Football, music... and peace?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Although it received little attention in the press and in the media, at the beginning of the World Cup finals games I was pleased to see the two teams gather around a banner that read “Say NO to racism” and to watch one of the team captains read on behalf of the players John Lennon’s famous saying “give peace a chance”.

For many years, since the 1970s to be exact, I have dreamed and worked with all possible means for a genuinely democratic system at the local, community, state, regional and world level, convinced that this is the only way to resolve the terrible conflict of conscience that enables us to passively observe injustice, poverty, confrontation, neglect, suffering and death, as if these were inevitable “collateral effects”. The collective shame of thousands of people dying of hunger and neglect each day should keep us awake at night. Thousands of people without access to water and sanitary and health services, subjected, exploited, humiliated.

We can’t be “happy” if we are aware that we are cowardly looking the other way. When we know that we are exploiting mineral wealth for our “technological progress” or depleting fishing grounds, while the peoples of those nations hardly survive in extreme poverty. When we delocalize production in the east, particularly in China, while greed prevents us from considering the working conditions or equal human dignity in those countries.

If the United Nations of international cooperation and sustainable development were duly reinforced and endowed with the necessary personnel and financial and technical resources, they could ensure respect for international law, regulation of all kinds of trafficking (commencing with the immediate suppression of tax havens), provide rapid and coordinated aid during natural disasters, and deploy “blue helmets” when countries (such as Cambodia or Rwanda) massively violate human rights shielded by their sacrosanct national sovereignty, or simply lack government spokesmen (as in the case of Somalia).

But the United Nations have been progressively alienated by “globalizers” and replaced by the G-7, G-8 or G-20 plutocrats.

Numerous declarations, manifestos, resolutions, congresses, demonstrations, concentrations... are held in the name of peace, non-exclusion and social justice, with hardly any media coverage. Texts endorsed by the world’s most prestigious people... and nothing. But there are pages and pages about football, about the status and evolution of a famous striker’s injuries... Hours upon hours on the radio. And the power of the media reaches its zenith on television, with endless programs devoted to impassioned fans (especially football and auto racing), who unconditionally support the deities of this popular fervor.

Since ideology and religion have lost all credit, because politics gave in to the market and values lost out to the churches, people now allow themselves to be carried away by new, all-powerful agents of social mobilization who, moreover, offer them interesting competitions and sporting events.

Nothing is questioned. Not even the huge salaries paid the top players, nor the investments made by team officials. No one is keeping tabs on the TV profits. Accustomed to counting each euro spent on efforts toward achieving peace and human rights, given the scarcity of available funds, and likewise accustomed to appreciating the few lines in the press or references in the media promoting conflict prevention and resolution initiatives (at home, in the schools, at work, in cities... in the world) through words rather than force, the banners and declarations initially mentioned in this article gave me hope.

"That’s the solution", I thought. We have to join them, rather than compete with them. The story of David and Goliath repeats itself from time to time. Rather than creating and reinforcing citizen power to attract the attention and support of thousands of people, it would be better and more effective to join those who already have the ability to break into the dominant media, such as the most famous athletes and musicians.

Undoubtedly, not only the most famous athletes and musicians, but also the immense majority of their fans are in favor of a new, more just world order in which force, violence and imposition will be replaced by peaceful dialogue and concerted agreements. Where “the peoples” mentioned in the United Nations Charter will decide the destiny of mankind, rather than a group of wealthy nations.

Yes: although they may often forget, I am sure that all of them find it intolerable that only 18% of human beings live in conditions of material welfare, while thousands of millions languish in breeding grounds that may prompt flows of desperate migrants or cause them to resort to violence.

Yes: I am sure that the immense majority reject the fact that so many human beings –all “equal in dignity”- are living in intolerable conditions, and dying of hunger. And when hundreds of thousand million dollars have been spent to “rescue” the financial institutions that are to a great extent responsible for the present crisis, that a few tens of thousand million cannot be devoted to the fight against AIDS and other diseases that are decimating the world’s poorest countries.

Thus, to those who today occupy key positions, I propose that we walk the roads to peace together, to facilitate a profound change from a secular culture of war to the culture of peaceful coexistence and fraternity enshrined in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its references to peace, democracy, human rights and non-exclusion… will have an extraordinary impact... and many “unconditional” football fans will support these great causes and will enthusiastically become citizens of the world. Numerous financial institutions will likewise agree to contribute funds to the “essential challenges”... that many citizens will progressively embrace.

Humanitarian organizations and especially so many “invisible” workers for peace will forever be indebted to all of them, and particularly to those who from their highly visible positions choose to commence this great process of transformation by taking a stand for peace and justice.