all your heart.
2.    Write in your journal what missions you would give your army. Whom would you consult with to make sure your orders make sense?
3.    Answer these questions in your journal: whom do you need to talk to about gaining control of your army? What do you need to say? Make a phone call right now, or put a to-do in your calendar.

Save World Peace From the Hippies and Pageant Queens

December 29, 2008

World Peace: it’s bland, idealistically hopeless, complicated, left-leaning, hippie boomer crap. Right?

Wrong. Let’s clear the air a bit, dust off some common sense, and rescue “world peace” from the deadly cultural morass where it is stuck in most people’s minds.

It is NOT:

  • Everyone somehow magically being so nice to each other that we no longer fight
  • A soundless explosion of heart-love created by humanity suddenly evolving to the next level
  • Dependent on creating “inner peace”
  • Elimination of the military
  • Impossible because “war is human nature”

World peace IS:

  • A global end to the danger of politically organized mass murder called “war”
  • The active, ongoing, multi-layered practice of safety from this danger
  • Necessary for our survival in the medium-term as a species.  Read that one again.
  • The culmination of a global trend toward cooperation and peace that is real, and doesn’t make the news.
  • An agreement among the family of nations to some new norms (similar to abolishing slavery) that prevent war and help us all

Our book, Give Peace A Deadline: What Ordinary People Can Do To Create World Peace in Five Years, gives the detail of all of this, as well as the global collaborative plan.

What you can do to begin collaborating: post a comment here, especially any questions you have, and begin talking with your friends and online community about world peace by Feb. 14, 2014. Much more to come, so stay tuned!

Marketing Evening In Santa Monica

December 28, 2008

Marketing genius Eben Pagan and his friend Alex joined me, Amber, Amber’s brother Kan Lamat and and their mother Sally at our home tonight.

Alex told a story of how a friend of his, Jeff, an internet marketer, show skepticism about peace in five years–Jeff was saying how it seems too big, too nebulous, and how he wants to focus on more tangible success in his life.

Alex told Jeff exactly how, in the near future, Jeff was going to be contributing to P5Y–since Eben is committed, and so is Alex, Jeff is going to be asked in the near future how to use cutting-edge web 2.0 marketing to cause peace in five years. Pretty soon, Alex told us, Jeff was all revved up about contributing to something beyond himself, something, as Walt Whitman would say “worthy of the prudence suitable for immortality”.

Once Jeff understood how he could make a concrete, important contribution to world peace–doing exactly what he loves to do and is good at–he was on board. Amazingly, that’s all any of us have to do to cause world peace by Feb 14, 2014: find out what our fun, exciting, skilled contribution is. No sacrifice, no pain, just fun, huge accomplishment, and the awesome feeling of participating in history.