I’m not sad to see that Greta Thunberg has failed to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and I do hope she is not disappointed either. Greta has many years of noble activism ahead, and, characteristically, say’s she is not looking for accolade or stardom, just action to prevent the coming climate catastrophe. Whilst climate action includes action for Peace, it has not been her primary argument.
It is also the case that this year’s winner, Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has done a resounding job for Peace with Eritrea after 20 years of war. The Swedish Nobel group say Ahmed spent his first 100 days as Prime Minister “…lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalising outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life. He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.”
That’s not a bad record, although it’s clear that Ahmed is no revolutionary seeking to end world Capitalism. Ethiopia is in debt to China to a tune of $12billion, and has accepted huge grants that ensure China a stake in the country’s economic governance. This is true of much of Africa now, the Atlantic island nation of Cape Verde now finding the Chinese aid has come with a price tag of handing over one entire island for a Chinese military base. Arguably a precursor to more conflict and war, not less.
It is hard to grant the Nobel Peace Prize much credence in any case. President Obama received it whilst sending more troops to the genocidal war in Afghanistan and maintaining Guantanamo Bay. Henry Kissinger, architect of the genocide in Vietnam, won it, as did the Zionist militant, Menachem Begin. Perhaps the idea is that giving gongs to warmongers encourages them towards seeking peace.
At best it’s a symbol of Liberalism, balancing accolades for war-mongers alongside active peaceniks, and doing nothing much for the gross inequalities that infect and distort all human life. The fact that the campaign against nuclear weapons, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), won the Peace Prize offered our side a much needed boost in this period of renewed proliferation, but has not influenced Trump’s decision to withdraw from anti-nuclear weapon treaties for a ingle moment.
Today’s announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize will be tomorrow’s forgotten news. It does, however, offer a chance for reflection over what we mean by Peace. In our day-to-day lives, we think of quiet, sitting, perhaps silence and stillness. Politically it is generally recognised as the absence of War and conflict. In truth, world peace means far more than that.
Studies and experiences of domestic abuse – an escalating epidemic in the UK at this time – recognise that the absence of violence does not represent peace. Hidden threats and messages that undermine confidence are also mechanisms of conflict. The human-on-human behaviours of coercive control evoke sensations of subjugation, fear and powerlessness that are very similar to the emotions described by those living in a war zone, if less intense.
Thinking Big Picture can transfer these individual experiences of repression, oppression and exploitation into institutional and societal behaviours. In essence, employees in non-democratically organised workplaces experience significant coercive power-and-control from business owners and their managers every day. Bosses rule over us – we do not have any control over the means-of-production nor what is produced. This is a significant problem for we who demand fundamental changes to production in order to save the planet.
At the same time, Governments, largely everywhere, dictate limits to acceptable behaviours and attitudes of all citizens (and non-citizens) according to their desired outcomes for political and economic continuation. Threats of imprisonment or worse are laid bare in Acts of Law, many of which are made not in the interests of humanity or peace, but of the ruling class. Churches aligned with the values of the State also control thoughts and behaviours by threatening eternal damnation for being non-compliant.
It is hard to find any individual peace if you disagree with the political or religious regime you find yourself living within. It is hard to find individual Peace if you have insufficient resources to live securely. In short, it is hard for a People to live in Peace if they feel insecure and under threat.
And this is where the threat of climate catastrophe comes back into the discussion. The very threat of societal collapse evokes not only personal disquiet but also social conflict – the struggle for resources, self-protection, shelter and survival.
Greta Thunberg’s call for Non-Violent Direct Action is not the same as a call for Peace. It is a recognition that we have to make a noise, and more importantly use “force of numbers” to force politicians and corporations to “Act Now” to end carbon emissions. Protest is not Peace. There is a requirement to use methods of power and coercion to influence those who coerce from a position of enormous power. This is a condition of conflict. And at its heart, class conflict between those with and those without.
In parallel, the position of Extinction Rebellion to be “Beyond Politics” does not represent a condition of being non-political. The demand for zero-emissions by 2025 is deeply political. The demand for Citizen’s Assemblies to exert power within formal politics is, in Truth, a highly political demand. It changes society’s basic constitution. CA’s (as we have come to call them in this era’s horrid dissent into acronyms) will, by definition, act in tension and sometimes conflict with the Political Class and Corporate CEOs. Perhaps, even, class war.
Living in a sustainable and ecological balance with Nature, protecting the environment and reversing the current ecocide is a noble goal, one we share and believe is possible. The no-growth stasis we seek offers sensations of equilibrium and calmness, harmony and peace. But there shall be no Peace until we prevent Climate Catastrophe. Greta, as one amongst us all, cannot yet claim the Nobel Peace prize with much evidence, nor should we want her to.
Friday 11th October 2019