It’s been eight years that I’ve been sharing these reflections with you and that’s a long time to be together. In his book Psicosintesi: Per l’armonia della vita, Roberto Assagioli writes that it is better to concentrate on a large project rather than many smaller ones. His words made me pause. I’ve been thinking about leaving this writing space for a while and this day of the full moon in May feels like the right time …
They say ‘never say never’, so I won’t. Who knows when I’ll be back? Perhaps when my heart is burning with something I need to say. Hopefully to announce the completion of my ‘large project’. But for now, I will say thank you to all my readers over the years, especially those who reached out to me with appreciation and encouragement.
I close with a reflection on three peacemakers – an Italian, an Indian, and an Austrian – two women, one man. All three happen to be writers. All three have been marginalized or forgotten, despite their ardent striving towards peace. I believe they have something to offer us today…
Prof. Ornella Mariani – Activist for Truth
Recently I watched a video (in Italian) of Prof. Dr. Ornella Mariani, accompanied by a number of other Italian women including journalist Gloria Callarelli, being interviewed after they paid a visit to the Russian Embassy in Rome on April 27th.
“Our government has a lack of will towards any peace, so we took it upon ourselves to visit the First Counselor to the Russian Ambassador,” said Mariani. “Italy has banned any communication with Russian delegates. This situation feels very grave to me.
“Obviously, we don’t feel represented by a government that doesn’t understand the value of peace, and only wants to send arms. If we really want peace, we shouldn’t be sending arms. Article 11 of our Constitution repudiates war, so we should all be doing everything we can to diplomatically find a solution, a peaceful solution to this terrible conflict.”
“We represent the Italian people, not the politicians. We hope to open doors,” said Callerelli. “to help build a bridge in whatever way we can, between the popolo italiano and the popolo russo.”
Three days later at 7 a.m., the DIGOS or Italian Special Operating Division, who are in charge of investigating terrorism and organized crime, arrived at Mariani’s apartment to tell her that she was under investigation for contempt of Italian State institutions. Her apartment and person was to be searched. “Obviously, I did not consent to this,” she said in a video posted afterwards. They ended up taking her phone, but leaving its SIM card.
“We will not lose courage,” she said. “We are stronger than they are.”
Rabindranath Tagore – Prophet of War, Prophet of Peace
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) poet, novelist, dramatist, musician, artist and Nobel Prize winner of literature, devoted much of his life to working towards peace, both in his own country of India as well as internationally. However, he was realist and his words from nearly 100 years ago are eerily prophetic for us today.
Tagore believed that until the powerful nations, aided by their superiority and vast technological advancement, ceased their desire for territorial expansion and control over the smaller nations, world peace could never be achieved.
In a visit to Japan during the middle of World War I, Tagore declared:
“When, with the help of science, a nation’s power begins to grow and brings in harvests of wealth, then it crosses its boundaries with amazing rapidity. For then it goads all its neighboring societies with greed of material prosperity, and consequent mutual jealousy, and by the fear of each other’s growth into powerfulness. The time comes when it can stop no longer, for the competition grows keener, organization grows vaster, and selfishness attains supremacy. Trading upon the greed and fear of man, it occupies more and more space in society and at last becomes its ruling force.”
Tagore’s answer to ending this progression towards world destruction was a bondage of love and spirituality. “All imperialism – except for the imperialism of love – is wrong,” he said. According to Tagore, peace was not a non-war situation, but could only occur when all peoples could evolve into their unique selves, and then join into a singular united bond. He wrote in a letter to a his close friend Charles Andrews:
“When the spiritual ideal is lost, when the human relationship is completely broken up, then individuals freed from the creative bond of wholeness find a fearful joy in destruction.”
In 1938, as he watched the unfolding of World War II, Tagore wrote his famous poem:
Those crushed and trodden lives of the meek and the weak
which are sacrificed as food offerings for the mighties.
Those human flesh-eaters, snatching and scrambling,
tearing the gut,
scattering everywhere pieces of flesh bitten by sharp teeth,
Stained the lap of the mother earth with the muddy blood.
From the thrust of that fierce destruction
one day, peace will emerge in the end with a great power.
We will not fear,
overcoming the distress, victory for us at the end.
To read more about Tagore’s ideas on world peace, click here to download an article “Rabindranath Tagore and World Peace” by Kalyan Kundu.
Bertha von Suttner – First Woman to Win the Nobel Peace Prize
Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914) was an Austrian baroness with a fascinating life story who became a renowned novelist. She also greatly influenced Alfred Nobel to establish the Nobel Prizes. In 1889 she became world famous for her brutally realistic depiction of war in her antiwar novel Die Waffen Nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!, translated and published in 1905).
Von Suttner had personally lived through four wars herself – in 1859 (Italy and Austria), 1865 (the German states and Denmark), 1866 (Austria and Prussia), and 1870-71 (France and Prussia). In addition to using her own experiences for the novel, she interviewed veterans and read government documents. Publishers kept rejecting the novel, insisting that it was impossible to sell “in our military state.”
Die Waffen Nieder! became an instant success and was translated into eight languages. Von Suttner took advantage of the book’s popularity by establishing an Austrian peace society in 1891. She believed that military weapons always seem to acquire new lives, and their only purpose is to cause death.
For the rest of her life, von Suttner was a celebrated speaker at international conferences and peace meetings, and became heavily involved in a variety of peace organizations, including: the International Arbitration and Peace Society in London; the War and Peace Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland; the Berne Peace Congress in 1892; and the Inter-planetary Union. She and her husband also founded a pacifist journal. While touring the US, she said in no uncertain terms:
“War, all war is hell. Your Secretary of War is a Secretary of Hell. And your War Department is a Department of Hell. Your great generals and military men are all Hell Lords, perpetuating barbarism.”
Von Sutter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905, making her even more famous. The Carnegie Peace Foundation awarded her a lifelong pension for her work towards peace. As World War I approached, she grew more alarmed by the arms race in Europe and militarization of the air. She lamented:
“They are fighting like beasts about who is the worst beast. And they don’t see that the beast itself is war.”
She died four weeks before the start of the first World War. It is said that her final words on her deathbed were:
“Lay down your arms! Tell it to all!”
Overview of pledged and/or delivered weapons for Ukraine
- Australia: missiles and weapons – AUD $70 million ($51.6 million)
- Belgium: 200 anti-tank weapons and 5,000 automatic rifles/machine guns
- Canada: 8 armored vehicles, M777 howitzers, 4500 M72 rocket launchers and up to 7500 hand grenades, as well as $1 million dollars for the purchase of commercial satellite high resolution and modern imagery, machine guns, pistols, carbines, 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, sniper rifles, and various related equipment ($7.8 million), plus additional $20 million in military aid (CAD $25 million – details undisclosed)– CAD $118 million total (as of April 22)
- Croatia: rifles and machine guns, protective equipment valued at 124 million kuna (€16.5 million)
- Czech Republic: T-72 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles;400 million koruna ($18.23 million) of non-light weapons, including 160 shoulder-fired MANPADS systems (probably 9K32 Strela-2), 20 light machine guns, 132 assault rifles, 70 submachine guns, 108,000 bullets, 1,000 tactical gloves, all worth 17 million crowns ($756,000), and an earlier 188 million koruna ($8.6 million) worth of 4,000 mortars, 30,000 pistols, 7,000 assault rifles, 3,000 machine guns, a number of sniper rifles, and one million bullets.
- Denmark: 2,700 anti-tank weapons, 300 Stinger missiles (returned to United States to be made operational), protective vests
- Estonia: Javelin anti-tank missiles; nine howitzers (with German permission)
- European Union: other weapons (unspecified- €500 million) [originally included fighter jets, which currently appears no longer true]
- Finland: 2,500 assault rifles and 150,000 cartridges for them, 1,500 single-shot anti-tank weapons, and combat ration packages
- France: MILAN anti-tank guided missile systems and CAESAR artillery howitzers, plus “additional defense equipment”
- Germany: 50 Cheetah anti-aircraft systems, 56 PbV-501 IFVs, 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense system, plus permission for select other countries to send weapons controlled by Germany
- Greece: portable rocket launchers, ammunition, and Kalashnikov rifles
- Ireland: 200 units of body armor, medical supplies, fuel, and other non-lethal aid
- Italy: Cabinet approved transfer of military equipment, pending Parliamentary approval.- reported to include Stinger surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank weapons, heavy machine guns, MG-type light machine guns and counter-IED systems
- Japan: bulletproof vests, helmets, and other non-lethal military aid
- Latvia: scheduled to deliver Stinger anti-aircraft missiles
- Lithuania: Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems and ammunition
- Luxembourg: 100 NLAW (Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon), Jeep Wrangler 4×4 vehicles, 15 military tents, and additional non-lethal equipment
- Netherlands: 200 Stinger missiles, 3000 combat helmets and 2000 fragmentation vests with accompanying armor plates, one hundred sniper rifles with 30,000 pieces of ammunition, plus other equipment; 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers (with German permission)
- North Macedonia: unspecified military equipment
- Norway: 4,000 anti-tank weapons, helmets, bulletproof vests, other protection equipment
- Poland: 200+ T-72 tanks, other approved delivery of Piorun (Thunderbolt) short-range, man-portable air defense (MANPAD) systems and munition; Defense Minister expressed readiness to supply several dozen thousand rounds of ammunition and artillery ammunition, air defense systems, light mortars, and reconnaissance drones
- Portugal: grenades and ammunition, G3 automatic rifles, and other non-lethal equipment
- Romania: €3 million of fuel, bulletproof vests, helmets, ammunition, military equipment, and medical treatment
- Slovakia: S-300 air defense system
- Slovenia: T-72 tanks (reported), undisclosed amount of Kalashnikov rifles, helmets, and ammunition
- Spain: 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns, 20 tons of medical supplies, defensive, and personal protective equipment composing of helmets, flak jackets, and NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) protection waistcoats
- Sweden: 10,000 AT4 anti-tank weapons, helmets, and body shields
- Turkey: co-production of Bakar Bayraktar TB2 armed drones
- United Kingdom: anti-aircraft capabilities (Stormer), 10,000 short-range and anti-tank missiles (including NLAWs and Javelins), Saxon armored vehicles, Starstreak air defence systems, loitering munitions — with aid at £200 million, to rise to as high as £500m – see April 25 (note: on April 8, reports indicated aid already at £350 million)
- United States: Howitzers and artillery rounds; laser-guided rocket systems; Switchblade, Puma, and Counter-Unmannered Aerial systems; counter-artillery radars; Stinger and Javelin missiles; anti-armor systems, small arms and various munitions; more than 50 millions rounds of ammunition; body armor ($3.6 billion since invasion began);; five Mi-17 helicopters, 70 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) (pre-invasion)
Taken from Forum on the Arms Trade where you can also find a timeline and resources.
Thanks for your latest newsletter and thank you for all of them over the years. As you say, 8 years is a long time to have offered this out to the world. Unlike many newsletters yours has always felt to me like an act of service and they are always rich and thought-provoking. Much appreciated.
I hope this finds you well and look forward to your ‘big project’ developing, sounds exciting.
Warm wishes and love, Harriet
Thank you Harriet. I’m so glad for our friendship. Love, Catherine
I am sorry to learn that you will not be continuing this blog (for the time being), but I also understand very well that too many tasks can just be too much.
When you mentioned that Assagioli wrote about rather concentrating on a larger project I also took pause and tried to find it in my translation of “Armonia della vita”, unsuccessfully.
Would you mind indicating the chapter or page in the Italian original?
Even though I have not been on your mailing list for that long, I’d like to say that I very much enjoyed reading it! Always valuable and inspiring.
And of course looking forward to seeing you again in Sunday’s Peace Meditation. 😊
Thank you Monika. I’m not sure what version of “Armonia della vita” you have, but in my book it is in “Chapter 8: Comprensione -Valutazione – Scelta – Piano di azione”. The quote in English is:
“There are also limits of energy and limits of time. We often feel the painful contrast between the infinite possibilities that exist and our ability to realize only one or just very few of them. But this is the law of life, and it must be accepted without regret. On the other hand, in a single manifestation, we can concentrate all the strength, life and love that are in us.
This choice can be compared to the pruning of a fruit tree. The farmer selects which branches to prune away so that the life stream of the tree can flow into just one or a few of the branches – instead of into all the tree’s branches. In this way, the farmer ensures that the tree produces – instead of lots of foliage and small fruits of little value – many large and tasty fruits. Similarly if we disperse our energies, we can do many things, but all of them of nominal importance.” Roberto Assagioli
I appreciate this quote very much and am grateful for your posting it. I often felt there’s never enough time for all I want to do or become. That this is a “law of life and it must be a accepted without regret” is life affirming, and the metaphor of a farmer pruning a tree so that the tree’s life stream can flow is helpful. Assagioli’s quote also reminds me of what Merton wrote in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender oneself to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence.”
Such a powerful quote from Merton! Thank you so much Anna. It really helps me to focus even more!
I appreciate this post about peacemakers very much, and the ways you have made me aware of others who have been advocates for peace, each adding their voice, even when it seemed the whole world was bent on destruction. Bertha von Suttner is an inspiring woman. I’m glad to learn about her.