Roots and Fruit
Unpublished Articles    Spring 2002

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Role of Non-Violent Action Called By CNVA

Chicago, February 1961

Samuel R. Tyson

No real substance or direction came from this conference. It was really an intellectualized discussion. Ironic too since the 1960’s were about to come. Vietnam was not at the head of the list and what that would mean. Some felt the days for direct action projects were over after civil rights and the worldwide actions against nuclear weapons testing in the air. The limited Test Ban Treaty came in 1963. Part of the inability to see far was the limited composition of the  calling group. Had non-violent direct action been useful, media visible, drawn in many new people,  got government response? Yes, but it was so slow! Further, the modern day Religious Society of Friends(AFSC) was no longer comfortable with risk followed by arrests, courts and jails. There was no use talking of Friends history, that was then, this was now. Somehow the great dream of peace was to arrive with bliss; no one would get hurt, lose a family or job or be excoriated by the non-believers. A listing of those present will show a rather exclusive group by experience and reputation. Bob Pickus formerly from Chicago, the  location brought people from Chicago. Otherwise New York, Pennsylvania and Washington were represented - not much rest for the rest of the country except for Connecticut  active with its Polaris Nuclear subs. The Committee for Non Violent Action(CNVA) was  operational after  surfacing in August, 1957 at the Nevada Test Site action. For 1958 it was Bert Bigelow and the sailing ship Golden Rule into the Pacific Test area. Also 1958 brought the non-permitted Cheyenne Missile base scene in Summer 1958. Then there was the Walk to Moscow, leaving from San Francisco early in 1960. Omaha Action, Everyman Pacific-Test area in May, Everyman II in June, Everyman I second chance July 4, 1962. History was catching up with the small personal witness as the marching feet became louder and impossible to ignore. A few unafraid Friends set the wheel moving and then had to get out of the way and find a their own direction.               

N Nevada August, 1957
AFSC American Friends Service Committee
WRL War Resisters League

Phil Altbach Chicago, Illinois
F Lawrence Apsy New York
F Edward Behre Virginia
N-F Albert Bigelow Connecticut
Jack Bollens Chicago, Illinois
Ken Brock Chicago, Illinois
Bea Burnett Chicago, Illinois
William Davidson Chicago, Illinois
Dave Dellinger New Jersey
Erica Enzer Chicago, Illinois
F Ross Flanagan Berkeley, California, AFSC
F Robert Gilmore New York City, AFSC
David Hamilton Cambridge, Massachusetts
Arthur Harvey New Hampshire
Robin Harper Trevose, Pennsylvania

Bill Henry Connecticut
Homer Jack Scarsdale, New York
F Honey Knopp Connecticut
Edmund Leites New York City
Sid Lens Chicago, Illinois
Bradford Little New York City - CNVA
Adrian Maas New Jersey
David McReynolds New York City - WRL
F Stewart Meacham Philadelphia Pa. - AFSC
Leroy Mielke Wisconsin
Joyce Mertz New York City AFSC
N-F A.J. Muste New York City - CNVA

Karl Meyer Chicago, Illinois
F Lawrence McK Miller Philadelphia,Pa.
N Theodore Olson Pennsylvania
Michael Parker Chicago, Illinois
Nick Paster Philadelphia AFSC
N Robert Pickus Berkeley, Ca.
N - F Lawrence Scott Frederick, Maryland
Mary Sharmat New York City
Ralph Smeltzer Elgin, Illinois
F Ed Snyder Washington, DC FCNL
N Art Springer Cambridge Massachusetts AFSC
Robert Swann New London Connecticut
N-F Sam Tyson Waterford, California
N-F George Willunghby Philadelphia, Pa CCCO
F Wilmer Young Wallingford, Pennsylvania
Richard Zenk Connecticut

  What a mixed bag in some ways. A.J. Muste on the list is called the Master but he was not that to me particularly. He had been a Trotsky follower once, very much involved with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). Dave McReynolds’ base was the War Resisters League. Robert Gilmore started SANE( Nuclear policy): it was  a counter to what became the Committee for Non-Violent Action. Ed Snyder, of   course, pushed legislation at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Sid Lens was his acerbic self.  With such divergence,  no wonder the group could settle nowhere. The thought that non-violent direct action was a dead issue showed a wondrous misreading of history. Its potential for the future remained a strength.

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On Possibilities for Peace

J. P. Wesley

                    A worthwhile goal for mankind is to eliminate war. However, this may or may not be possible - even in principle. Perhaps mankind must be satisfied with only partial success, such as by decreasing the frequency of wars with more efficient diplomacy or by making it easier to end a war, or by limiting the evil consequences of war by prescribing more “humane” rules of warfare, such as the Geneva Convention and the treaties prohibiting biological and chemical warfare.

          In order to eliminate war or to minimize its evil consequences it would seem to be necessary to first understand why wars occur. Perhaps the “need” for war could be thus eliminated, or at least reduced. Many reasons and causes for war have been proposed such as: cultural or religious differences,language differences, a lack of proper communication and understanding, struggles for political power, unfair trade practices, profiteering by weapon manufacturers, or the perverse seeking of “glory” by misguided rulers. But those proposed causes seem to be primarily concomitant effects  produced by the real underlying cause of war. War cannot be a trivial phenomenon. It cannot be merely an accidental random side effect of human culture. It cannot be merely mass hysteria or sudden outbreak of mutual insanity. It cannot be simply another political device. The real cause of war must be sought in man’s struggle to survive. Mankind cannot devote such a large proportion of its energy(perhaps 20%) preparing for war(whether for defense or for aggression) and for waging war without war being a product of man’s struggle for survival!

          The importance of conflict and war as a natural phenomenon is probably best indicated by the evolutionarily imprinted aggressive willingness on the human male’s face - his beard. Like the male lion’s mane, the male bird’s bright plumage and loud song, the beard is a symbol of possible aggression, or as a threat against members of its own kind. In order to survive, every living creature must command a certain minimum survival territory(or the products there from) free from competitors of its own kind. Sunlight, that sustains all life, is limited to only a fixed amount per unit area. The struggle of a species to gain or to retain a minimum survival territory in competition with its own kind is called “territoriality.” War is basically a product of territoriality. If a primitive human village cannot maintain a certain minimum survival hunting territory free of encroaching neighbors, the village must perish.           The reason for man’s aggressive instincts, his beard, his need to dichotomize between the”we” (members of the home village or friends) and the   “they” (members of neighboring villages or foes), his willingness to sacrifice his life in defense of his villages survival territory, becomes clear. It is a matter of survival of the home village. Modern man has been evolutionarily selected to have the aggressive traits appropriate for his ancestors. Human variants not sufficiently aggressive lost the struggle for minimum survival territories and perished.

          A modern society may not, in fact, be immediately threatened by a loss of its minimum survival territory; but the members of the society are preprogrammed genetically with the primitive ancestral instincts not to fight to preserve or to gain a survival territory. Thus, a threat, or an imagined threat to a nation, country, or region can be interpreted emotionally as a threat to one’s own survival(if the instinctively envisioned survival territory is lost). Powerful primitive emotions and territorial instincts are built into modern man, which allow him to be driven into war.

          These  primitive instincts are not necessarily inappropriate or non adaptive today. They may still function as a survival mechanism. The cultures and races that win the struggle for survival territories and that win the wars. Evolution selects the cultures and human variants that are best suited to win the competition for survival territory and that are consequently best suited to win the attendant conflicts and wars. To eliminate war or to ameliorate the evil consequences of war the natural evolutionary role of war to decide the competition for territory and to select the winners should be  recognized. If the country or nation superior in its capacity to wage war were to be awarded the territory or other advantages accrued the winner of a war without, in fact, waging an actual war, then war could be avoided. If the would -be loser in a potential conflict were able to surrender before  a war is actually waged, then war could also be avoided. Nature herself has actual evolved strategies whereby territorial(and other) disputes and conflicts are decided peacefully without bloodshed. Members of a species have generally evolved symbols indicating the members ability to do combat, such as colored plumage. These symbols together with ritualized confrontations between competitors generally reveal the would-be winner and the would-be loser in case an actual combat were to take place. Following such rituals the would-be loser generally retires without bloodshed yielding the field to the would-be winner. Nature has thereby optimized the survival of the species involved. (However, an occasional loss of life must occur to keep the ritualized system to resolve conflict hones!)  

        Modern countries and governments should, thus, perhaps display their   ability to wage war; so the potential winner and the potential loser in any conflict can be recognized without an actual hot war being necessary. The problem of who might win and who might lose can, of course, be complicated. Perhaps appropriate software can be developed to resolve the problem; so governments can make the appropriate decisions without having to actually engage in a hot war. Thus, “computer games” might be able to indicate how territorial (and other) disputes can be best resolved.

            Such ritualized behavior to avoid actual deadly conflicts, that is prevalent in all life forms, also exists today in man’s behavior. Diplomacy, treaties, agreements, compromises, customs, etc. are frequent common devices to resolve potentially destructive conflicts and wars. The ritualized mechanism to avoid war, that is suggested here, is, thus, not new; it merely needs to be refined. It is especially necessary that the potential loser be able to recognize his inferior chances and to be made aware of how  to surrender while preserving certain advantages. Unfortunately, today it would seem that the world is occupied only by men suffering the delusion that they are always the would-be winners!

          It may be noted that a reduced birth rate results in less territory to support the next generation with a reduced need to compete for territory and with a reduced likelihood of becoming involved in a serious conflict or war. The question of peace or war is, thus, vitally coupled to population density.As long as a territory is more than sufficient to maintain a constant population there can be no need to strive for more territory that can lead to war.

          Unfortunately, population self-control appears to be counter to nature’s law to produce, or reproduce, as many offspring as is physically possible. The population of the species is then limited by starvation, predation and other factors beyond the control of the species itself. Similarly, nature’s method of natural selection is the competition for territory involving conflict and war would seem to imply that again no self-control by a species is possible concerning conflict and war.

          Never-the-less, humans need to strive for a lower world population density and  ritualized resolution of would-be deadly conflicts and wars.  

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from Roots and Fruits, a publication of the Stanislaus Peace-Life Center and the Stanislaus Safe Energy Committee

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