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Seven paths to peace

The Path of Sacrifice

He will strive always to promote peace between nations and will be prepared to make personal sacrifices for that ideal.

(From the Outline of Policy in International Service.)

IN 1958 The Saturday Review published a one-page article in the form of a contest announcement. In big and bold type the headline proclaimed:

WORLD-WIDE COMPETITION

$1,000,000,000,000

IN TAX-FREE PRIZES

Then the details followed:

YOU ARE ALREADY ENTERED –

If your name begins with A, B, C, etc., or with ∆, ф, Θ, etc., or if you live in the U.S.A. , Russia , France , etc., you are already entered in this competition. Your children, and their children-to-be, are entered.

THE PRIZES –

The prizes, conservatively valued at $1,000,000,000,000, include the following:

A five-mile thick layer of pure, non-radioactive air.

Cities consisting of buildings, not rubble.

Water reservoirs not contaminated with fall-out.

Farmlands capable of growing edible food.

Your home, car, TV set (and incidentally your life) –

And various extras, such as unlimited energy from the

Atom and perhaps interplanetary travel.

Then, a bit later this bombshell:

How to Withdraw from the Competition: You Can’t

EVER.

And, finally –

If You Want to Win: Help Find a Firm Road to Lasting Peace.

In the previous chapter it was pointed out that the path of justice leads inevitably to the path of sacrifice. It must be apparent, first, that even to speak of peace entails and element of sacrifice. At some time, and, for a few people, the word peace has become tarnished with guilt by association – a mask for subversion, tyranny, and aggression. Beware, they say, of those who cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace.

Perhaps this bitter feeling only reflects in an extreme form the general disappointment with the sequel to the second world war. So much had been taken for granted. There had been an unconditional surrender. Now there was peace, and folks could go about their business and enjoy themselves and leave the diplomats to worry about “foreign affairs”.

Speaking to a Rotary club in England , an American ambassador put it this way:

I went to the last war as many of you did, and I really believed we were fighting a war to end wars, and that we were fighting for democracy, and that our children would reap some of the benefit of the sacrifice made by our generation … We did not really care enough in the intervening years. If we cared enough, we did not do enough or get enough done. It is rarely in the world’s history that men get a second chance; and we have got a second chance.

What thoughtful observer of international service could not echo these sentiments and apply them to himself? They ring so true in this hour of history.

The last war came close to destroying civilization. Hunger and humiliation, social and economic disruption, the vacuum left by the defeated powers – all combined to produce a time of trouble and tension. Those who thought of peace as the end of a fairy tale where “they all lived happily ever after” were cruelly deceived. The cartoons which represented peace as an angel or a bride prepared the public mind for bitter disillusionment. On the contrary, peace should have been portrayed as the bride in real life – as a working girl with a tremendous job on her hands, compelled to “work at her marriage”, as the counselors say, if it were to be a success.

This concept of peace as a summons to work rather than a license for personal irresponsibility is made quite explicit in the Outline of Policy with its call for personal sacrifices. But perhaps it was never driven home more poignantly than in the last public address of that valiant worker for international friendship, the late John Winant. Breaking into his prepared speech, he asked his audience abruptly:

“Are you giving as much today for peace as you gave for this country in the days of war?”

There was a pause before and after he spoke his own quiet answer:

“I am not.”

Anyone looking back over the years since the war might so examine himself. In time of war, the urge to sacrifice is omnipresent, and personal efforts are measured by those who “give the last full measure of devotion”. For purposes of destruction, the finest and most generous in human nature is expended. To save his country from destruction, however, and to secure peace, freedom, and the survival of all he holds dear, man is under no such compulsion.

Does this make sense?

Perhaps the extraordinary sacrifices of wartime are explained by the fact that many people respond best in a crisis. The exceptional and abnormal call forth the heroic in man. But is war the exception in human experience? History suggests the opposite conclusion. Over the sum of years, the abnormal experience has been the brief intervals of peace. Even the nineteenth century, which gave birth to the illusion of peace as a normal condition, was filled with little wars. In the twentieth, periods when the whole world was at peace can be measured only in months, not in years.

People in earlier ages might reflect that war, after all, was the business of a few knights or professional soldiers on isolated battlefields. During the Wars of the Roses, for example, at the moment when a battle was about to begin, the hue and cry of a hunt arose, and the armies withheld their attack while the fox, the hounds, and huntsmen streamed between them. Then they took up their own grim pastime.

If war was ever in fact so gentlemanly in its conduct, its nature has been utterly changed in modern times. War has become total, mobilizing entire peoples and their resources, aiming at total destruction. None can count himself immune. There is no place to hide. There are no more civilians. Children will become “combatants”, the same as their elders.

Do not these circumstances demand a revised concept of war and peace? The late Albert Einstein, the mathematical genius who fathered the atomic age, projected the issue on the broadest scale and in the bluntest terms:

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.

Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we know it.

The tank is a defense against bullets but there is no defense in science against the weapon which can destroy civilization.

Our defense is not in armaments nor in going underground.

Our defense is in law and order. In the light of new knowledge, the human race must adapt its thinking.

There is no easy optimism in the mood of the Rotarian who strives to promote peace, to halt and reverse the normal drift into war. He is disillusioned with cheap panaceas. He is a realist. He knows that victory in this struggle will not be won by subscribing to some pressure group or by passing a resolution in his club. The Rotarian must ask himself what personal sacrifices are required of him and his fellow men if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.

Can anyone answer for him? Obviously, no, though he can be fortified and inspired through consultation with other earnest men. Ultimately, the answer must come from his own private conscience and be made manifest in his individual action. Here, only a few forms of sacrifice will be suggested as background for deliberation and discussion.

First, and perhaps most obvious of all, is the kind that falls at present on every taxpayer and burdens the economy of the entire world to the tune of $120,000,000,000 (£43,000,000,000) a year. In the wealthiest country of the world, “peace through strength” exacts a personal sacrifice from the average taxpayer equivalent to a month’s salary. “Who desires peace, prepares for war” was the justification of this policy in ancient Rome . A most vigorous exposition of it in the twentieth century was given by a famous admiral:

I am not for war, I am for peace. If you rub it in both at home and abroad that you are ready for instant action with every unit of your strength in the front line and intend to be first in and hit your enemy in the belly, and kick him when he is down, and boil your prisoners in oil if you take any, and torture his women and children, then people will keep clear of you.

Will they? This ancient form of sacrifice which is still so fashionable has not prevented wars. It has enhanced general insecurity, fomented an arms race and, finally, brought the use of the great deterrents – yesterday the admiral’s dreadnaughts, tomorrow the guided missiles with hydrogen war-heads. Never was this policy more scathingly denounce than by the president of one country which had adopted it:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than thirty cities. It is two fine and fully equipped hospitals.

And so on to the conclusion:

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all in a true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.

If in one fell swoop the plague of war could be eradicated, what could a comparable amount of money, energy, and genius accomplish for mankind? The thought taxes the imagination! Is it possible in the wildest dream to conceive what $120,000 million (£43,000 million) a year could do, harnessed to policies of peace and service? Now, it is as if humanity were struggling up the stairs of civilization on one leg.

The path of sacrifice may indeed lead head-on into strongly entrenched traditions; there are those – and in large numbers – who say that history repeats itself, that today’s humanity is no better than its forebears. “Wars and rumors of wars” there will always be. One answer is that our forebears were not attracted to the path of sacrifice, either; nor were they in the posture of Atomic-Age man. The real answer, however, has been given by another military man who states unequivocally that what mankind now requires is “an attack on the institution of war itself”. A Rotarian from South America has put it this way:

In accord with the object of Rotary, we should look into the deeper causes of war and of the diabolical motives that move men to kill each other; what statism impels them to do, what they abhor, and which they recognize as abominable and in contradiction of our ideal of service above self. … What is proposed is in no sense impossible nor calling for a superior intelligence, but an absolute necessity. The time to act is now.

Another Rotarian has stated: “Ours is a man-sized task which must be approached with the kind of genius and effort which went into the first atomic bomb … Civilization cannot support two – or more – armed camps forever on the brink of nuclear catastrophe.” Peace by terror or deterrent force in which belligerents threaten each other from week to week can lead only one place – to nuclear war.

A hunter of big game in Africa was getting close to his prey when, to his chagrin, his hard-pressed guides suddenly sat down to rest. He protested loudly, but to no avail. He threatened, pleaded, offered bribes – but the guides sat fanning under a tree. “But why,” he implored the leader, “must you stop now?”

The guide answered with a wry smile. “Men say they have hurried so fast their bodies have run off and left their souls. Must wait for souls to catch up.”

The breathless quest for power, wealth, influence and better technology has taken men – and nations – far into the jungle. Now, in this lag of culture and law, they need to pause for their souls to catch up. Nations are like children with guns in their hands. A child must be taught rules and laws; it would be unthinkable to send a six-year-old to school with a loaded rifle – but even a child understands why a policeman must carry a gun.

“It is impossible to imagine the heights to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter,” wrote Benjamin Franklin. “O, that moral science were in as fair a way to improvement, that men would cease to be wolves to one another.”

This is a gigantic arena for sacrifice – this imperative quest for a “break-through” in social science to match the achievements of technology. What matters it that men span the oceans at the speed of sound if, when they face their neighbors, they have nothing to say? Into this vacuum comes the missile or hydrogen war-head. Into this setting comes prejudice, ignorance, superstition – and tyranny. Man’s pressing problems now are in the domain of the spirit – the “inner space” of human personality.

This new orientation toward the “inner man” demands the expenditure of greater resources and competence in the search for the deeper meanings of life. It means that research must be applied with equal vigor to man and machine – to the spiritual and the material. It means creating a new climate of adventure in human affairs to match the challenge of a rocket trip to outer space. It means that the quest for ways to link man to man and nation to nation must become as urgent as the quest to link earth with the moon.

Another area of sacrifice is the movement to get nations to put away their guns and solve their differences as law-abiding men. The goal is to seek an agreement between the arming nations to end the arms race – an undertaking far easier to propose than to accomplish. Who will sacrifice what? And what assurance can be given to disarming nations that other nations will fulfill their agreements? This opens up the Pandora’s box of mutual inspection, the ability to detect, and the right to curtail the power of those who do not comply.

In a fable, the great beasts gather in the jungle to discuss disarmament. “Let us show our common enemy, man,” said the lion, “how to live in peace together. If we set an example, perhaps he will cease to hunt and slay us.”

“What do you propose?” inquired the bear.

The lion looked at the eagle. “Abolish wings,” he suggested.

The eagle looked at the bull. “Destroy horns,” he proposed.

The bull looked at the lion. “Get rid of teeth and claws,” he demanded.

There was silence for a moment. All were staring at the bear. “I advise the elimination of all forms of defense,” he said quietly. “In this way, each of you can have the security of my loving arms.”

Any program of disarmament involves sacrifices. If great powers agree to disarm, they give up being great powers. No longer can they impress their views on other nations by threat of force. If they want to make sure that other nations are fulfilling their pledges, they, too, have to submit to measures of control. For some people, these concessions of authority and prestige are a deeply personal sacrifice. While other nations may welcome restraint of the great powers, feeling that their own stature is increased by removal of the threat of force, they may find that they have incurred increased responsibilities thereby. They may have to renounce a cherished neutrality and provide armed forces for the common defense. Disarmament may involve sacrifice also for the peoples of lesser powers.

Yet who would deny that such sacrifices are more than justified if they can help to prevent the horror of a third world war? The question is rather: are such sacrifices enough?

The answer is – no! In fact, the foregoing sacrifices become pure theory unless they are predicated upon a deeper and more significant kind of sacrifice – personal sacrifice. It is in the arena of individual, person-to-person relationships that true sacrifice begins. And it must begin here – and it must grow here, until the level of national leadership is raised and the vision of statesmen becomes the reflection of enlightened public opinion. Woodrow Wilson put it well: “The processes of liberty are that if I am your leader, you should talk to me, not that if I am your leader I should talk to you. I must listen, if I be true to the pledges of leadership, to the voices out of every hamlet, from every sort and condition of men.”

Yet, the simple process of making one’s voice heard is a sacrifice – more so in some places than in other, but there is bitter irony in the fact that in the places where it is easiest and most expected, it is a sacrifice too great to be endured. Why should I bother? Who cares what I think, anyway? I’m too busy. The politicians make all the decisions.

But the process of making one’s voice a reasonable sound, based on knowledge, discussion, and insight is an even more challenging one. How much easier it is to get an “expert” to speak to the Rotary club than to dig into the facts and present the subject yourself? Granted a willingness to present it yourself, how much easier to give a lecture – your own opinions and your selection of facts – than to attempt to lead a spirited discussion in which a barrage of opinions may be laid down at you.

An into-their-shoes conference, previously mentioned, may take much time and study for several weeks on the part of the participants, but where one has been held it has raised the level of understanding of world affairs to an appreciable degree. If such study and debate were going on all around the world, who can estimate the values which could accrue? Yet, this illustrates that all such enterprises entail personal sacrifice of the hardest kind – the kind which steals from personal preoccupation with television-viewing, dancing lessons, parties, theatre-going, painting the basement, or building a boat.

Pericles said: “We do not allow absorption in our own affairs to interfere with participation in the city’s; we yield to none in independence of spirit and complete self-reliance, but we regard him who holds aloof from public affairs as useless.” And the Greeks had a word for the “useless” man, a “private” citizen, idiotes, from which the English word “idiot” comes.

This leads to another kind of personal sacrifice: the realization that our point of view may not be the right one, that the facts with which we are surrounded may be tainted with propaganda, that our culture may have something to learn from another culture. To many persons, this is the ultimate blow –the blow to personal and national pride. It is incredible to the superficial observer that the principles he has embraced, that the way of life he has accepted, may be almost unrecognizable in the next generation – that indeed its very base may be swept away and society may possibly be the better for it.

This is a bitter dose to swallow, but such resiliency in the human spirit may make the path of sacrifice much easier to follow. With all the achievements of their civilization, the Greeks must have understood this well. For thousands of years the trophy, or monument, has been the symbol of victory, and these trophies have reflected in their structure and substance the natural materials of the land. In Egypt , where stone was plentiful, the monument would be a slab or tablet engraved with the glorious record; farther east, it was sand, heaped high or in unusual shapes, perhaps with severed heads or bones. In Greece the substance was wood, out of which the victor might form his trophy or monument. But it was not permitted to be repaired! So, the victor always understood that it would soon decay and rot away, even as he vanquished his foe or as he erected his monument. The only permanent thing, he well knew, was impermanence.

Such an attitude does not imply vacillation or lack of objectives. It is not a peace-at-any-price doctrine, as the record of the Greeks demonstrates. Such an attitude, however, creates perspective, and perspective is one of the guideposts along the path of sacrifice.

The paths of justice and sacrifice merge here, but a discussion of attitudes which lead to sacrifice would be incomplete without another reference to a foremost dilemma of this atomic age. Even though the threat of annihilation were abolished, another problem emerges laden with potential disaster. Misery and ignorance in the less developed lands provide a paradise for the agitator, for the ambitious individual, or for the nation seeking to gain power by fishing in troubled waters. Armed force cannot restrain the insurgent, for sooner or later he becomes armed. Yet, national disarmament and control of the great powers are of themselves no solution unless a new order can be established to encourage the hopes and win the allegiance of these emerging millions.

The crux of the matter here is: Who are these emerging millions? Ignorant savages who should be let alone? Potential laborers in a regimented technocracy? Soldiers marching in a bigger and more destructive army? Pawns in the game of power politics? Or, useful and free men who should somehow be helped to claim their rightful heritage of dignity, self-government, and self-respect. Each man will answer this question in his own way, but he will give his answer – even if it only is a decision not to answer at all.

The person drawn to the path of sacrifice will also take a fresh look at the meaning of peace. He will reflect about, and discuss, this word, probing for new meanings and new techniques. So long as the concept is negative and defined as “the absence of war”, so long as effort is limited to restraining potential aggressors or curtailing the means of aggression, the results are likely to be disillusioning and dangerous. Only by transforming the concept to describe the positive and constructive task of creating order in the world can the individual discover a path which will justify his personal sacrifice.

The illiterate wrestling with his alphabet is waging peace. The agriculturist toiling to increase his yield, the men of science grappling with disease or patiently organizing ways to lessen the burdens of human toil, the businessman and the trade unionist raising standards of practice in their crafts, the individual citizens championing the cause of human rights or giving leadership in the development of international law – all these and many, many more are heroes in the quest for peace. The paths of freedom, progress, and justice, already commended to the Rotarian in the Outline of Policy, merge into the path of sacrifice – personal sacrifice for peace. And peace must be waged!

If international relations remain the preoccupation of demagogues and diplomats, the obstacles to peace may never be overcome. Peace must become the personal goal of practical men of affairs who are accustomed to getting things done. These men, if they will pause to consider the meaning of their lives, have the greatest stake of all in the issue. They have the most to lose in the present drift toward world war and revolution and the most to gain from the creation of a new order based on freedom, progress, and justice.

The path of sacrifice holds strong appeal for Rotarians. Truly, this is “Service Above Self”. And thousands of Rotarians are responding. Much more could be accomplished, however, through a deeper devotion to Rotary principles, through a more diligent cultivation of Rotary contacts, and by more active and informed leadership in their own communities. Is this too much to expect from a “world fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal of service”?

A generation ago, the fate of man was projected as “a race between education and catastrophe”. With every year, the pace has quickened. The call for personal sacrifice grows more urgent. It comes from statesmen, scholars, and divines of every party and persuasion, but a general, long exposed to the scenes of battle, has voiced the most categorical conviction:

Now that the fighting has temporarily abated, the outstanding impression that emerges from the scene is the utter uselessness of the enormous sacrifice in life and limb which has resulted. A nation has been gutted and we stand today just where we stood before it all started.

This experience again emphasizes the utter futility of modern war, its complete failure as an arbiter of international dissensions. We must finally come to realize that war is outmoded as an instrument of policy, that it provides no solution but international suicide.

While we must be prepared to meet the trial if war comes, we should gear foreign and domestic policies toward the ultimate goal, the abolition of war from the face of the earth. You cannot control war; you can only abolish it.

It must be obvious that the abolition of war is a severe summons to sacrificial action. With a tenure so long in unrecorded tradition and in recorded history, and with a glory so enshrined in legend and song, it will die hard. But the trophies of a successful battle against this scourge of mankind make it worth the candle.