Getting to Peace

Getting to Peace

By Siegrid Raible

IMG_1235_edited-1Pasos hosted a peace quilt making event in 2014 at Figment, an annual interactive arts festival, held each June on Governor’s Island here in New York City.  One of the panels made from fabric and buttons simply asked “How?”  Well, getting to peace involves engaging people in the peacebuilding process.  For people to be engaged in peacebuilding they must be committed or invested in their communities.  Right now, in many countries be it Luanda, the capital of Angola or Baltimore, the capital of the state of Maryland, in the United States, too many citizens are not invested in the economic or political health of their communities.

As a product of the sixties I remember a song made popular in 1971 by Janis Joplin; the song, Me and Bobby McKee, written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster contains a refrain which pretty much sums up what freedom becomes when we are not invested in anything:  “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”  In Angola, a country rich in resources, extreme inequality exists.  In the United States, a rich superpower, income inequality is growing and the seeds of discontent can be found in many of its major cities.

In an article by Michael Specter entitled “Letter from Luanda, Extreme City: The Severe Inequality of the Angolan Oil Boom” which can be found in the June 1st edition of the New Yorker magazine, the reporter describes a society where thesmall elite citizenry of Luanda who can afford a one hundred dollar melon live segregated from those of the rest of humanity who live on two dollars a day even though these two societies literally live check by jowl.  Specter reports that in 2014 out of one hundred and seventy five countries Angola ranked one hundred and sixty-first on Transparency International’s corruption scale.  Corruption is so endemic in the business/political realm that almost every day-to-day transaction includes the cost of a bribe, thus the price of the one hundred dollar melon.  He ends his report with a caution that even though this society is in a better place economically speaking than compared to where it was just twelve years ago, it is incredibly fragile and “it could all end tomorrow.”   (To read Specter’s article go to

Something similar exists in communities here in major cities in the States.  In cities like Baltimore, Maryland, or Ferguson (a suburb of St. Louis), Missouri, you will find evidence of income inequality though not as extreme as that found in Luanda.  There are pockets in these cities where unemployment is the norm for much of the population.  When a spark, such as the death of one of these citizens at the hands of the police ignites days and nights of rioting, it can be attributed to citizens who feel they have “nothin’ left to lose.”  It is a fragile compact that binds a people with its government and that bond can be broken when its citizens no longer feel a part of their community or their country.

If we as individuals want to build more peaceful communities, we must get to the business of peacebuilding; that would include communities investing in the economic health of its citizenry.  Investing in a country’s citizens through education and providing employment opportunities makes good capitalist sense.  Henry Ford, a classic capitalist, knew that if he wanted to sell his mass produced automobiles, he would have to pay his employees a living wage.  Investing is a two-way street.  When we invest in the welfare of our citizens, then they in turn invest in the communities they live in.  Getting to peace involves building societies that provide a platform from which its people are able to take the leap into true economic and political freedom.

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