In an age in which the weapons we have created are capable of destroying the human species, what could be more important than building global peace? The Nuclear Age has made peace an imperative. If we fail to achieve and maintain global peace, the future of humanity will remain at risk. This was the view of the preeminent scientists, led by Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, who issued the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in 1955. They stated, “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” They continued, “People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war.”
With the end of the Cold War, nuclear dangers did not evaporate. Rather, new dangers of nuclear proliferation, terrorism and war emerged, in a climate of public ignorance, apathy and denial. Awakening the public to these dangers and building global peace are the greatest challenges of our time, challenges made necessary by the power and threat of nuclear arsenals.
Peace is a two-sided coin: it requires ending war as a human institution and controlling and eliminating its most dangerous weapons, but it also requires building justice and ending structural violence. One of the most profound questions of our time is: How can an individual lead a decent life in a society that promotes war and structural violence?
The answer is that the only way to do this is to be a warrior for peace in all its dimensions. This means to actively oppose society’s thrust toward war and injustice, and to actively support efforts to resolve disputes nonviolently and to promote equity and justice in one’s society and throughout the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” We know, though, that it doesn’t bend of its own accord. It bends because people care and take a stand for peace and justice.
If we are committed to building global peace in the Nuclear Age, we must say an absolute No to war, and we must demonstrate by our words and actions our commitment to peace. We must have confidence that our acts, though the acts of a single person, can and will make a difference. We must understand that we are not alone, although we may be isolated by a corporate media and a sea of indifference. It is our challenge to awaken ourselves, to educate others and to consistently set an example for others by our daily lives. To be fully human is to put our shoulders to the arc of history so that it will bend more swiftly toward the justice and peace that we seek.
Humanity is now joined, for better or worse, in a common future, and each of us has a role to play in determining that future. Issues of peace and war are far too important to be left only to political leaders. Most political leaders don’t know how to lead for peace. They are caught up in the war system and fear they will lose support if they oppose it. They need to be educated to be peace leaders. Strangely, most political leaders take their lead from the voters, so let’s lead them toward a world at peace.
If you are an educator, educate for peace. If you are an artist, communicate for peace. If you are a professional, step outside the boundaries of your profession and act like the ordinary human miracle that you really are. If you are an ordinary human miracle, live with the dignity and purpose befitting the miracle of life and stand for peace.
This will not be easy. There will be times when you will be very discouraged, but you must never give up. You will find that hope and action are intertwined. Hope gives rise to action, as action gives rise to hope. The best and most reliable way to build global peace in the Nuclear Age is to take a step in that direction, no matter how small, and the path will open to you to take a next step and a next. In following this path, your life will be entwined with the lives of people everywhere.