“It’s so peaceful here.” How often one hears that invocation of the Vineyard’s welcoming shores and ameliorating horizons, rife with quiet retreats — places to think, to consider, to process matters of heart and mind, or simply to listen and watch, tuned to the Island’s sonata of wind and wave, its embrace of sky and sea.
Ah, but why can’t the whole planet be truly peaceful? Why can’t humankind, in fact, end war? Certainly it’s time. As Thomas Mann pointed out, “War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”
Let’s begin with something universal and easy: the ancient, relaxing tradition of coming together in community to sip tea, listen well to each other, consider the flow and cross-currents of the day. What if we could create tens of thousands of such gatherings across the continents, their mission to encourage understanding about the necessity and possibility of ending war? Each would meet perhaps once a month to develop its own action agenda, free of outside control or directives.
The actions each tea assembly develops would be tuned of course to their particular resources, their local instincts and traditions, their own insights and energy. Options seem endless. For example, they could try to influence local legislation, perhaps taking on the issue of mandating only peaceful use of drones; they could encourage the adoption of peace studies in local curricula; they could research a particular hot spot and create an email campaign designed to dissuade those who might foment violence; they could mount peace-oriented plays such as Lysistrata; they could find ways to promulgate books and music about the history and newfound promise of the peace movement; they could work with veterans to better publicize the reality of the battlefield; they could research and publicize the dramatic damage that war does to environments or how it hijacks economies.
Or they might create festivals of peace, organize debates and publicize the efforts of others across the world to end war. Or hallmark the day when humankind finally realized that war is not necessary, that humankind is indeed not hard-wired for war, as many social scientists are pointing out. They could investigate tribes like the Hazda people of Tanzania, the Moriori of the Chatham Islands, or the Batek of Malaysia who find “aggressive coercion to be utterly unacceptable.” (New York Times, 9/29/13, “Are We Hard-Wired for War?”).
The Humanity Initiative already has begun this effort (humanitea.org), to end war by Jan. 1, 2020. Our initial partners are Dobra Tea in the Czech Republic and the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding in Amherst. We have sourced our first humanitea on a sacred mountain in Sri Lanka, where violence still flares from a 26-year civil war that resulted in 80,000 deaths. One hundred per cent of initial revenue is dedicated to establishing new interfaith councils of young Sri Lankan leaders; the first such council is already at work, devoted to the dialogues of peace, not the monologue of war. We also have created alliances with the International Peace Bureau in Geneva, the World Peace Foundation in Boston and Amnesty International in London.
Ending war is one of those truths that too long has lingered below the horizons of human acceptance. All we must do is truly believe it is possible and act on a scale that will overwhelm the dogs of war. Most important, we now have — for the first time in human history, through social media and information technology — the opportunity to shine a powerful, persistent, penetrating light on the dictators, warmongers, and terrorists who believe that war solves anything. By doing so we can distance them from those they would rally to war, reinforcing the fact that 90 per cent of humanity simply want lives of dignity and peace.
The author Matthew May has been widely applauded for his investigation of the role of elegance in some of humankind’s best ideas. He believes we must establish “elegant solutions to our most pressing challenges.” Our potential creation of a vast and patient public groundswell to end war meets his four necessary elements: symmetry, seduction, subtraction and sustainability. Not least, our Sip Tea, End War effort has no outside control or influence; it is adaptable to any place and any culture; it costs little, or in many cases, nothing; and it may well be inexorable. Pure common sense insists that we not waste our resources any longer on armaments, rather spend it instead on education, food and taking care of each other.
So let us dedicate ourselves like Einstein did when he said: “I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.” Or as Carl Sandburg more simply concurred: “Some day they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” Tony Balis is founder and president of The Humanity Initiative. He lived in Vineyard Haven for 20 years.