Every day these days brings forth some kind of news about some kind of conflict, whether a new one in a new place, or an update on an existing one. Millionaire football players argue with billionaire team owners about the expiration of a football collective bargaining agreement due to expire, which both sides are certain will lead to a lock out and legal wrangling lasting for months. And this is in entertainment, and not including the struggle going on over similar labor battles in state governments or the political battles over corrupt regimes going on all over the world. It seems as if no one knows how to make peace anymore.
There are a lot of common elements that are woven through these struggles. For example, many of the protests around the world, along with in state capitals here in the United States and in the National Football League, all have something to do with corruption with taxpayer money. In football, owners are using supposed stadium expenses to justify receiving more money from the collective pie, even though many of those stadiums are paid for largely by taxpayers. In states like Wisconsin, budget problems are leading to confrontations between elected officials looking to balance budgets and public labor unions that have long profited from the state budget to earn a better standard of living than most taxpayers. In foreign countries, decades of corruption and mismanagement have led people to rise up and protest their own lack of opportunities while billions in foreign aid and mineral wealth goes to fund corrupt and dictatorial regimes. The exploitation of the people for the benefit of selfish elites is hardly a new story, but it seems to be drawing considerable amounts of trouble in these times.
Going right along with the exploitation is the inability to properly account for money. NFL owners refuse to open the books on their government-protected monopoly, arguing poverty while not providing the evidence to support their claims (which I suspect is nonexistent). Corrupt religious leaders receive subsidies from the churches they belong to, live an expensive life, and cannot account for any of that money either when the day of reckoning comes. Foreign governments likewise receive hundreds of millions to billions of dollars per year in aid and the money goes to their bank accounts or cronies and not to the people they serve. The same story is repeated over and over again–so many of our leaders around the world are corrupt, but what faithful men are there to replace them?
One things that makes making peace so difficult is that the corrupt people in power are so reluctant to give up power when their time to depart has clearly come. Whether it is making secession threats after losing elections lawfully, or firing on unarmed protesters, this sort of behavior is power hungry in the worst way, not willing to give up power no matter who has to be crushed or stopped to do so. If losers are unwilling to accept defeat, there can be no peaceful way of transferring power to those who are more worthy (or at least less unworthy). In such an atmosphere where peace is impossible, the only question is whether abuses of power will be suffered indefinitely or if there is to be a fight about it. It seems the time has come to fight for many people in many areas. I can’t say I blame them in the least.
Another quality is that the amount of preconditions for peace seem higher than before. Rather than being content with small or no gains, it appears as if on both sides there is a hardening of demands, a refusal to back down, that makes these times so ripe with conflict. If neither side is giving way, and both sides have preconditions for peace and reconciliation, war seems almost inevitable. These seem like the times to fight out your differences in the court of law or public opinion or the field of battle rather than to keep the peace. It seems we are all, myself included, far more willing to make war than to keep the peace.
I often wonder if it is simply the sort of time where conflicts and crises arise that have to be dealt with, or if we bear our own responsibility for not being able and willing to keep peace. Who is to be judged for the conflicts–is it those whose corrupt determination to hold power makes it impossible for reasonable peace, or is the blame shared, or is it simply that these are the times that have been set apart for such conflicts. It’s hard to say. At any rate, I wonder if our inability to make peace will lead us to seek external enemies to unite behind or if we will continue to fight and attack ourselves. Time will tell, I suppose, but in the meantime it looks like there may be precious little peace to be found. Let us treasure it where we can find it.