Viewpoint: Military spending should be curtailed

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By JAN SLAKOV

Earth Day was celebrated on April 22. By now, I’m sure we all understand that individual efforts to wean ourselves off factory farm products, to go carbon neutral, to reuse and recycle, though valuable, can’t possibly get us where we need to go.

As for systemic change, it’s hard to know where to start. Relationship is key. How do we relate to each other and to the Earth?

From April 10 to May 17 are the Global Days of Action on Military Spending. If we are to transform our relationships, I think it’s essential that we reflect on our implication in the military industrial complex and how important it is to change that system. Historically, governments would conscript citizens in order to fight wars. Now they “conscript” natural resources and public financing to buy warships, fighter jets and generally to keep up with what military experts already referred to as the “revolution in military affairs” in the early years of this century. Our sons are not being sent off to kill and be killed, but there are, nonetheless, enormous costs to this way of “defending” ourselves. Our children’s lives are still under threat; in a way, instead of sending them off to war, our current situation has brought the war “home” everywhere. 

As Eisenhower once said, “Every gun that is fired . . . signifies, in a final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed . . This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children.” As we buy into discourse that fuels fear and hatred, as we stand by as the never-ending “war on terror” spreads death through drones and bombs, we buy into a logic that is bound to engender yet more terror. Hats off to the late Richard Moses, who wrote an article in this paper in 2003 to suggest flooding Iraq with food instead of bombs. Eileen Wttewaall applauded that idea, suggesting that sharing is the only kind of “war” worth engaging in.

Of course, actions conducted by militaries are not always harmful, just as actions conducted by adherents of nonviolence are not always useful. But I agree with Albert Camus, who wrote, after WW II, that we needed to reflect on murder and to make a choice. “Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion . . .”

To find out how our right to freedom of conscience can help restore balance to this “world in arms,” check out the Conscience Canada peace group, now in its 44th year. Parliamentarians, including NDP MPs Jim Manly and Svend Robinson, Liberal senator Eugene Forsey, Conservative senator Nancy Ruth and our MP, Elizabeth May, have supported Conscience Canada’s efforts over the years. Personally, the group has served as a kind of incubator to deepen my sense that another world is indeed possible.

The writer is a long-time member of Conscience Canada and other peace groups.

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