In 2007, I sat among an audience of 60 people in the Estonian Embassy in Washington DC for the world premiere of the documentary, ‘The Singing Revolution.’ This documentary is the story of Estonia, a Baltic Republic, whose citizens over the course of several decades, clawed back their freedoms from the oppressive influence of the Soviet Union. The story climaxes when these citizens formed a human chain in November 1989 that spanned their entire eastern border. They held hands and they faced down Soviet tanks. Their only weapons were their traditional songs. They sang as one tiny Nation, throwing down the tyranny of the entire Soviet Union. Estonia won its freedom that day, and not a shot was fired.
Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. It is a day to reflect on the lives of Canada’s war dead, and war veterans. I’m sitting in a coffee shop across from Victoria park where I just came from a Remembrance Day ceremony. Thousands were in attendance. At 11am, we observed a long silence. The sound of distant gun shots rang off the walls of Regina’s modern glass towers. The sun shone bright, and the air was brisk, yet refreshing, making for a truly beautiful day.
As I stood in my spot, my thoughts turned inward. I have never seen a war in person and I hope I never will. I simply cannot imagine a theatre where humanity presents the worst of itself, for the sole purpose of destroying itself.
I don’t buy into the bullshit of ‘our side’ verses ‘their side’. ‘We’ are no better than ‘them’. As soon as we start to draw a line in the sand, a border on the map, a distinction in our ideology, as soon as we start to believe that ‘we’ would be better off without ‘them’, we begin the process of destroying ourselves. The world needs all of us, warts and all. All perspectives are equal, even if they appear to be wrong.
Nothing good comes from trying to resolve differences with war. Throwing one army up against another is a poor way to settle a difference. It’s like trying to swat a fly with a cannon. I believe the best way to bring about change is to move the hearts and minds of human beings. You do it with art, with music, with literature, with ideas, with patience, with mindfulness, with humanitarian efforts, with bridge building, and with empathy.
Force of any kind, be it violence, or of wills, will never win any conflict. It only shifts the underlying problems to different theatres. Where individuals take it upon themselves to bring destruction into the world, Nations ought to be using mindfulness, patience and savvy to target the individual, his environment, and his cronies to affect change, not his army.
A bullet takes a fraction of a second to hit its mark. It will land and kill an individual, but it will not change the hearts and minds of an entire people. Ideas, presented in the most non-threatening manner possible, and disseminated freely from any oppressive influence, are the only means by which to affect real change.