International People’s Declaration of Peace Being Drafted

Much of the U.S. peace movement has been anesthetized by the one-two punch of Hope and Change, but Cindy Sheehan stayed alert and noticed that the war, militarism, and torture policies are just as worthy of disgust and revolt now as they were before the last election.

She recently tried to rally what remains of the active anti-war movement at Martha’s Vinyard, where Obama was taking a Summer break (Obama was no more interested in meeting with her than was Dubya back in the day). Those in attendance have composed something they call an International People’s Declaration of Peace. (This link may be to a draft, not the final declaration; I’m not sure.)

I could quibble with some of the details, I suppose, but I like the look of it. It’s fairly tightly-focused on war & militarism, without trying to throw in a horn-of-plenty’s worth of concerns, which I think is a good thing. Most crucially, it represents a commitment by the signers themselves to certain actions — it’s not just a set of demands they’re making of the powers-that-be, which is where many such declarations flounder.

Although it’s an “International” declaration, its focus is on the United States. This is for the very sensible reason, the Declaration says, “that the United States of America is still, as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the ‘greatest purveyor of violence in the world today’ and the biggest arms dealer and war profiteer; citizens of the USA should acknowledge the special role that must be played and the sacrifices that must be made to help lead this planet on the path to peace and worldwide reconciliation, as the US has allowed its leaders to lead this planet in aggressive behavior.”

The signatories of the declaration pledge, among other things, that “We will not allow the fruits of our labor to be used by our governments to finance wars.”

This is the sort of thing I’ve been hoping to see for years now. However, the peace movement is at an ebb, and the influence that Sheehan and the other signatories (I haven’t seen a list of drafters or signers yet) over what remains of this movement is uncertain. It may be that with the collapse of the fair-weather, luke-warm liberal support of the anti-war movement, a more dedicated core remains who may be more willing to rise to the challenge of such a declaration than the more dilute movement ever was.

Hard news about this Declaration has been difficult to come by, but I think the folks putting it together are hoping to roll it out in a final form at the White House protest action being organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (formerly, Iraq Pledge of Resistance). I was happy to see that that group has prominently linked “War Tax Resistance” on its web site.

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.

In section six of the first book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle takes a closer, skeptical look at the idea that there is a sort of platonic “Good” that all particular good things and actions represent examples of, the way all red things are partakers of a platonic Reditudinosity.

Aristotle notes that we use the word “good” in many ways and he doubts that there really is an overarching category that fits them all. A hammer is “good” for driving nails, but not very “good” with Hollandaise sauce. Does a hammer nonetheless share some platonic quality with poached eggs? “Good” isn’t (often, anyway) some stand-alone quality but is relative to some purpose — a hammer is “good for” driving nails; poached eggs are “good with” Hollandaise; Tiger Woods is “good at” golf.

Some Platonists would answer this objection by saying that the “Good” they’re imagining only corresponds to those particular good things that are good in and of themselves, not examples like these. So pleasure, perhaps, or health, is just plain good — not just good for, with, or at something. Aristotle isn’t buying it. He’s not convinced that there’s anything in that category, for one thing (isn’t health good for something, not just good?), or that even if there are such things that those things share some identifiable quality. Furthermore, he’s not sure even if this were the case whether knowledge about this abstract “The Good” form would be of much practical help to us.

This pretty well answers the worry I expressed after reading section one, as it seems that Aristotle had the same misgivings I did about the vagueness of the word “good” and possible confusion that could result from using it imprecisely.

Index to the Nicomachean Ethics series

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics