Spirit-Wrestlers on Ahimsa, Nonviolence
Koozma Tarisoff is one of the co-founders and co-producers of the Ottawa Peace Festival. The 2017 event was the 11th annual festival, and took place over 18 days at 15 locations around the capital. Twenty-seven of the 29 were free or by donation. Here at PeaceQuest, we are huge fans of Koozma’s work and you will see our favourite articles mirrored on our page.
Koozma explores issues of peace and Doukhobor history and culture in ten books and his long running Spirit Wrestlers Blog.
Below is an article by Koozma published in the periodical Ahimsa Nonviolence (India), vol. XIII, No. 2, May-August 2017. Ahimsa is one of the “cardinal virtues”, an important tenet of Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. You can download a PDF of the issue here.
84 Ahimsa Nonviolence, Vol.XIII, No.2, May-August, 2017 What I have learned from peace activism in the world Koozma J. Tarasoff * For over 60 years I have worked to promote a world without wars, and I am still trying. Among the groups that I have supported are the following: Society of Friends (Quakers), Canadian Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee, War Resisters International, War Resisters League, Project Plowshares, Voice of Women for Peace, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Center for Global Nonkilling, Canadian Initiative for Department of Peace, World Federalist Movement, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Coalition to Oppose Arms Trade, Physicians for Global Survival, United Nations Association of Canada, Canadian Peace Alliance, Gandhi Information Centre, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Train Foundation, Operation Dismantle, Canada - USSR Association, Canadian Peace Research Institute, Peace Quest, Center for Citizen Initiative, Transcend International (and Transcend Media Service), and World Beyond War. My ancestors, the Russian Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors (Tolstoyans in spirit) burnt their guns in 1895 and I was brought up to believe that it is wrong to kill another human being. The yearly anniversaries in June remind me how forward looking my ancestors were in making their stand for a world without war. Perhaps they were ahead of their time as Lev N. Tolstoy wrote in the late 1800s? Since the early 1950s, countless stories, petitions, marches, visits, and talks have shown me the potential of what one person in cooperation with others can do. Here is what I learned from being a small but urgent voice for peace: It is no longer a ‘we’ ‘they’ issue today in the nuclear age. The Hiroshima ‘baby’ atom bomb destroyed the city and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. The new A-bombs are now over 1,000 times more destructive. The most urgent issue for the peace movement today is PREVENTION. The ‘bunker mentality’ that we can win a nuclear war is a very dangerous illusion because the destruction of civilization is at stake. So let’s prevent war using all of the skills that we can to invent peace. Hatted and fear of the unknown have no future. Love is the way. This is the fundamental wisdom of the ages. There is a saying that if you love, you are God. So let’s get more loving in this world and give peace a chance. Getting to know the stranger is the first step in any communications. A friendly gesture ought to be our eternal beacon throughout life. The handshake, a respectful comment, various bridge-building initiatives, travel abroad, home visits, and an accurate story of the ‘other’ goes a long ways to create a culture of peace. Let’s cease demonizing people and instead look for ways to visualize a positive outcome for all. Distinguishing ‘fake news’ from ‘real news’ is a challenge in today’s world when much of the mainstream media is owned by corporate interests which often fund the military and influence news coverage. We need to search for the truth above the din of propaganda and be open to learning from wisdom people such as Lev N. Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein. Reading, observing, listening, speaking out, visualizing, and writing are some of our learning tools. Remember that war and militarism sucks out much of our human services — so we need to actively question our foreign policy. The thesis of ’nonkilling’ is a useful strategy for peace. Developed by Dr. Glenn D. Paige, nonkilling shares the same family as nonviolence, but it is measurable and leads to a killing-free world. We don’t need to kill people to get their resources, but we can respect others and share what we have. Negotiate a shared ‘win win’ reality. Are we not people of one human race, with a common interest in surviving on Planet Earth? I think so. Consider the following connections that need to be addressed in the survival equation: (1) poverty and profit; (2) the relationship of nuclear war and foreign intervention; (3) equality and racism’ (4) environmental pollution and corporate profit; (5) violence and television; and (6) the perceived cold war mental set of the ‘Russian threat’. The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said that ‘beauty will save the world’. Perhaps he was right. Beauty within our hearts radiates powerful healing waves of behaviour. We do not need to murder people and destroy property for the sake of power. We can learn to respect people as beautiful members of our human family. Let us visualize friendship as a desired human endeavour. We need to be humble in working to change the world. Firstly, we need to do our homework and learn the truth about our world. Secondly, we need to have the right intent saying ‘Peace is the way of the future.’ Regime change and sanctioned murder, should not be part of our vocabulary. Could you imagine what the world would look like if we did not ruin our civilization with wars and regime changes? The bedrock values of nonkilling peace, friendship, cooperation, reconciliation and human development ought to instilled early beginning in public schools. These are the seeds of the future. Children need to learn to cooperate instead of being primarily competitive so as to become truly curious and responsible in being peacemakers rather than military warriors. To ease the transition from war economy to a peace economy, our governments ought to immediately build structures for peace, such as creating well-funded Departments of Peace in our parliaments. With the challenges of peace, climate change, terrorism, inequality, population growth, and resource allocation, we need to become partners in development. This means working together to build a better society for all. New laws are urgently needed. For example, we need to focus on making war a crime against humanity. For me, nothing less makes sense for the survival of the human race. I’m surprised that today many people are still dependent on the gun and the bomb for their security. A shift in thinking is urgently needed. Saving humanity from the scourge of war is a better option and the primary goal of the United Nations. Patience is a good quality for peace workers. A small step for peace is a large step for humanity. After over 60 years of active peace making, I am still hoping to experience a world without wars. In the 1950s I edited and published The Inquirer with a search for a peaceful world. Today, 2017, I use my voice (and record visuals with my camera) in speaking out for nonkilling peace on my Spirit Wrestlers website and blog. I have hope for humanity. * email: firstname.lastname@example.org Reading List Paige, Glenn D. Nonkilling Global Political Science. 2002. Tarasoff, Koozma J. Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living. 2002. Tarasoff, Koozma J. Discovering Soviet-West Cooperation. A Handbook on Soviet-West Bridge-Building Initiatives. 1991. Tarasoff, Koozma J. Spirit Wrestlers website and blog.