Friday, April 7, 2017


Last night's missile attack on Syria, and the horrific actions that precipitated it, got me thinking about war and peace and our collective vision for humanity's future, which in turn led me to this post I wrote back in 2009, provoked by Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in which he said that that peace should always be the ultimate goal, but that war is sometimes not just “necessary” but “morally justified.”


“Necessary”  “Morally justified”?  When I listen to the president—when I listen to any political leader—talk about “just” and “necessary” wars, my hackles go up.  To me, this thinking reflects an incredibly limited mind-set; one locked in the past.  “We must begin,” Obama stated, “by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes.”  Hard to argue with that when you view life through the lens of what I call the CNN Reality.  If we focus exclusively on the way things have always been, if we lock ourselves into the vision of a world where hideous violence is an acceptable form of problem solving, then that’s the world we’re going to get.  But experience has shown me that there is a deeper, a truer, reality beneath the skin of the world.  One that has the potential to transform both the individual soul and the entire planet. 

Looking through the lens of that Deeper Reality has shown me that the universe begins inside our own heads, hearts and souls; that we’re all living in a dream, projected from both the personal and collective unconscious.  (In the end, I don’t think there’s any difference between the personal and the collective, but that’s another discussion for another time.)  The microcosm, as they say, is the macrocosm:  The smallest acts of kindness and compassion can act as a bridge between those inner and outer universes, rippling out and transforming the world.  The old model—the one that clings to the concept of war as just and necessary—can collapse in the time it takes us to change our minds.  To change our dreams.

Compassion, it seems to  me, is the key:  seeing people—however despicable their actions may be—not as “enemies” or “evil,” but as flawed human beings, worthy, at the very least, of an attempt to understand what made them that way.  “Make no mistake,” the president explained, “evil does exist in the world.”  But evil, as we all know, is in the eye of the beholder.  To Muslim extremists, we’re evil.  George W. Bush saw the Iraqis, the Koreans and the Iranians as an “axis of evil.”  When we (and when I say “we,” I mean humanity as a whole, not just the United States) define our opponents as one-dimensional villains out of a 1940's comic book, we transform them into caricatures that can be obliterated without guilt or shame.  If we continue to paint them as evil, war as just and necessary, then those opponents will continue do the same—and the cycle of violence will go on and on, till the end of the world.

“The nonviolence practiced by men like Gandhi and King,” the president stated, “may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached—their faith in human progress—must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.”  But how can anyone follow the North Star of King and Gandhi while justifying conflicts that brutalize and demean humanity?  I wonder how many men told Gandhi that violence was “just” in the name of a free India, how many urged King on to “necessary” violence in the name of civil rights for African Americans.   “A nonviolent movement,” Obama went on, “could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms.”  No, but who’s to say what acts of wisdom and compassion could have prevented Hitler’s rise to power or transformed the twisted, fundamentalist rage of men who thought blowing up innocents—and themselves with them—was some kind of doorway to Heaven?

Look:  I’m not a politician or a diplomat whose job is to deal with the so-called harsh realities of life.  I am, by trade and nature, a dreamer, and it’s my job to ask:  Why do we have to accept the Harsh Reality?  Why can’t we manifest a new, a better, one?  We can keep regurgitating the old models—from a thousand years ago, seven decades ago or the recent past—and hold them up as examples of the way things have always been, the way things have to be, or we can refuse to buy into those myths.  December 13, 2009 isn’t December 7, 1941, it isn’t September 11, 2001, it isn’t even yesterday:  it’s a new world right now.

Maybe our political leaders will never embrace the idea that peace is possible, that war isn’t a viable option—maybe, given the harrowing issues they have to deal with on a daily basis, they simply can’t—but we can dream that dream into being today.  You can call this unrealistic—starry-eyed idealism or crackpot mysticism—and, viewed from the realist’s perspective, it absolutely is.  But why not aim for the stars?  Why not project—and believe, to the bottom of our souls—that peace, both personal and global, is possible this very moment?

And if I’m wrong?  If I really am nothing but a starry-eyed, crackpot dreamer?  Well, I still think my life, and the lives of those around me, will be better for having chosen to believe.

©copyright 2017  J.M. DeMatteis


  1. 75-80%. What, you need more?

    Okay, that is the amount of people that I... on a good day... believe your plan can help.

    The Soviet UNion may have been a horrifying system that robbed men of their individuality and dignity, but the average Soviet citizen was simply told the Americans were evil.

    There is proof in your theory that our culture seeped into communist states and changed them. Hell, we created an empire not through bullets but by exporting our culture to the world. The Soviet banned it because they knew it was dangerous.

    Slavery, the Holocaust, the Rape of Nan-King, and any other horrible event in mankind's history can be attributed to the lie that who ever is being persecuted aren't really people. That justifies it in their minds.

    That having been said, your idea is a bit self defeating The idea of turning our dreams into a reality, a sort of Utopia. Not all Utopias are the same. Some re horrible. Hitler believed that he was creating a utopia.

    Humanity can be beautiful and glorious, it can also be disgusting and loathsome. Don't kid yourself, true, unchanging evil exists, and their is no there is no conversion for it.

    On March 15, 2016, the Us, after insane amounts of petitioning the US declared the actions of ISIS against Chaldean Christians a genocide. I remember the day, because an hour and a half before the announcement I was doing an interview on an article about a documentary about it.

    The horrors that exist in that land are beyond measure. The people who commit them, who think them up, are not people you can reason with or convert.

    The architect of the Holocaust were not men and women (yes women were involved and even ran camps) were never going to be saints. They were never going to be good people.

    You don't reason with cancer.

    Of course, to be fair the peace and prosperity you and I grew up in, was largely because of WWII, and the aftermath so... that gets complicated.

    To the hope of Peace and plenty


  2. Starry eyed crack pot dreamers are my favorite people.

  3. Now, to be fair, I do think you may have a bit of a 1 dimensional view of warfare. You picture bullets fired and bombs exploding. However there is more than one way to fight a war.

    Did you ever wonder why Stalin, a man who had no regard for his own people's well-being, didn't just invade WESTERN Europe, which was broken and tired.

    Well, there is a two part reason for that. Or three, depending on how you look at it.

    There is a misconception among Right Wing commentators that FDR and Truman liked Stalin. In reality they saw him exactly as he was, a murder-happy madman they would have to deal with eventually.

    That is why Stalin was the first world leader to learn of teh aomic bomb after Truman. He told Stalin to make sure he wouldn't get any big ideas.

    And make no mistake, the A-bomb drop was a necessity, and they were as clean as that type of thing can be.

    But that isn't the point. As I said West Europe was hurting , especially France, Greece, and Italy. There was a lot of work to be done, but not enough money.

    This caused riots and aggression between workers and cops. The communist party tried to get a foot hold, and almost did. They also reported to the Soviets.

    Truman identified the problem... poverty. It created communism, fascism, and later on ISIS and Al Qaeda. Desperate people are suseptable.

    He instituted the Marshall plan, which allowed Europe to buy what it needed (farm, building, and manufacturing equipment) on credit. Similar acts were done in China.

    not long afterwards Stalin tried to starve out West Berlin. He didn't want any freedom on in East Germany.

    The U.S. then used their bombers, which two years earlier were dropping bombs, dropped supplies needed to survive and even to live (there is a difference).

    This was a decisive strike in what would become the Cold War. The US gained support by showing an altruistic contrast to the USSR.

    Flash forward to the modern day, were the US government stresses hiring local groups to rebuild the Middle East, to keep them from getting hat they need to live from extremists.

    Americans ARE more generous than the rest of the world. We are the only country that tips compulsory, we give more money to charity individually(both in real dollars and percentage of income) than any other industrialized nation., and we lead humanitarian aid.

    And it is just as tactical as it is altruistic, it is the REAL version of what we were told the Iraq war was, its wining hearts and minds. The best way to fight a war or stop an evil ideology is to keep it from gaining support.

    Humanitarian aid IS part of national defense, it IS warfare... we just don';t always do it for that reason.

    That is why, if you ever hear about a politician who wants to cut foreign aid (which has come up multiple times since the 80s) you should be nervous, not just disgusted.

    And yes there is an importance in managing it properly, and making sure it goes where it is needed and not into pockets.

    Also, you mentioned MLK, but he once said in condemning the Vietnam War, that he very well may have given up his pacifism to fight Hitler.


    1. I'm at a con right now, Jack, but I did want to post this and thank you for your thoughts and insights.

    2. If you get the chance, and have the interest, I would love to hear... well, read... your thoughts on this topic.


    3. No thoughts to offer here, Jack. Everything I wanted to say regarding war and peace (well, for the moment) was in the post.

    4. Oh, he also tried to prevent what would become the hysteria over non-conventional political leanings and subversive groups of the 1950s, incredibly impressive giving what a hardliner he was against communism.

      AND pushed the first attempts to outlaw discrimination of employment on race.

      And, oh yeah, prevented hundreds of thousands of young men (a conservative estimate) from dying in an invasion of JApan, not including the forced militias created by the Japanese government. ANd every other horror they wee about to draw on.

      I know that is war, but it as ending it, and them helping Japan become a freer and better nation that it was, giving equal protection under the law to ethnic minorities and women under the law. McCarther gets a lot of props on that one too.