When the German Green Party, or simply “the Greens” (die Grünen), started to get organized in the early 1980s, they arranged their …
When the German Green Party, or simply “the Greens” (die Grünen), started to get organized in the early 1980s, they arranged their platform around four “pillars”—ecology, peace, democracy and social justice—each of which had had its own mostly separate movements during the 1960s and 1970s. Some American activists, inspired by die Grünen and hoping to follow their example here, met in 1984, and adopted the same four pillars, but also created an expanded list of 10 key values that addressed some of their other connected concerns. That list has been edited and reworked over the years, but still covers the same basic territory. (For the current version, go to https://www.gp.org/ten_key_values/.)
A couple of years ago, it occurred to me that by adding two more values and applying a little additional tweaking, one could arrange that list into four sets of three—one set for each of the pillars—and then assign each pillar to a season and each value to a month. Then one could have a framework, covering the whole year, for thinking systematically about one’s values, contemplating what they mean, and taking appropriate actions inspired by them. And while this has its main source in Green political thought, I think that people from a broad swath of the political spectrum might find such a thing useful.
I call the project “A Green Year”—not “The Green Year,” mind you—since it is only one of many possible ways to arrange this material. (You can find what I’ve got so far at agreenyear.wordpress.com.)
For winter’s pillar, I chose peace. This seemed to fit well; besides including the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, winter is a time for pulling back from the world a bit. Ecology is the obvious choice for spring. For summer, I decided to use social change as a key value instead, under a broader pillar of community. That left democracy for autumn, which works out perfectly given our present election calendar.
Each season, I plan to devote at least one of these essays to that season’s pillar and its associated values. So let’s start here, in the early days of winter, with some thinking about peace.
People misunderstand something about pacifism. It’s not, as many seem to think, a meek, passive attitude, nobly absorbing the pain of repeated blows to the cheeks. It’s not just a belief in, or a desire for, peace; it is a belief in the act of peacemaking, in the idea that peace can be intentionally created. The word, after all, comes from the Latin words pax (peace) and facere (to make or do).
It is an insistence—an insistence that despite all the evidence to the contrary, we can indeed do better. We can indeed move closer to my definition of a truly civilized society, one where intentional violence has been rendered unnecessary. It is a rejection of the idea that war and violence are somehow inevitable parts of human experience, and that attempts to rein them in are doomed to fail. Pacifism is the insistence that peace is possible, and the refusal to give up on that possibility.
I write these words, by the way, on the day that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (https://thebulletin.org/) announced its annual update to the iconic Doomsday Clock. They’ve kept it steady, at 100 seconds to midnight.
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