A friend showed me this TED talk about Jeremy Gilley, who had an idea: What if everyone decided to stop war for one day?
You could say all kinds of things about this. Crazy. Idealistic. Naïve. And you’d be kind of right. For one thing, war happens anyway. For another, getting people to agree not to fight is futile because war is a failure to agree in the first place. That’s the problem. What you’re saying is, “If only we could get people to agree, then we could start to work on the problem of people not agreeing!”
Not everyone wants peace, anyway. One of the worst Christian memes around now is that if a major world political leader brings peace, that’s a sign that they’re the antichrist. Apparently, God is the only one who is supposed to bring peace, and anyone else is a satanic impersonator. So they’re suspicious of peace. Isn’t that lovely? But anyway.
And yet, despite all this, the Peace One Day project has done some good. Even the Taliban agreed to it one year, and violence went down that day.
You have to try stuff, as idealistic as it seems. Maybe, as Gilley says, it won’t work, and nothing will happen. But maybe it will, and someone won’t get blown up or killed for a day. You have to try.
And anyway, whether it “works” or not isn’t the point. As I see it, the point of this exercise is that it’s important to affirm values. It’s important for the world community to state that peace is a collective goal. We need to say “You know peace? Well, we want that.” And we need to keep saying that over and over again, because some people will keep chipping away at that value. We can’t ever assume that any of our values are so universally held and so solid that we can never lose them. We can slip backward. It happened with torture. It’s happening with the right to choose to have an abortion. You think child labour laws are an irretractable value? Public education? Conservatives right now are working feverishly to turn the clock back on our progressive values, even the ones that we think we could never lose. We need to keep affirming that these are the values we have.
September 21 is the day, by the way. It’s not too far off. Maybe there’s something we could do.