This article originally appeared in the French edition of Ricochet and has been translated.
Although the anti-war movement has been a bit moribund since the big 2003 demonstrations against the war on Iraq, the tensions between the United States and Iran remind us of its importance.
First, full disclosure: I have been the spokesperson for the white poppy campaign with Collectif Échec à la guerre since last year. I was in attendance at the past two Remembrance Day commemorations alongside anti-war activists who gather each year for a silent vigil which serves as a reminder that the first victims of war are the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of human folly.
This has allowed me to see how the movement against militarism’s wings are broken, a little like the parrot that I have long watched slowly dying in its cage at the local pet store on the corner. Looking at the bird’s remaining patches, one could imagine its once-majestic plumage. And like the parrot’s cackles, the voices being raised against war and militarism have, over time, become mere background noise.
We are living in an era where things are intertwined: climate emergency, wars, unbridled capitalism unleashed by the powerful of this planet, rising inequality between the people of the North and the South, the rise of the extreme Right that’s found a backdoor into the parliaments of the so-called civilized world.
Australia right now looks like the fusion of these seven circles of Hell; oceans are acidifying, species dying out before their time.
Everywhere we look, it seems Westerners are demonstrating their democratic fatigue and applauding the return of authoritarianism so strong that we can hear the clanking of our chains.
Then again, what democracy?
That “liberal” one sold to us by the big media conglomerates? A pencil mark on paper every four years? A blank cheque to our “representatives” who turn around and look after the special interests of friends between cognacs at the private club? That one where the media transmission belts of neoliberal “think tanks” seek to kill their legitimacy in the name of the spurious “right to work”?
That democracy where the “liberal-realist” thinking of political science research chairs continues to perpetuate the myth of “humanitarian intervention” in the name of the Responsibility to Protect? Where the universities participate in the research and development of the arms industry?
Am I digressing? Hardly.
Because the common thread in all the catastrophes that threaten the survival of the human race is the thirst for profit, which erases all notions of empathy and compassion and which devours souls and transforms men into monsters.
And at a time when ultranationalist movements are sounding their horns for the artificial division of humanity and as the consumer society and its entertainment numb our consciences, the anti-war movement is regaining its full meaning, at the intersection of others.
I am writing these lines at the moment when Donald Trump is addressing the American people after that country, the heart of the empire, has pushed the world a bit more towards the abyss. Let us remember those 250,000 people who took to the streets of Montreal a little more than fifteen years ago to reject U.S. imperialism.
Regardless of where my shoes or my combat boots have set foot, I identify more with the women and men of these many countries and peoples than with the members of the ruling classes of my own society.
Let them fight their own wars in peace.
Let’s help the phoenix rise from the ashes.