Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#117 Little Faith and Big Change

Why should an announcement about a peace agreement in the Philippines make my heart beat a little faster?

I remember sitting at our kitchen table years ago with an old friend, David Hartsough, who was sharing another one of his visionary ideas:  create a global nonviolent peacekeeping force of unarmed civilians.  I was blown away by his breathtaking boldness.  How does anybody get the idea that they can make ideas of such magnitude a reality?  But I did what I could to be supportive and gather resource around, playing a bit part on the fringes of the project, wholeheartedly wishing the Nonviolent Peaceforce well.

I cheered the first small signs of support for NP in the EU and the UN, wondered about the choice of Sri Lanka as the first site, hoped for big successes there, played a small role in the development of a peacekeepers training manual, worried about the amount of money that was needed to make the project viable, followed the discussion of where to expand, fretted about the challenges in the Philippines with a seemingly-intractable civil war on the island of Mindanao , rejoiced over small successes in South Sudan—always wondering if NP could ever be more than just another well-intentioned little project, a small voice of reason lost amid the raging storms of war.

It was heartening to read of rival tribal leaders in South Sudan all demanding that NP continue its presence there (actually threatening harm if they pulled out!) because of their role in dramatically reducing intertribal violence.  Here was yet more confirmation that nonviolent peacemaking works.  Yet I had caught on to what might be possible, and longed for more.  I discovered that I had become deeply invested in that original vision—global nonviolent peacemaking as a force to be reckoned with.

When I read an item in the newspaper about the peace agreement in the Philippines, its significance didn’t quite register.  But then I got the back-story from a longer article forwarded by the Nonviolent Peaceforce.  It was a revelation.  Not only had a peace agreement been signed—making an immediate difference for everybody on the island of Mindanao who had suffered years of civil war—but NP had been invited to be an official part of the monitoring process.  Their years of patient peacemaking work on the ground, building trust with parties on both sides of the conflict, holding out an expectation that civilians would be treated well, had paid off.  Not only did their work help create the conditions for talks, but it dramatically increased the likelihood that the peace would last.

This time, for the very first time in modern history, the powers-that-be didn’t call in soldiers to secure the peace.  They didn’t call in a neutral nation’s military or a UN armed force.  They called in nonviolent unarmed civilian peacekeepers.

I think of David Hartsough’s vision.  I think of my lack of faith that the seed of such a big idea could actually grow into its fullness.  I think of all the years when its promise was still unrealized.  I think of the tenacity and sheer will-power that kept it alive in the face of extreme adversity.  I am humbled and deeply grateful for everybody who has been part of the long hard work of planting, tending and watering, and I hope that many many people get to taste this sweet new fruit.  

Dare to Imagine:  A new economy is possible!
A trillion dollar platinum coin?

Last month, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman urged the White House to mint a platinum coin worth $1 trillion.  He thought it was less silly—and less dangerous—than playing with the debt ceiling. The White House responded by saying the trillion dollar coin is off the table, because the Federal Reserve declared that it “wouldn’t view the coin as viable.”

Just a joke?  Here's another take:  "Today, the Federal Reserve creates trillions of dollars on its books and lends them at near-zero interest to private banks, which then lend them back to the government and the people at market rates. We have been brainwashed into thinking that it makes more sense to do this than for the government to simply create the money itself, debt- and interest-free.  Some of our greatest leaders, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln… realized that the freedom to print money offers a way to break the shackles of debt and free the nation to realize its full potential… Our ignorance on these issues has played into the hands of the 1 percent, who are dependent on the current system for their wealth and power… We have the power to choose prosperity over austerity. But to do it, we must first restore the power to create money to the people."

Ellen Brown, YES Magazine

Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

President Obama's second term agenda.

The indigenous youth-and-women-led Idle No More movement of Canada to protect natural resources and respect indigenous land rights, that has been gathering momentum across the country since November.

More than 140 governments, including the U.S., China and India, agreeing to a global, legally-binding treaty to address the mining, emission, release, export, import and storage of mercury, a heavy metal with significant health and environmental effects.

The earnest young men we met in Northern Uganda who were deeply concerned about the environment.

New:  posts on other people's blogs:

More resources:
Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:, a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting
writing I've done over the past 20 years. START: a way to study and work together with
others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to

My favorite magazine:  YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, they outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world:   


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