Author Archive for Duane Cady

“…Thy will be done on earth…”

“…Thy will be done on earth…”
Hayward United Methodist Church
July 17, 2022

Warning: I spent forty years as a college professor, so I expect you to take notes, have a short quiz, and be prepared to discuss these issues during coffee hour.

Preface: What follows was inspired by Sandy. She’s not to blame for what I say today, but she definitely inspired almost every idea and many of the words. You see, she has this crazy idea that the Bible and the Church ought to have something to say about how we should live in today’s world. Historical exegesis of sacred documents has it’s place, but not in this sermon.

Our text: Matthew 25:35-40 Jesus said, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. You ask when did I do these things? As you helped the least of the children of God you helped me.”

Introduction: We’ve all heard the claim that America is a Christian nation. Inside and outside this building is the United Methodist motto: “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open doors.” Let’s give the motto a try for the next twenty minutes or so. Well… let’s concentrate on open minds and open hearts for today. ‘Open doors’ often takes us to LGBTQ issues in the church, issues that are splitting –or, better, splintering—United Methodism. This is the issue that caused me to resign my 74+ year Methodist membership, counting from confirmation — and confirmation is the formation and foundation of the Christian Church. I’ll set those formidable issues aside; if you’re curious about my thoughts on LGBTQ issues and the Methodist Church, let me know and I’ll send you my three-page single-spaced letter to three Bishops, half-a-dozen District Superintendant’s, and over thirty-five Methodist preachers that I know personally (teaching at a Methodist university for over forty years has its price).

So, back to America as a Christian nation viewed with open hearts and open minds. In 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. was the leading Christian minister in our country. In his most famous sermon, preached at Riverside Church in New York City one year to the day before his assassination, April 4, 1968, Dr. King identified the dominant values in America at that time. He called them the “giant triplets:” racism, greed, and violence. Not exactly Christian values. If King were around today I suspect he’d come up with the same three and say they have gotten worse. Let’s take up each dominant cultural value separately.

Part I: Racism. There’s no doubt that the Unites States of America was built with slave labor. Not only workers in cotton fields down south whose work made plantation owners very wealthy, but workers on government buildings too. Did you know that the US Capitol in Washington, DC, was built by slaves? Neither did I. That little detail was never mentioned in school when I was a kid. But, hey, I was a kid 65 years ago. Things are much better today, right? Well, I read in the New York Times this week that a committee of Texas educators who make recommendations for the state school curriculum of Texas have recommended that the word “slavery” be dropped from school textbooks and replaced with “forced relocation.” They’re serious! “Forced relocation” sounds nicer than “slavery,” but it conveniently neglects buying and selling people as property, forcing them to work without pay, breaking up nuclear families by selling off spouses and children so families wouldn’t become more loyal to one another than to their “master.” And they neglect the practice of outlawing teaching slaves to read so owners could perpetuate the lie that slaves were too stupid to read. Of course none of us owned slaves, and most of our ancestors didn’t own slaves, so why is this problem of historic exploitation any concern of ours? Because we have benefitted from it.

Remember the US Capitol built by slave labor? There are many more federal buildings, roads and bridges that were built by slaves. And we –by which I mean white folks– benefit, in many small ways: we get the benefit of the doubt when interacting with the police; we don’t get followed around stores by employees instructed to “keep an eye on us” for possible shop lifting; we don’t get suspicious looks if we’re standing on a street corner with a friend; we can watch a cab driver ignore a black person looking for a ride but will stop for us half-a-block away; people don’t assume we’re poor due to the color of our skin; we aren’t expected to explain and defend the behavior of every white person; no one assumes we are good at sports –or that we can’t swim or skate because of our color; we’re not expected to have rhythm because we’re white; we’re not black so people don’t assume we’re “shiftless and lazy,” poorly educated, a criminal, a drug dealer or unemployed. If we are recognized with an award, people don’t say it’s because of our race, or that we got a job or promotion because the employer was forced to hire us for our color. There are and many, many more of these “micro-oppressions.” They may seem small to us but they add up when you live with them every day.

Another form of American racism is how our ancestors treated Native Americans (some prefer to be called First Nation members, indigenous people, Indians, or by their own name for themselves in their own language, like Anishanabe, Lakota, Klinget, Haida and so on). Native Americans were pushed off their land to poorer and poorer land. Of course none of us stole Indian land nor did most of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Our ancestors homesteaded in government land rushes. Of course the land the government gave away wasn’t the government’s to give; it was taken from Native Americans. So, homesteaders received stolen property. Many of us, or our ancestors, inherited this land. It’s called “generational wealth” because subsequent generations get an economic head start, you did if you’ve ever inherited anything, and your kids will if you leave anything to them; that’s the point. The poor often stay poor generation after generation because they never have an economic base to start from. Many of us have benefitted from our government’s theft of native land.

What would a Christian value on racism look like? I think we know: Jesus elevated everyone to equal status with Jews — the chosen people — despite racial discrimination. That’s part of his point in the parable of the good Samaritan: a Samaritan, looked down upon by Jews, helps the robbed and beaten Jew left on the road half dead, even when other Jews walk by on the other side. Jesus instructs us to treat people equally, to reject and overcome the prejudices of society.

Speaking of equality, I read in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune last week that a woman was denied her right to make a purchase at the Wallgreens drug store here in Hayward because the clerk’s Christian values wouldn’t allow him to cooperate with birth control. The woman wanted to buy condoms. The article reminded me of the cake decorator who appealed to his “Christian values” to refuse decorating a cake for a gay couple. Of course half a century ago some racists appealed to their “Christian values” to refuse service to black people at lunch counters, to deny black children to attend public schools and even to ban Blacks from using a “whites only” drinking fountain. Clearly “Christian values” can be perverted. We all know the Bible can be used to justify whatever we want. At the same time we know when Christian values are being perverted. Even segregationists knew racial segregation was wrong. Hate overwhelmed conscience.

Much more could be said about racism in America as contrasted with Christian values on racism, but let’s move on to greed.

Part II Greed. “The business of America is business.” We’ve all heard that statement. It seems true when we realize that most elected officials are more loyal to their financial supporters than to their constituents. We see greed everywhere: salaries for entertainers and professional sports players, compensation for CEOs of major corporations and so on. Ordinary people –even children— measure one another by their material status: Mr. Smith is “doing very well” means he has more than most: more money, a bigger house, better cars and clothes, etc. Those things are highly valued. Our culture teaches us to want more… and more. We learn to envy those “better off” than we are. Advertising works because of this envy: if we had that car, that outfit, that makeup or beer or whatever is advertised, then we would go up in status.; we would have more value. In America, often we are measured by what we have not who we are. Material things. Envy. Greed.

A few years ago Opera Winfrey sponsored a study relating happiness to income. The study found that people’s happiness grew as they left poverty and minimum wage jobs for higher paying work, but that happiness topped out at around $115,000 per year ($75,000 adjusted for inflation). People in households making more tended to be less happy; in fact, the larger their income above $115,000, the less happy they were. It turns out that being rich isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Wealth comes with many headaches of various kinds. The main problem with greed is that greedy people never have enough. Happier — and wiser – people understand that the key to happiness is enjoying what we have rather than always wanting more.

What does Christianity say about valuing one another by the things we have, measuring one another by our net financial worth? Again, the answer is fairly obvious. Jesus tells the rich young man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor; then he will have treasure in heaven. And he says it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom. According to Jesus, it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to get into the Kingdom of heaven. Of course, this is usually dismissed by Christians. He didn’t really mean it; he was just emphasizing his point about the importance of moderating our wealth. Right.

Part III Now, what can we say about violence in America? There are two levels of violence: interpersonal and large scale. Concerning interpersonal violence we all know the heartbreaking levels of gun deaths in America. In our country we had 37,038 in 2019, the latest data available. Experts say it’s only gotten worse. Only 4% of US gun deaths are due to mass shootings; about 8% are accidental; nearly 20% are due to suicides; and roughly 70% –nearly 26,000 annually—result from homicide. To compare this with other countries we have to count deaths per 100,000 to be fair, since national populations vary widely. In the US, we have 12 gun deaths per 100,000 people. In Canada there are 2 per 100,000. Germany and New Zealand each have 1, and the United Kingdom has just .23 (one in 400,000). So, US gun deaths are six times that of Canada, 12 times Germany and NZ; and 48 times that of Great Britain. Part of this is explained by the fact that we have 120 guns per 100 citizens while Canada has 35 with most nations are under 2. So the US has 60 times the guns in the hands of citizens compared with most countries. Clearly, when it comes to gun deaths, we live in a violent society.

Regarding mass violence, the US military budget is $778 billion annually, $272 billion more than the next nine top military budgets combined and $526 billion more than our nearest competitor, China. And our military expenditures are $716 billion more than Russia (ranked 4th). Put another way, our military budget is more than twelve times that of Russia. When we count military bases abroad, the US has 51; the UK and France are next with 16; Russia has 8; and China and Canada, each have 4. Most of the nearly two hundred nations on earth have none. No wonder countries around the world think the US is out to dominate the world. In his farewell address in 1960 President Dwight D. Eisenhower – someone who knew something about military budgets — echoed Matthew 25 when he said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Ours is a violent country.

What have Christian values to say about violence? Again, I think we all know. Jesus was a pacifist. It is laughable to think of Jesus as a soldier much less of him holding an automatic weapon. Christianity was built on Jesus’ life, death, and teaching. Of course it would be a pacifist religion from the beginning. Regarding interpersonal violence, we all know Jesus counseled that if we are hit on one cheek, we should “turn the other cheek.” This has always been a well-known biblical reference, but in my Sunday school days, my confirmation classes, my 75 years of attending Christian worship services, my hearing dozens of Christian speakers, I almost never heard mention of “turn the other cheek.” It is as if Sunday school teachers, pastors and Christians in general deliberately avoid the subject…perhaps because they know quite well what it means and are afraid of its implications for their lives. A few years ago I was at a family celebration for Father’s day. At dinner I happened to be seated next to a very devout evangelical Christian. I asked him what he thought about Jesus as a pacifist and what it meant for Christianity. His reply? He said Jesus didn’t really mean it; he was just trying to emphasize the importance of kindness. I then asked whether that sort of kindness should be extended to enemies in war. He asked me to pass the salad. I asked again, this time about “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and he turned to talk to the person on his other side. I think he was surprised I could quote the Bible and too caught up in his own righteousness to give it much thought. So much for “Open Minds.”

To think about Christian values as they relate to large scale violence we need to know that Constantine, Emperor of Rome and its colonies in the fourth century, was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. At that point Christianity began leaving behind Jesus’ pacifism and the nonviolence central to the Christian Church for its first 300 years. With Emperor Constantine’s conversion, Christians could be soldiers and war could be accepted. Obviously, Constantine needed more troops, and he didn’t need opposition to his wars. In the subsequent history of Christianity, regarding mass violence the Church has been all over the place. The early Christian Church was pacifist for three centuries; the Medieval Christian Church fought holy wars trying to drive Muslims out of the Holy Land; and the contemporary Church accepts just war. Perhaps more accurately, the current Christian Church allows all three positions on the morality of war. The result is 1) a tiny minority of Christian pacifists, 2) a sizeable contingent of folks who accept holy war, extending it beyond Muslims and the Holy Land to most any enemy most anywhere, and 3) the majority of congregants embracing just war. This embrace of Christian Just War is why Billy Graham visited so many Presidents to pray with them on the brink of so many wars. It helped Presidents get approval from constituents in our Christian country. Clearly Presidents really didn’t want prayers or advice from Martin Luther King, Jr. on the brink of any of their wars; King was a Christian pacifist.

I have not shown how each of these “giant triplets” is connected to the others; I could, but we don’t have all day. One obvious example is the disproportionate rate at which police officers shoot unarmed black men compared with police officers shooting unarmed white men. Racism, greed and violence are inter-connected in many ways…but that topic is for another sermon.

Conclusion: Don’t you just hate it when you hear a depressing talk and you’re left with nothing to do to address the pressing issues? I do, so I’ll offer a few modest suggestions: I’d say read, listen, and think. Reclaim our history and become better informed on these topics. One way to do this is to consider joining, or at least sitting in on, a session of “Can We Talk About ______?” (fill in the blank), a zoom group Sandy started after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd. We began as a discussion group but evolved into a social issues reading and discussion group. We read just a chapter a week. A dozen or so folks from HUMC have been meeting every week for two years, with Memorial Day to Labor Day off. If that’s not for you, read, listen and think on your own. I recommend reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, written “bottom up” with women, slaves, farmers, laborers, Native Americans, union organizers and others at the bottom of power structures telling their stories rather than the rich and powerful writing textbooks top down. We’ve spent our lives reading books authored by people at the top of most systems: the rich, the powerful, the advantaged, the connected. It’s time to hear other perspectives. Consider writing your government representative about any of these issues using what you’ve learned. Call out racist, sexist, homophobic comments –and any other cruel comments– when you hear them. Talk respectfully with your family and friends about these difficult issues, being careful to listen openly to their perspectives and not just lecture them with your views. But do share your views and your reasons and evidence for holding them, and ask for their views, their reasons and their evidence. We don’t and won’t all agree but we will all learn.

Oh, one more thing. I suspect some of you have been thinking, “Shouldn’t politics be left out of the church?” I agree. I only mentioned one political figure, President Eisenhauer, and othwise avoided mentioning office-holders, political parties or partisan politics. This is a Christian presentation based on Jesus’ own words. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the sick, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, and generally follow the greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. If we do these things we will be doing God’s work as described in the Sermon on the Mount: we’ll be working to see God’s will done on earth. And we might move America a bit closer to being a Christian nation.

Duane Cady

It Was a Slap

It was a Slap

Come on people; it was a slap. We get worked up when an actor loses his temper momentarily and slaps a comedian in response to a cruel joke aimed at the actor’s wife –due to the look of her hair, a condition caused by a disease. Critics from all corners insist “there is no place for violence” on an award show even though those accepting the awards often receive them for behavior glorifying violence.

It was a slap. It’s not as if Will Smith stabbed or shot Chris Rock. We live in a world with thousands of people being killed, millions forced to be refuges and the news and talk shows are obsessed with a slap? We live in a country where those making up our government cannot bring themselves to limit sales of automatic weapons, a country where hundreds of people are killed every day, where mass shootings of innocent bystanders have become common but our concern about violence is focused on a slap?

Let’s put this incident in context. Let’s think about priorities. Let’s think about the frequency of violence in our world and country. It was a slap!

Book Banning

Banning books is, once again, in the news. The current iteration, across many states, is likely a consequence of the public outcry over Critical Race Theory (CRT), even though most public enemies of CRT don’t understand what it is. In fact, calls to ban Critical Race Theory have become code for “disallow any and all school curricular materials that develop an accurate American history of slavery and treatment of people of color.” This means books must be banned.

The history of book banning is as long as the history of books. Advocates of banning this book or that typically have what they call reasons that would compel any thoughtful person to ban the book(s) in question. Having considered many such reasons, I have come to the conclusion that fear is the primary driver in book banning.

I suspect that those afraid are, for the most part, parents. For example, parents often fear that exposing their children to school studies that accurately explain slavery and the treatment of people of color in American history will lead their children to ideas on race different from their own. They wouldn’t want that.

Most parents objecting to teaching accurate information about the history of race in America would rather not think about these issues and they certainly don’t want their children raising questions about them. Such parents especially fear their children learning history that is at odds with what they, the parents, would rather believe. Teaching the history of race in America, and teaching it accurately, would make students uncomfortable. Even worse, it would make parents uncomfortable.

Why not pass laws that will not allow any school or teacher to teach anything that will make students uncomfortable? Why not ban books that explain the truth about slavery in America? Why not ban books that explain historical American treatment of people of color? Why not shelter our children from uncomfortable history? Why not teach that everyone in American is equal even though it’s not true?

If we don’t ban teaching students the truth about slavery and racism they might have compassion for victims of racial abuse. Students might think slaves and other people of color were treated badly. They might even think people of color are treated badly today. There are parents who wouldn’t want that.

Banning books that expose the truth about race in America is really about slowing or stopping students from learning the truth and thinking for themselves. Books are banned because they might challenge what we want to believe. They might open minds. They might even open hearts.

The biggest problem with banning books is that the next step is burning books. Taking the step after that means banning people. We know the step after that.

If we are to have democracy, if we are to have government of, by, and for its citizens, then ideas cannot be banned. Books cannot be banned. People cannot be banned. We cannot be led by fear. Democracy is about freedom. The truth shall set us free.

Henry Aaron…and Me

I was born and raised in Milwaukee. When I was almost 7 – in June of 1953— I went with mom, grandma and grandpa to my first professional baseball game. I think the Braves were playing the Phillies. Walking through the parking lot at Milwaukee County Stadium, on our way to the gate for our seats, grandpa asked me, “Who’s your favorite player?” My knee-jerk response: “Billy Bruton,” the speedster centerfielder. Grandpa turned to his daughter –my mom—and said, “twenty-five guys on the team and his hero has to be a N____r.” I asked mom, “what’s a N____r?” She said she’d tell me later. She never did.

I saw a couple of games the next year and still liked Bruton best. By then I was aware of “race,” probably because there were some black kids in my school and we played ball together during recess. I think the Braves had four black players in 1954: Bill Bruton, Wes Covington, Felix Mantilla and rookie Henry Aaron who joined the team after Bobby Thompson broke an ankle sliding. Aaron replaced Thompson in left field despite having been a shortstop with the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro League and a utility infielder in the Major League Baseball minors.

I’m no expert on the details of Henry Aaron’s baseball career, but I remember following him when I was in grade school. I played shortstop for the Pike, a Lane School recess-league team. We won the school championship in 1955 when I was in fourth grade. I collected baseball cards passionately then and had all the Topps Braves cards in 1956. Then in 1957 Henry Aaron was MVP in the National League and the Braves beat the Yankees to win the World Series. Life gets no better for an 11 year old Braves fan. I didn’t know Warren Spahn and Joe Adcock were using the N word in the Braves clubhouse when Henry was present.

I was in college in Minnesota when the Braves franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966. Henry Aaron wanted to stay in Milwaukee. He was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, and while in the minors he did a stint in the Southern Atlantic League where he was subject to the worst treatment of his life –constant racist taunts, being spit upon and having things thrown at him while on the ball field, and racial harassment off the field. The best ballplayer in the league couldn’t have a meal or stay in a hotel with his teammates. No wonder he didn’t want to move to Atlanta. He had lived with Jim Crow and preferred living in the north. As it turned out, Aaron moved with the team and was part of changing Atlanta during “the city too busy to hate” campaign. He not only helped make Atlanta a big league city with his bat, but he also worked in the Civil Rights movement –with Dr. King and others—to help undo legal racial segregation across the Deep South.

The closer Henry Aaron got to Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record the greater the number of hate letters and death threats he received. His hate mail peaked around 3000 letters per day by the end of the ’73 season; the death threats were highest during the off-season when Aaron was one home run behind the record 714. Obviously, many Babe Ruth fans did not want their hero surpassed by a black man.

About a dozen years ago, paring down my dad’s things as I helped move him to assisted living, I ran across a letter to dad from Henry Aaron. He was thanking dad and said that support from fans like him kept him going. Dad never mentioned writing Aaron or getting a letter back, but he saved Aaron’s letter for over forty years. Dad and I talked about it after my discovery. By then near ninety, he enjoyed the reminder. I framed Aaron’s letter to dad and gave it to my son Ton a few years ago.

p.s. My baseball cards? My folks found them in the mid ‘70s while cleaning out the house, preparing to move. They didn’t toss them out (whew!) but gave them back to me. I have since passed them on to son Ton who, by the way, was eleven when the Twins won the ’87 World Series. Ton’s favorite player was Kirby Puckett, another black outfielder…with a bat.

White Rage

We know what caused the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Yes, the President encouraged the protesters he gathered to support his effort to upend the election results, to “take back America,” to “fight, fight, fight.” President Trump urged domestic terrorism, but he didn’t cause it. The real cause of the violent storming of the Capitol, threatening Vice President Pence and members of Congress, was white rage. Anyone who thinks about it knows that.

First, note that roughly one one one-hundreth of one per cent of Trump’s 74,000,000 voters were among those breaking into the Capitol, probably fewer (I’m guessing that some insurrectionists did not vote at all). The overwhelming number of citizens casting their ballots for Donald Trump supported him for reasons other than those of the white supremacy-driven mob. Most of Trump’s voters preferred him to President Biden because they thought he would be better for the economy, would support the military more strongly, is a political outsider (the Presidency was his first and only attempt at elective office), he speaks his mind and so on. Nearly all of Trump’s voters condemn the violence of January 6 though they may not blame it on Trump.

Why do I say white rage caused the riotous violence? American citizens come in various colors along a spectrum from very dark brown, called “Black,” to very light beige, called “White.” None of us chose the color of our skin, but the color we have has huge implications for how our lives go. Those toward the white end of the skin-color spectrum tend to benefit from being light or white. Benefits decrease gradually as one’s skin gets darker. Those benefitting least are nearly black. White rage arises in various degrees as well, for the most part depending on one’s relative “success” as each of us defines it.

Often, in our consumer society, money is taken to be the measure of success, though relative power, recognition, even personal fulfillment and other measures also come into play. Complicating various measures of success are efforts to level the playing field to make opportunities for success more equal for all, regardless of skin color, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity and other prompts of discrimination. Some individuals resent Affirmative Action and other efforts to foster equal opportunities, again by degrees along a continuum, getting angry with people of color, women and others, as well as with those devising and implementing equal opportunity mechanisms. Sometimes “reverse discrimination” is alleged.

Given that none of us are responsible for our skin color –it’s a genetic product of activities of our parents— where we fall on the benefit scale is arbitrary. The spectrum and resulting advantages and disadvantages are functions of society, not individuals. Racism is real even if there are no racists. Complicating all of this is that in a decade or two people of color will outnumber whites in the US. If there’s truth to what I’m claiming above, none of this bodes well for the racial divide. I think the police homicide of George Floyd, with its huge anti-racism demonstrations world-wide, set the context for the White supremacy backlash at the Capitol on January 6th.

What can be done to soften such collisions? I think most of white America realize that the color of their skin gives them advantages over people of color, especially over Blacks. If Whites could choose the color of their skin I believe it’s unlikely they would choose darker skin and least likely they would choose to be Blacks. This is due to an unexpressed understanding of the relative advantages of being Whites.

Acknowledging skin-color advantage –admitting it to our self– is a good first-step in easing tensions between Whites and people of color, even if that acknowledgement is unspoken. It will help Whites to be more understanding of racial tensions, and such understanding will turn down the heat stoking the racial divide. And it will reduce White rage. Having leaders who do not encourage White supremacy will help too.

Plato on US Politics

A 2,400 Year-old Lesson We Should Learn

Everybody knows philosophy is useless. Philosophers have their heads in the clouds having nothing to do with events on the ground. Parents of university students want their kids to earn MD, JD, or MBA degrees, not a philosophy degree.

I have been teaching philosophy to undergraduates for over forty years. Current events call me back to Plato, the preeminent philosopher of the Western tradition, who lived in the fourth century BCE in Greece. Near the end of his most famous work, his Republic –well beyond where my students (and most readers) stop reading– Plato offers insights that would serve us well were we to take them seriously.

I’m referring to Plato’s description of five types of government: 1) rule by the best, 2) rule by those reputed to be best, 3) rule by the wealthy, 4) rule by democracy, and 5) rule by tyranny. He tells us that each type of government ultimately degenerates into the next, with each failure due to the very characteristics that define the failing government.

The most desirable government, ‘rule by the best,’ requires the most competent leader available, one with a strong sense of fairness and the good judgment needed to implement it. The best are hard to find but clearly serve the advantage of the governed, not themselves.

Unfortunately every government decays with time, even the best. The best leader gets old and dies. Historically it is not uncommon for the leader’s son to inherit rule, though the right to rule sometimes falls to a daughter, an assistant or a friend of the deceased ‘best’ ruler.

Rule by the best degenerates into rule by reputation. The new leader’s authority comes not by competence, fairness and good judgment, but by having been related to or associated with the best.

Of course rule by reputation deteriorates as well, this time into rule by the wealthy. How? Someone with enough money comes along and creates a reputation by purchase, that is, by buying and gaining influence simply by using wealth.

Rule by wealth deteriorates as well. The rich neglect the poor, the wealth gap widens and common people finally rise up against the wealthy few in charge. Democracy –rule by the people— emerges.

Plato tells us that democracy is the most beautiful form of government. Anyone can rule if elected and those who want no part of rule can avoid it. Freedom is the hallmark of democracy, and freedom is its undoing as well. Demagogues talk their way into office by convincing enough voters. They become autocratic tyrants by abusing their power, helping their friends and hurting their enemies, and by abandoning anyone who dares to disagree with them, even former friends and allies.

Descending from the clouds to the ground, we can apply Plato’s insights to our current situation. Who would suggest that our leadership is the best we can get out of three hundred and thirty million people? Our leader isn’t even second best, having no relationship to a former leader who may have been better. Third best? Maybe, given our leader’s alleged wealth. But the freedom of using wealth to secure power in our democracy has led to its decline. Democracy and its freedoms have descended into autocratic rule, that is, into tyranny. We have completed the descent. We can sink no lower.

Maybe philosophy isn’t useless after all.

Remembering Nancy J. Holland

Dr. Nancy Holland, Professor of Philosophy Emerita at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, was born on September 3, 1947, and died peacefully January 25, 2020, two years after her cancer diagnosis. She said she was not in pain through her months of treatment. She kept reading, enjoyed time with her family and friends, and worked to outline two fantasy novels she didn’t live to finish. Nancy is survived by her husband Jeffery Koon, daughter Gwendolyn Koon, and son Justus Koon.

I met Nancy Holland during her interview at a Boston meeting of the American Philosophical Association in1980. She was one of nine candidates being interviewed for a position in the Philosophy Department at Hamline University. I was Chair of the department at that time and consequently chaired the hiring committee of two: my senior colleague, Joseph Uemura, and myself. The two of us constituted the department from 1976 through 1980 and were pleased to be authorized to hire a third philosopher, and for a tenure track position.

Our search process was for each of us to read half of the applicant dossiers, that is, we each read 151 files (we had 302 candidates in the fall of 1980, three-fourths of them fully qualified). We each kept a list of those we would like to interview at the upcoming APA meeting. We then swapped files and each of us read the other 151 dossiers. We compared lists. I think Joe came up with fifteen; I had twelve. We had nine candidates in common, so we interviewed them. With her BA from Stanford and PhD from UC Berkeley –her dissertation with Bert Dreyfus and involving John Searle—Nancy’s application quickly rose to the top. After interviews we invited our top three candidates for two-day campus visits. We offered the position to Dr. Holland. To our good fortune, she accepted our offer…and she stayed for thirty-six years.

Joe Uemura was an Aristotelian with interests in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and the history of philosophy. My interests were Plato, ethics and aesthetics. We were looking to diversify the department. Nancy brought phenomenology, existentialism, deconstruction and feminism. Who could ask for more?

As it turns out, Nancy brought something else, something badly needed not only in the philosophy department but across the College of Liberal Arts as well. She brought a presumption that every academic anywhere must do serious scholarship, that is, present work at professional conferences, publish in refereed journals, work on books, all while teaching, advising, serving on committees, and, oh yes, raising a family. Her expectation of serious scholarship –for herself and every colleague on campus—may have been her greatest gift to the institution. She set the bar high. Her modeling of professional work beyond the campus supported, encouraged, and inspired so many of us that conference presentations, research, and published material of the college faculty grew quickly in quality and quantity.

Professor Holland’s major works include Heidegger and the Problem of Consciousness (2018), Ontological Humility: Lord Voldemort and the Philosophers (2013), Feminist Interpretations of Martin Heidegger (2001), The Madwoman’s Reason: The Concept of the Appropriate in Ethical Thought (1998), and Is Women’s Philosophy Possible (1990).

I could recite items from Nancy’s personnel file: her awards for teaching excellence and for scholarship, her service on faculty committees, often as Chair, her role in creating our women’s studies program and the importance of her leadership in developing our social justice major. And then there’s her professional leadership off campus with the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP), the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), and the American Philosophical Association. Of course there’s more.

Rather than go further with professional accolades, let me say that Nancy was a superb colleague. She did whatever was needed in the department, and she did so at high quality, on time, and without complaint. Sure, Nancy was criticized along the way. Several faculty members rolled their eyes when she took the floor at faculty meetings to correct, and make more precise, minutes from previous meetings. In fact more than one faculty colleague took me aside asking me to counsel her to cease and desist on précising minutes; such behavior might impact a tenure committee negatively. That was in her early years. She soon learned that no one took minutes of faculty meetings very seriously.

I will close on a more personal note. Nancy was a good friend, one that could be trusted. She kept confidential matters to herself, tried to damp-down gossip, and she avoided the inevitable campus cliques. She was always frank, a rare trait among academics in my experience, and Nancy had principles by which she lived and worked, another trait seldom encountered…anywhere. Her sparkling but very dry sense of humor would demand that I quit now, before I gush. Thanks Nancy. You are missed and will be for many years

Duane L. Cady
Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
Hamline University

Reparations Considered

Reparations Considered

Now that reparations have entered the 2020 presidential campaign, it’s time to have a serious look at who, what, and why. What about when and where? When has been put off for hundreds of years already, so don’t hold your breath. Where? Here, in the US.

The notion of reparations has been cycling politically since the Emancipation Proclamation and before. What might reparations look like for descendents of slaves and descendents of American Indians? (I follow AIM with the latter name.)

The United Nations has a protocol for redressing human rights abuses against groups by governments or individuals. It calls for meeting five conditions to achieve full reparations:

  1. The abusing party must acknowledge the abuse and restore victims to their pre-abuse situation;
  2. Compensation must be offered to abuse victims. This may take the form of increased opportunities, goods, services, financial transaction, etc.;
  3. Abusers must provide rehabilitation for the abused;
  4. Those abused must express their satisfaction that the above conditions have been met; and
  5. Abusers must offer a guarantee of non-repetition of the abuse.

Many Americans believe reparations consist only of cash payments, and they reject such governmental action saying, “I didn’t own slaves” and “I didn’t steal Indians’ land.” “I wasn’t even born when those abuses took place and neither were the descendents of slaves nor the descendents of displaced American Indians.” “Since I didn’t abuse them, nor has our current government, why would anything be owed to them?”

Many of us forget that all Americans have benefitted from abuse of slaves and Indians. For example, the US Capitol, other federal and state buildings, roads, bridges, and more were built by slaves. The benefits to all citizens continue to this day. Regarding the case of American Indians, land acquired by homesteaders wasn’t the government’s to give away, yet it provided stability to families whose descendents continue to benefit.

President George Washington, “the father of our country,” and President Thomas Jefferson, author of several founding documents of our country, owned and abused slaves. Jefferson had frequent sexual relations with slaves yet provided for his white offspring very differently than for his children born of women he owned.

American Indians were not bought and sold as property in the same ways as were African American slaves, but their displacement and abuse is well known. As descendents of ancestors pushed to poorer and poorer land, they continue to be left out of American equality and prosperity.

We Americans need to acknowledge the history of our own country and better understand our nation’s role in exploitation and abuse in ways that constitute human Rights violations. And we need to accept responsibility as a nation for redressing human rights violations committed against African-American slaves and American Indians. We need to acknowledge abuse and accept responsibility not only for victims but for our own sake, to begin healing from moral injury, the hurt brought on ourselves by being complicit with wrongdoing.

Rather than react to suggestions of reparations with anger born of ignorance, all of us will be well served by understanding what constitutes reparations, and by reflecting on how our ancestors and we have benefitted from historic abuse of African-American slaves and American Indians.

Why Environmentalists Must Be Pacifists

Concerned Philosophers for Peace session
American Philosophical Association, Savanna, GA
January 4, 2018

Warism is taking war for granted as morally justifiable. It is an attitude, an assumed value position, a perspective through which the world, including relations of nations are understood. Warism strikes me as the primary obstacle to building a more peaceful world. While token efforts to justify particular uses of violence are routinely offered by government leaders and others, rarely does it occur to anyone that the institution of war – the persistence of nations constantly preparing for, practicing, threatening, and engaging in mass violence – itself needs moral examination. War is simply what nations do, and they devote much of their energy and too much of their resources to doing war well. Moral justifications for particular acts of war are offered, but war itself is simply taken for granted as morally justified, even morally required. The vast majority of people see the world through warist lenses.

Environmentalism is a perspective, outlook, or attitude as well. Environmentalists take nature to be of the highest value and are committed to minimizing human impact on nature, to maximizing sustainable and environment-friendly policies and practices, and to preserving the gifts of nature for future generations, human and non-human species. Just as with warism, there are varieties and degrees of environmentalism, but always environmentalists work to save nature from human degradation.

Warism and environmentalism are inextricably related. Taking war for granted is at odds with maximizing sustainable and environmentally friendly policies and practices. A generation ago, while offering a typology of positions on morality and war, I followed the lead of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic and identified “ecological pacifism,” where moral concern goes beyond human immorality to fellow humans and considers wrong done to nature. Grounding moral opposition to war on likely consequences, the ecological pacifist shifts the focus from impact on humanity to impact on the environment. It’s bad enough that humans should kill one another; it’s worse that they should risk the extinction of the human species along with culture, other animal and plant species, and even life itself. This is what Jonathan Schell calls the “second death,” the extinction of a type of being beyond the death of a particular being. Aldo Leopold expresses the environmentalist value in terms of his land ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it does otherwise.” The concern is not merely that humans suffer when the environment is abused, but that the environment itself has value beyond its usefulness to humans. Increasing awareness of our environment, its fragility, complexity, interdependency, and the likely irreversible environmental damage of war, all contribute to the case for ecological pacifism.

Conceptually, what have warism and environmentalism to do with one another? As it turns out, it is not possible to be anti-warist without being environmentalist, and one can’t be an environmentalist without becoming anti-warist. How so? For one thing, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) is the world’s single largest consumer of energy. Ninety-three percent of US Government energy consumption is military (Air Force 52%; Navy 33%; Army 7%). Energy consumption includes 30,000 gigawatt hours of electricity valued at $2.2 billion, enough to power 2.6 million average American homes. The DoD uses four billion six hundred million (4,600,000,000) US gallons (1.7 x 10 to the tenth liters) of fossil fuel annually, 12,600,000 US gallons per day. This data is from 2014; no doubt the numbers have increased since then. If the US Military were a country, fuel consumption would rank 34th, just behind Sweden.

To put this data in perspective, General Patton’s army in World War II consisted of 400,000 GIs and consumed 400,000 gallons of gasoline per day. In Iraq in 2005 we had one-third as many troops but consumed four times the fuel. Today’s B52 bombers each consume 3,300 US gallons per hour and a single F16 fighter uses 800 US gallons per hour. War and the tools of war consume more fuel than ever before, and consumption continues to increase. What’s more, according to Christopher Helman in Forbes magazine, “For the US military, more oil means more death.” And it is very expensive. While ordinary Americans pay $2.00-$4.00 per gallon for gasoline, US taxpayers pay $45.00 per gallon to purchase, deliver, and protect fossil fuels supplied to our military in war zones. This data, the most recent I could find, is more than eight years old. I fear that matters are now worse; although the relatively cheap fossil fuel of late has reduced expense, I suspect fuel consumption is up compared with eight years ago. And certainly the environmental cost is more significant than the financial cost.

The environmental impact of fossil fuel consumption is immense. While former Vice President Gore’s book and film, Inconvienent Truth, rightly call attention to the environmental crisis provoked by US fossil fuel consumption and ask all of us to reduce our carbon footprints (ironically, even peace and nature-minded philosophers fly or drive to conferences, even those focusing on the environment), yet the considerably more inconvenient truth – namely the role of our government and military in exacerbating the fuel crisis and resulting in serious environmental crisis – is downplayed while individuals are called to cut back on personal fuel consumption. The US is definitely a culture of individualism, but this problem is systemic.

Over twenty years ago I attended an environmentally-focused COPRED conference at the University of Denver. At a plenary session with a panel of experts and five-hundred attendees, an elderly gentleman chided the panelists from the back of the audience saying “Look at you hypocrites! You talk about protecting the environment but you sit here drinking water from Styrofoam cups!” The Director of the Colorado Environmental Protection Agency happened to be on the panel. His response: “You are misdirecting your criticism. We panelists are guests of the University. Whether any or all of us refuse to drink from Styrofoam cups would have a negligible impact on the environment. If you are serious in your criticism, you should direct your attention the University and ask policy makers to quit using Styrofoam, or lobby for Styrofoam restrictions with the city of Denver or the state of Colorado. The problem is systemic, but your objection is individual” (emphasis belongs to the speaker). I take some comfort in remembering this experience when my carbon-footprint-obsessed friends give me a hard time for flying to conferences or to visit my grandkids. My response to such criticism is to remind critics that the planes will fly whether I’m on them or not, that I favor high-speed trains to replace flight for domestic travel, and that I’ll be concerned about my personal carbon footprint when the US military reduces its carbon footprint since mine is nearly insignificant in comparison to theirs (which is exponentially bigger than mine).

The inextricable connection between the military and the environment doesn’t stop with fossil fuel consumption. The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest producer of toxic waste and of toxic waste sites in need of clean-up as well. According to Bob Feldman in War on Earth, the US military generates 750,000 tons of toxic waste annually, more than the five largest US chemical companies combined, making the US military the world’s largest polluter. And this provides another inextricable link, this one between warism, environmentalism, and racism, since most toxic waste sites are on native American reservations or in major metropolitan areas typically among the urban poor who, in our country, tend to be people of color. What has come to be called “environmental racism” is, in fact, typically warist-based: by this I mean that environmental racism tends to be driven by warism. As long as the majority of Americans and the overwhelming majority of corporate and government leaders are warists, that is, take war for granted as morally justifiable and even morally required, so long will environmental degradation and with it environmental racism continue apace. This is because once war is considered justifiable, even required, then there is no price too high, financially or environmentally, to assure the security of national interests whatever and wherever they may be. How did JFK put it more than fifty years ago? “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” While these are cherished and inspiring words, surely they are dangerous encouragements to warism with disastrous consequences for human life and the environment.

Nine hundred of the Environmental Protection Agency’s thirteen-hundred Superfund sites are abandoned military bases or sites of military industrial manufacturing or testing. In 2008-09 the President’s Cancer Panel reported that half-a-million people may have consumed perchlorate-solvent-contaminated drinking water around US Marine Corps Camp Le Jeune in North Carolina between the late 1950s and the mid 1980s, perhaps helping to account for higher than usual rates of cancer, miscarriages, and birth defects in the area. Twelve thousand US military live-explosive training sites release perchlorate into ground water. It is highly mobile and persists for decades. All types of baby formula are contaminated and perchlorate is not unusual in breast milk and urine throughout the US. Over half of all foods tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contain perchlorate.

The US Navy had a major explosives training facility on Vieques island in Puerto Rico for fifty-five years, withdrawing in 2003 under pressure from peace and environmental Non Government Organizations (NGOs) with the Fellowship of Reconciliation playing a leadership role. Those living on Vieques have a 27% higher rate of cancer and twice the risk of their children dying of cancer when compared with other Puerto Ricans. The abandoned training facility became a wildlife refuge, perhaps for political reasons and to spare the Navy the trouble and expense of cleaning up the site. Perhaps you’ve seen or heard recent television commercials encouraging travel to Vieques; their pitch is, irony upon irony, “environmental tourism.” Vieques became a wildlife refuge after its more than five decades as an explosives training facility – i.e., target practice firing range – largely because the task of environmental cleanup required to redevelop the island for housing or commercial use was staggering both financially and physically.

In the US there are 27,000 toxic hot spots on 8,500 military properties. Setting aside the exposure to military veterans and turning to people living within two miles of US toxic waste sites, the majority are people of color. According to the Commission for Racial Justice, African Americans are 79% more likely than whites to live near industrial pollution, and half of all native Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites, many of them military-related. Children of color living in poor areas are nine times more likely than economically privileged children to be exposed to lead levels high enough to cause learning disabilities and neurologic disorders. Ninety-six per cent of African American children living in innercities have unsafe amounts of lead in their blood.

I probably should apologize for including so much data in this paper; after all, facts are not often used in philosophical argumentation. I include these startling numbers because such data are so rarely cited and not part of general awareness nor involved in our cultural understandings of and discussions about protecting our natural environment. It may well be naïve on my part, but it seems that if such data were more widely known, conversations about the natural environment would more often include criticisms of war, weapons production, fuel consumption, and the inevitable toxic waste sites generated.

Somehow we separate moral considerations of the natural environment from moral considerations of war and preparation for war. My point is that these two sets of moral concerns cannot be teased apart; no matter how hard we try, they are inextricably entangled. We can address our environmental concerns only by engaging concerns about war and preparation for war, and we can address our concerns about war only by considering the inevitable environmental implications.

The argument here is simple and the conclusion unavoidable: if we care for the health and sustainability of Earth, then we have no choice but to oppose war and preparation for war, that is, we must become ecological pacifists. I understand that this is a very big, very bold “if.” I understand the logic of counterfactual conditionals. Were a public opinion poll to be taken pitting environmental values against military values (euphemistically called “national security” by mainstream media and consequently influencing public opinion), I suspect the military would gain more support than our natural environment. But, were pollsters to avoid emotively loaded euphemisms, poll results might be closer. I believe the gap has been closing on such comparisons over the past couple of generations; I only hope our planet can recover the damage already done when the scales finally tip in its favor.

It’s a pity that more of us don’t seem to care sufficiently about the health and sustainability of our natural environment –our home— so as to make the connections between our persistent preparations for and execution of war and their implications for our natural surroundings. We (i.e., the US) constantly prepare for and execute war as a matter of course and with greater frequency, intensity, and excess than any other nation on Earth does or ever has done. This is all the more reason for me to attempt directing attention to the above data and their implications. At this point I can only reiterate: if we care about the future and sustainability of our planet, then we must become pacifists, ecological pacifists at the very least. It will not solve all environmental concerns nor will it eliminate warism and war, but it is a step in the right direction.

Duane L. Cady
Hamline University
St. Paul, MN, USA

Eradicating Warism, Our Most Dangerous Disease

Eradicating Warism: Our Most Dangerous Disease*
by Duane L. Cady

“Ki mai koe a au, he ahate mea nui o te, He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!”
(“If you ask what is the most important thing in the world, it is the people! The People! The People!”)
–Maori saying

Given the many problems in the world, given the violent track record of the United States of America since World War II, and given the current reckless leadership in the U.S., you may be wondering ‘why have an American speak at a conference on pacifism and public policy, much less give a keynote address?’ After all, the U.S. has more military personnel on foreign soil than any other nation, the U.S. leads all nations in international arms sales (making dangerous people ever more dangerous), and the U.S spends more of its resources for weapons and war than any other nation…by a factor of four.  (Wikipedia)

Mine is a violent country domestically as well. Americans love chanting “we’re number one,” “we’re number one,” “we’re number one.” Well…we are number one in domestic gun deaths year after year, and this by powers of ten.

The rate of gun deaths in the US is five times that of Canada, ten times that of New Zealand, and more than forty times that of the United Kingdom. Our national motto was “E pluribus unum” – out of many, one – for more than 150 years; it was changed to “In God we trust” in the 1950s when the Cold War was on the rise. Were our national motto to be descriptively accurate it would be “in violence we trust.” As Martin Luther King Jr. put it in 1967, “America is the most violent country on earth.” There is little doubt but that he would reiterate this observation were he still with us today. How, then, can an American, of all people, say anything helpful about pacifism?

Perhaps there is something to be said for observing our violent world from “within the belly of the beast.” After all, it was this context of American violence that produced Martin Luther King, Jr., arguably the most significant contributor to pacifist theory and practice since Gandhi’s death in 1948. Dr. King began his experiments with truth –appropriating Gandhian ahimsa (nonviolence) to the case of lawful racial separation in the United States in the 1950s in Montgomery, Alabama– and extending his use of nonviolent direct action both to oppose the U.S. war in Vietnam and to challenge national policy on poverty, the causes King was consumed with at the time of his murder April 4,1968. In “Ending the Silence,” a major address one year to the day before his death, King identified the “giant triplets” which he regarded as the dominant values in America: racism, materialism, and militarism. He saw these three to be inextricably bound together. Addressing any of the three effectively requires addressing all of them. In his last and most radical book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, King extends his critique beyond the United States to make it global with his metaphor of the “world house.” Our world has shrunk to the point that all human beings are neighbors, better, housemates. If we fail to get along, we will fail to survive. As King himself put it, “we must learn to live together or we will be forced to perish as fools.” In what follows, I see myself as working in the tradition of Gandhi and King, attempting to work out the implications of pacifism as it is applied to domestic and international relations.

* * *

The challenge of this conference is rethinking pacifism. Why? Because it is dismissed by dominant culture, embraced by few individuals, and not as effective as we would like it to be regarding public policy. Again, Why?

My thesis is that three obstacles to pacifism are reflected in conventional wisdom: 1) warism – that is, taking war for granted as normal, natural, morally acceptable, and even morally required; 2) pacifism is stereotyped as a moral extreme, an absolute easily dismissed as unrealistic, naïve idealism; and 3) pacifism is seen to be negative, that is, anti-war but nothing more. My task is to remove these obstacles to taking pacifism seriously.

When warism –taking war for granted as morally acceptable—is recognized to be, like racism and sexism, a prejudice that distorts our better judgment, then we can try to set this bias aside and openly consider varieties of pacifism. Warism is the condition that makes possible the other obstacles to taking pacifism seriously, stereotyping it as extreme and as wholly negative.

“Pacifism” means peacemaking. It should not be mistaken for “passivism,” which means being passive, suffering acceptance, not resisting evil. Because the two words sound alike, people often confuse one for the other. In fact, pacifists rarely are passivists; more often they are activists, working for peace.

Pacifism takes many forms, all of them opposing war and other forms of violence. Beyond this negative position of being against war, pacifism involves various positive strategies for making peace. So, there are two sides of pacifism: the negative, anti-war, anti-violence side, and the positive side, offering peaceful alternatives to violence.

While pacifists are dismissed as naïve by a dominant culture that caricatures pacifism as a moral extreme, in fact pacifism grows out of the predominant values of Western culture. Over the past 1,500 years a just war tradition has been developed by scholars and strategists and is accepted by the vast majority of people. Those believing that just war is possible do not say “all’s fair in war” or “in war, anything goes.” Such a view would be war realism. But those believing in just war have ethical criteria guiding their decisions about war. According to the tradition, moral guidelines are needed to answer two basic questions: when are we justified in going to war? And, what moral restraints are required within a just war?

Regarding the first question, going to war requires meeting six conditions: 1) the war must be made on behalf of a just cause; 2) any decision to go to war must be made by proper authorities; 3) participants in war must have a good intention rather than revenge or greed as goals; 4) peace must be likely to emerge after the war; 5) going to war must be a last resort; and 6) the total amount of evil resulting from making war must be outweighed by the good likely to come of it. Once all six conditions are satisfied we can turn to the second question: what moral restraints make possible fighting a war justly?
There are two principles to meet in order to fight a war justly: discrimination and proportionality. First, a war is fought justly only if those making war discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate targets. Children, the elderly, those hospitalized or in nursing homes, even ordinary citizens not part of the war effort, all are illegitimate targets. Only soldiers and those working to advance war making can be targeted. The second standard, proportionality, requires that the evil of each individual act within war must be offset by the good it brings about. Those supporting just war allow for “spillage,” where bombs may target weapons factories or enemy soldiers but inadvertently injure or kill non-combatants. But, again, such so-called “collateral damage” must be offset by the good accomplished by the war.

For a war to be just, it must meet all the conditions and answer both questions. Meeting just a few of the conditions is not enough. Just wars require moral justification for going to war as well as moral restraint within war once it begins. War would be less problematic if those who believe in just war would understand and satisfy the moral conditions of their own tradition.

Pacifism emerges as people take the moral restraints on war ever more seriously. Varieties of pacifism differ by degree. It is helpful to understand various forms of pacifism by thinking of degrees of moral restraint along a continuum between accepting the just war tradition and accepting absolute pacifism.
The weakest form of pacifism, operating alongside versions of just war thinking, is called “pragmatic pacifism.” Here war is not opposed in principle but is opposed in particular cases because violence is not likely to work in the situation at hand; resorting to violence would only make matters worse. Pragmatic pacifists sometimes support and other times oppose war, depending on their judgment concerning the most practical solution to the problem at hand. Pragmatic pacifists will grant that war can be justified in some cases, but hold that, as a matter of practical utility, avoiding war is more likely to be effective in achieving the goals of a given conflict. For example, one might find slavery sufficiently evil to warrant war to free the enslaved, or might think that violence would only give slave owners an excuse to use extreme violence against any freedom movement among slaves.

A somewhat stronger view along the pacifist spectrum is “nuclear pacifism.” Here nuclear war is prohibited because it cannot meet the just war conditions of discrimination and proportionality. There is no way to hit only legitimate targets with nuclear weapons. They are inherently indiscriminate, destroying children, the elderly, hospitals and homes as readily as military installations and weapons factories. And nuclear war is never a pragmatic solution. Nuclear pacifists often reject the nuclear option on moral grounds yet cling to conventional warfare as sometimes justifiable.

This brings us to “technological pacifism,” the view that the technology of modern war has made conventional warfare nearly as indiscriminate as nuclear war, so that the just war requirements are never met now days due to the inevitable impact on innocents. Modern conventional war frequently spills over to harm more innocent bystanders than legitimate military targets. Perhaps war was justified many years ago when volunteers met on remote battlefields with spears, but war as we know it today is simply too big and too difficult to control. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century most casualties of war were military, but by the end of the Twentieth Century most casualties of war were civilian. If we rigorously enforce the just war guidelines, modern war doesn’t qualify as just since modern war inevitably violates the principles both of proportionality and discrimination. Even on the smaller scale of drone warfare, the principle of discrimination is routinely violated as innocent bystanders are injured and killed in numbers well beyond the injuries and deaths of “terrorists” or other allegedly legitimate targets. The nature of modern war has made the idea of just war obsolete.

Increasing awareness of the fragility of our environment has also resulted in “ecological pacifism,” a version of technological pacifism where moral concern goes beyond the impact of war on people and society to focus on the implications of war for our planet, its ecosystems, and the host of species they support, as well as for the sustainability of air and water quality for current and future generations of all living things. Ecological pacifists point out that the largest single threat to the global environment is military, not least because Earth’s military systems are the greatest sources of environmental contamination, including consuming the most fossil fuel. While individuals worry about their personal carbon footprints, their taxes support carbon footprints made by militaries which contribute to environmental damage exponentially beyond the impact of individuals. If preserving or restoring our environment is a concern, then curbing the pollution and consumption by the world’s military organizations must be paramount. Such concern often leads to ecological pacifism.

“Fallibility pacifism” is the view that even if some modern wars could meet the just war conditions in principle, our knowledge is too limited to substantiate their application in fact. Due to the sheer scale of war, we cannot know relevant factors with sufficient confidence to warrant violent actions between nations. Given the subtlety and complexity of issues, the history of tensions, biases of involved parties, propaganda, vested interests, manipulation of news media, and the various inequalities among nations – economic, political, military, geographical – our knowledge cannot be sufficiently secure to justify war, even if war might otherwise seem theoretically justifiable.

“Collectivist pacifism” is the position that violence may be morally justifiable in particular small-scale situations, such as in the execution of a convicted murderer, or fending off a violent attacker by force, but that war cannot be justified due to its sheer magnitude. For instance, although collective pacifists always object to the mass killing that characterizes war, they may allow defensive interpersonal violence when an individual does something so evil that by so doing they thereby forgo any legitimate expectation of the upholding of their human right to be protected from violence themselves. There is no inconsistency in the collectivist pacifist allowing interpersonal violence but rejecting war, since using personal weapons to defend one’s self or one’s family from attack is sufficiently different from participating in war, with its mass violence and enemy anonymity.

Finally as we describe the range of anti-war pacifist positions we approach “absolute pacifism.” On this position it is wrong always, everywhere, for everyone to use violence against another living thing. We can imagine even more absolute pacifisms, where all violence including violence against non-living things is prohibited. Few if any pacifists espouse such an extreme view. Even Gandhi said that if the choice were between violence and cowardice, he would choose violence. The point is that pacifism admits to degrees along a continuum between pragmatic and absolute pacifism, and that most of us find ourselves somewhere between the extremes of the scale.

Having described the range of anti-war pacifism and thus setting aside the accusation that all pacifists hold a single, monolithic, absolute view, we can now turn to the accusation that pacifism is always and only negative. Pacifists do not merely oppose war and violence to varying degrees; they also promote a range of alternatives to violence, a range of practices contributing to positive peace. By “peace” they mean not just the absence of war and violence but the presence of harmonious and cooperative social order. This order arises from among participants rather than being imposed on them from the outside. Positive peace is caricaturized by cooperation within groups. The Cold War was well named: “cold” because overt violence (e.g., bombing and other killing) was avoided; yet “war” because relations were deeply strained, and overt violence seemed to be held at bay only by each side threatening the other with annihilation. The uneasy lack of overt violence in Eastern Europe from the close of world war two until the collapse of the USSR was negative peace at best. By contrast, positive peace involves no threats, no massing of troops or weapons, no coercive force.

Pacifism – literally agreement making (from the Latin pax , peace + facere, building) – happens when a sense of community, shared purpose, and mutual interest all prevail over divisiveness, opposing purposes, and disunity. This is why people of common heritage, shared values, and familiar experiences usually find it easier to be at peace with one another than with those of different traditions, religions, cultures, or ethnicities. Getting along by self-control from within groups comes more naturally when groups are, or seem to be, more alike than foreign. But whether they are as large as nations or as small as nuclear families, when groups or their members are at odds with one another, tension and conflict inevitably arise. For pacifists, the better people understand one another the less likely their conflicts will result in violence. The challenge is to foster a sense of community, of participation, sufficiently strong to overcome divisiveness, differences, and misunderstandings. This harmonious ideal is anchored by a spirit of tolerance and respect, where differences are seen as enhancing possibilities for human experience rather than as threats that must be dominated or destroyed. Pacifists try to internalize practices to foster within themselves –and within their families, neighborhoods, houses of worship, workplaces, states, nations, and so on– the ideal of cooperative community. Such practices are nonviolent because violence always ruptures relationships – the basis of community – and because violence is incompatible with an internally ordered peaceful whole.

All of us succeed at living peacefully to some extent, in any context dependent on cooperative behavior: perhaps with immediate family, close friends, co-workers, team members, neighbors, customers, or even drivers with whom we share the roadways. One of the fascinating features of positive peace, when it happens, is that it rarely occurs to those living peacefully that it is peace they are making; it is simply how they live and interact, habitual and taken for granted. Positive peace is nearly invisible. Unfortunately, there are limits to our peacefulness, and few of us can take cooperation for granted as how we can interact with everyone. Ignorance, fear, impatience, intolerance, all get the upper hand at times, and some individuals are disruptively self-interested, putting themselves above others, or are even bigoted and disrespectful. In the extreme this becomes criminal behavior, and those who rupture the peace must be dealt with. The mark of truly peaceful people is whether their methods of dealing with peace-breakers are consistent with their visions of peace.

Of course the most obvious peaceful method to resolve conflict and achieve agreement is discussion. Where individuals and groups cannot work out agreement by discussion, resolution may be achieved by appeal to an impartial third party. When such arbitration fails, courts may be used to settle disputes. But some conflicts do not get resolution by various legal means.

I cannot delineate all methods of nonviolent peace-building here, but in The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1971), Gene Sharp cites nearly two hundred techniques. All are ways to confront power nonviolently by taking advantage of power’s main vulnerability: that ruling requires the consent of the ruled, a fundamental principle from Gandhi. Beyond discussion, arbitration, and the courts, are political protest and persuasion – acts demonstrating support or opposition. Personal and group letters, lobbying, petitioning, picketing, wearing symbols, marching, singing, and teach-ins, all are examples of this level of nonviolent struggle. Beyond protest and persuasion are methods of noncooperation: strikes, boycotts, slow-downs, withholding funds, reporting in ‘sick,’ walkouts, and embargos. Moving beyond noncooperation are methods of nonviolent intervention: sit-ins, fasting, forming shadow governments, underground newspapers and electronic media, and acts of civil disobedience. All of these methods of nonviolent direct action can be seen as acts along a spectrum expressing increasing degrees of physical confrontation, from cooperative discussion to nonviolent intervention. Just as pacifists may occupy any point along the anti-war continuum, they may inhabit any point on the positive peace-building spectrum. The next step would be violent intervention, which is outside the pacifist range of peace-building options. For the pacifist, leaving the nonviolent range of peace-building techniques is tantamount to surrender because it amounts to betraying one’s ideals in pursuit of them. But perhaps this is too quick; after all, there are legitimate versions of pacifism where a small scale, personal resort to violence, while never desired, can be warranted – such as force used by police to apprehend a criminal for trial. Still, no pacifist can resort to war.

When warism is recognized and taking war for granted is challenged, a variety of pacifist positions become possible. And, as it turns out, pacifism is not naïve or unrealistic at all. In fact, all of us are pacifists to some degree, since all of us oppose violence as a means of interaction in many aspects of our lives. Building on this active nonviolence can expand our capacity for peace-building and make us increasingly wary of war as a solution to conflict.

This brings us back to warism, which I consider the major obstacle to a more peaceful world. Warism is the view that war is morally justifiable in principle and often morally justified in fact. War is considered to be a natural and normal activity of nations. War is simply what nations do. It seems so obvious to most people that war is morally acceptable that they don’t realize it is war they are assuming. Warism is like racism or sexism: a prejudicial bias built into conceptions and judgments without awareness that it is presupposed. Given the prevalence of warism, national focus tends to be on making war effectively or allying with nations who do.

Warism is like an international epidemic. It threatens our very survival because it supports the prevailing means of organizing our world, namely, the war system. Warism is especially insidious because it is nearly invisible behind our building, maintaining, and ever expanding the means of war. Some of us condemn the practices of weapons production, conducting foreign policy by way of military threats –and actions– and devoting growing percentages of national resources to war making. But condemning warism is like condemning cancer; it doesn’t do much good. We have yet to discover ways of exposing and eradicating the sickness that is warism. This would clear the way to replacing the war system.

Racism and sexism have been drastically reduced because they were exposed, dragged out of hiding, and made to be seen for what they are: prejudicial biases that distort our judgments, pervert our values, and mislead us into thinking we know when we do not. Warism is similarly invisible, behind our thoughts and actions, shaping and distorting our perspectives and thus our behavior. Central to exposing warism is shining a light on it, pointing it out, revealing the role it plays behind decisions public and private. Exposing warism is especially difficult because warism is so widely held.

Exposing warism by pointing it out, by bringing it to light, is made especially difficult by the increasing control governments place on the media when it comes to war. During World War II reporters had broad access to soldiers on front lines, often at personal risk. By the US war in Vietnam twenty years later, political considerations began to control media access to troops in action. Government control of media coverage of flag-draped caskets containing remains of soldiers killed in action increased after the Vietnam war, again to thwart opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ownership of the bulk of large media outlets by relatively few multinational corporations contributes to the difficulty as well. Nonetheless good work is done. I’m thinking of rare reporting of US torture in Iraq and the relationship between torture and converting Middle-Eastern citizens into terrorists, of civilian casualties of the US drone warfare program, and of work like that of Nicky Hager here in New Zealand, exposing a US/NZ atrocity in Afghanistan along with government cover up. Such reporting of the truth of war and how it is fought today, reporting without misinformation or cover up, helps to shift the wider culture away from the prevalent warist paradigm. But we need such work to be common rather than rare. This is made especially difficult in an era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Sadly, there is no easy or quick fix to the broad cultural addiction to war and the war system that organizes our world. But resisting stereotypes of pacifism by showing the range of pacifist views, demonstrating the positive aspects of pacifism, and exposing the warism behind our values and political decisions all are conditions for taking pacifism seriously. Until we do, our global future promises more violence, more killing, more war. The choice is not merely between war and peace; it is between war and survival. Only a transformation from warism to pacifism can help us to build a sustainable future. If we are to have a long-term future we have no choice but to embrace pacifism.

Eradicating Warism: Our Most Dangerous Disease*
by Duane L. Cady