Itching for Peace

Can we live without war? Are we allergic to peace?

I was drawn to the exchange of letters between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud in 1932, asking "Why war?"*

Einstein was disturbed by the role of elites in promoting wars:

"'small but determined groups, active in every nation, composed of individuals who, indifferent to social considerations and restraints, regard warfare, the manifestation and sale of arms, simply as an occasion to advance their personal interests and enlarge their personal authority.' This phenomenon was later termed the 'military-industrial complex' by US President Dwight Eisenhower. In Einstein's view, the elites were able to wield power because 'the schools and press, usually the church as well [were] under its thumb' and so were able to 'whip up the hatred and destruction of the masses into a collective psychosis.'"

We are born buck naked; we die in a similar state. Is it in shame that we clothe ourselves in hostility and violence? That we wrap ourselves in combat, establishing a bifurcation of the ego and the other? Does there have to be an other? Can we not establish a vocabulary of nourishment, of reaching out rather than punching out?

You might say that we can be congratulated because we have a Secretary of Defense rather than a Secretary of Offense. But I find our predilection for violence offensive enough. How many wars are we fighting right now: the war on drugs, gender wars, religious wars, territorial wars, power struggles, skin color bias, and more. We brag about numbers, numbers of body bags filled (with the bones of your enemies, the flesh of your neighbors). We now have a rifle that boasts of six kills from one bullet. Ain't we something!

I cannot look outside of our species for reassurance: I learned years ago that hamster fathers eat their new-born. I cannot even look to the cosmos for enlightenment: I learned recently that parent stars cannibalize clumps of offspring, swallowing the equivalence of one earth-sized planet every ten days. That's one hell of an appetite for murder.

If, as physics tells us, there is no such thing as empty space, are we destined to fill that emptiness with madness? Maybe we should just give up the rule of law, because so often it is biased, bribed, or outright rigged. Maybe we should look the other way when a one-year-old is fatally shot in his crib in Compton, California; a ten-year-old is killed in Afghanistan for standing up for his community; police in Alabama use chemical spray on children; priests in Minnesota rape hundreds of children in their care.

Does peace make us itch?

I refuse to believe that. I believe in the kindness of strangers, the warmth of the sun's kiss on a baby's skin. I believe there is an honest cop, a Taliban father who no more wants to kill my children than I want to kill his. I believe that a species that can create Beethoven's sonatas can find a way to spread joy. And I believe that harmony on a grand scale starts with a hug and a handshake at home. We don't have to live in a killing zone if we don't want to.

And I don't want to.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2016

* Letters between Einstein and Freud.

Viewers may be reassured by this article on Transhumanism, which looks forward to a society based on peace and progress. Their anthem: "I pledge allegiance to the Earth and all the life which it supports. One planet, in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for all".