By Jonathan Fluck, edited by Jim Luce.
New York, N.Y. The New York Peace Film Festival is in its fourth year and each year I’ve been alternately euphoric and depressed. Euphoric, because many people are actually promoting and documenting the peaceful resolution of conflicts and showing the horrors of failing to do so. Depressed, because there only seems to be an escalation of wars and the violent repression of democratic and human rights. Why are we so ecstatic about what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt? Because it so rarely happens: witness all the other autocratic regimes in the region.
Wherein lies the preference for war rather than peace?
There’s a lot of money to be made from war, and not much from peace. Over a trillion dollars is spent yearly by the world’s countries on their militaries (half of that from the U.S.) and the vast majority of that goes for material as opposed to personnel. That means that corporations have a vested interest in maintaining that level of military spending. Experience has shown that countries with military capability use it. And, of course, need to replace the material when they do. Lots of profit in that.
And what money is devoted to peace world-wide? Not even one-one-hundredth of that spent for war. And that money mainly goes to people—doctors, nurses, engineers, agricultural experts—a wide range of committed internationalists working to improve the lives of people and the functioning of governments around the world. No profit in that.
I have come to the conclusion that the surest way to reduce the number of wars is to take the profit out of it. But then, the way to have avoided the current foreclosure crisis would have been to have taken the profit out of selling houses to people who couldn’t afford them; the way to have avoided the banking crisis would have been to take the profit out of repackaging toxic assets as AAA assets.
In other words, global corporate capitalism exacerbates not only our impulses for violence, but our natural impulses for greed and fraud.
But even waving a magic wand and taking the profit out of all nefarious activities would not end violence, or fraud, or greed. That takes cultivating the opposite values which are also present in all of us. Like the Roman goddess Janis, we humans have opposites within our own psyche.
Violent impulses exist next to tenderness; fraud next to a sense of justice; greed next to magnanimity. But what values are promoted in our society? Just look at the majority of movies produced in any year and the answer is clear: all the negative aspects of our makeup, not the positive ones.
So the New York Peace Film Festival continues to promote those positive impulses even though the preponderance of cultural influences promote the negative ones. And I contend that that is the most compelling reason to continue this labor of love.
Jonathan Fluck is the Executive Director of the New York Peace Film Festival . He also-founded and was Executive Director of Interborough Repertory Theater (IRT) from 1986 – 2004, producing dozens of productions for a variety of venues ranging from touring productions to cabarets to Off-Broadway. In 2000 he produced and directed Hibakusha Outcry: Survivors Respond to their Nuclear Baptism, a compilation and staging of poetry written by and about survivors of the Hiroshima bombing.
See also by Jim Luce: