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There is no alternative to ceasefire negotiations / The rebel within us
by Stephen Brues and Roland Rottenfusser
There is no alternative to negotiations on ceasefires and ceasefires, is there? That is where all the power should be concentrated. If that succeeds, the bombing will also stop.
There is no alternative to ceasefire negotiations

Why civil resistance is also possible
Interview with Stephan Brües of the BSV*
[This article published on 6/20/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The Bund für Soziale Verteidigung (The League for Social Defense) was founded in Minden in 1989. It is a professional association for non-violent politics and constructive conflict management.

It is active both domestically - dispute resolution in schools, trainings on nonviolence, Love-Storm against hate on the net, etc. - and internationally - coordinator of the Balkan Peace Team in the 1990s, initiator of the Civil Peace Service in 1999, co-founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce in 2002, supporter of Nasch Dom in Belarus since 2005.

The League for Social Defense advocates that Ukrainians should resist Putin's aggression not with weapons, but with civil resistance. Can you elaborate on that?

Of course, we cannot and do not want to tell the Ukrainians what to do. We can only point out other ways. And we can remind that before the war there was a poll in which Ukrainians were asked how they imagine to defend themselves against aggressors, with weapons or without. As many as 24 percent imagined it without weapons, 22 percent clearly with, and the rest could not decide. This at least shows that weaponless concepts are not entirely unknown. Moreover, Ukrainians have carried out nonviolent revolutions twice in the last 20 years. So that means they know and have practiced certain areas of nonviolent resistance.

Can you give examples?

There have been demonstrations against the Russian ground troops that invaded - they were clearly shown that they were unwanted. There have been people who have stood in front of tanks, some of them even turned around. Non-violent resistance has also been reported from Kherson, which is now occupied.

I can oppose a tank, but not the bombs from the air. And with appeals to the pilots, if I reach them at all, it is also difficult, because bombing is a very dehumanized form of killing. What do I do then?

Then there is no way around doing everything so that there are ceasefires and ceasefires, there is no other way.

How can this be done?

There is no alternative to negotiations on ceasefires and ceasefires, is there? That is where all the power should be concentrated. If that succeeds, the bombing will also stop. I find it difficult, for example, when the Ukrainian military places anti-aircraft missiles on the roof of a block of flats where civilians live. The civilians are used as shields, which at the same time gives the other side the opportunity to say: We didn't bomb any civilians, but the anti-aircraft missile, and unfortunately civilians were also harmed. I am not justifying any bombing, I only want to point out the problems inherent in military resistance.

The question is, what is the primary goal of defense? Is it to protect the population or is it to bring about military objectives? It is a dilemma. How to solve it, I don't know, but the problem has to be made an issue and thought through. There is a lot of talk in the media at the moment about defending militarily at all costs. A reference such as the fact that defensive missiles are located in residential areas is only mentioned in passing and is not discussed further. I don't think that's honest reporting.

The matter is of course difficult. Pacifist peace policy and peace-logical policy are based primarily on prevention; all attention is directed toward prevention, that is, the prevention of war. Social defense is then, so to speak, plan B when plan A, namely prevention, has not worked.
Strict standards are applied to the success of nonviolent resistance. It bothers me that these strict standards do not also apply to the success or non-success of military resistance. I find that problematic. In the meantime, however, there are enough studies in empirical peace research that clearly prove that nonviolent resistance is much more successful than violent resistance. And there are good reasons for this.

One would not come to this conclusion spontaneously.

I'm talking about the study by two U.S. professors, Erica Cheonweth and Maria J. Stephan. Cheonweth was originally a military researcher. The two of them studied over one hundred conflicts from 1906 to 2006. They asked: was there nonviolent or violent resistance, and what happened to it after the armed conflict ended? What did society look like five years later, was it more democratic than before or not? Cheonweth had firmly assumed that the violent forms of resistance were more successful, in the sense that authoritarian regimes would fall and society would be more democratic afterwards than before. That was the criterion for success. The data were analyzed statistically, but it turned out that nonviolent resistance had been much more successful than violent resistance.

The researchers explain this by the fact that violent resistance can only be carried out by a certain group, usually men of military age, who are somewhat isolated from the normal population. Nonviolent resistance, however, can be carried out by the entire population in some way, and participation in it can be very high-they assume 3 percent of the population. If 3 percent of the population participates in nonviolent resistance, there is a very high chance that the resistance will be successful. There are other studies that point in the same direction, so that's an empirical finding. The myth of redemptive violence is very fragile.

During World War II, several European countries declared their cities open cities, i.e. the city government declared that it would not resist militarily, in exchange for not bombing the city. This is even in the Hague Land Warfare Convention. Can you explain the concept in more detail?

I can't say anything about that, but there are communities in various conflict areas that declare themselves peace communities, for example in Colombia, or civil society groups like Bantay Ceasefire that have successfully advocated and monitored ceasefires and ceasefire agreements in their countries - with the help of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international peace organization that FSIA co-founded in 2002. The communities have said, "In civil war situations, where different militias or guerrillas are facing each other, we don't want to have anything to do with either side.". Of course, these communities were threatened, and many of their citizens were murdered. But they also had international escorts like Peace Brigades International who were on the ground protecting the communities.

Were they able to prevent destruction on a greater scale than if they had taken sides?

At the very least, they managed to keep their community from being drawn into armed combat between hostile militias. They have been able to stay out of the civil war for the most part, refusing to be subservient to one side or the other and remaining autonomous.

Do you have partners in Ukraine with whom you work?

We have contact with the pacifist movement in Ukraine. Admittedly, it is not large. It is mainly based in Kiev and tries to bring its view of things to the world. In Germany, it does this quite successfully in some cases. Its spokesman, Yuri Sheliashenko, has also been on the Tagesschau.
We have more contacts in Belarus. For 15 years we have had a partner organization there, Nasch Dom, Our House. After the beginning of the war, the director, Olga Karach, launched an appeal to mothers to tell their sons not to join the military and not to invade Ukraine. That was the day after February 24, the appeal has been clicked many hundred thousand times. A lot of young men went into hiding, the top general resigned because he couldn't convince them to please be available. A whole battalion has refused to move to Ukraine. There is now also a group of hackers who are paralyzing railroad tracks in Belarus to prevent military transports. This is all very close to social defense. Basically, the old slogan of the peace movement is being put into practice here: Imagine it's war and nobody goes.

The contrast with Ukraine already indicates that certain social preconditions are needed for such a concept to work.

In principle, conflicts must be resolved at the level of civil society. Conflict resolution strategies must therefore also originate there, because the civilian population is the one that has to live with it. In the long term, this will only work if they are also involved in the solutions. For outsiders, this can only mean supporting such groups. The important thing is to enforce in conflict areas that the people on the ground have control over what happens.

*Stephan Brües has been co-chairman of the BSV since 2012.

The rebel within us
What we call "conscience" tells us whether we are acting in harmony with the whole.
By Roland Rottenfußer
[This article published on 6/25/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Der Rebell in uns.]

The popularity of the term "conscience" in public perception is subject to strong fluctuations. Those who violate regulations and laws by invoking their conscience are highly regarded if they rebelled against the Nazis 80 years ago or against the GDR leadership 40 years ago. Today, however, if someone refuses to enforce a nonsensical Corona regulation, he is threatened with punishment, insults, and social exclusion. Put simply, the state prefers heroes of conscience dead. Because, of course, it is inconvenient for any kind of rulers if people still follow other authorities than them. At the same time, the human conscience is by no means infallible. All too often it is an organ for conformity that whistles us back when we threaten to leave the fold. In many other cases, however - and it is mainly these cases for which we pay admiration in retrospect - it brings us into conflict with parents, politics and social norms. Some even put their lives on the line for a cloudy notion of integrity. Why?

We can read a lot about conscience, but can we feel it? I remember the "voice of conscience" like a fever. After my studies, I had been urgently looking for an internship in a book publishing house. I found it in a well-known major publishing house in Munich. As it turned out after a few days, however, its political program was right-wing. It had been naïve, of course, not to have researched this beforehand. A notorious bestseller was "Ich war dabei" (I was there), in which Franz Schönhuber gave a euphemistic account of his time in the Waffen SS. At the time, Schönhuber was in the process of building a right-wing populist party - the Republicans - and was considered potentially the most dangerous man in Germany.

I "wrestled" with myself for a weekend, feeling downright harassed by my conscience. Then I believed I suddenly no longer had a choice, and felt as if I were "determined by others," although I was actually acting in a highly self-determined manner. The next morning, I told my supervisor flatly that I was leaving the publishing house immediately - because of Schönhuber. Everyone at the publishing house reacted with understanding, but I had robbed myself of a valuable professional opportunity.

I remember thinking the following: If I stayed at the publishing house and made a "career" there, my entire future professional life would be tainted. A bit of vanity and self-interest probably played a role, too. Through this job, I felt that my membership in the group of anti-fascists was being questioned. I could not have reconciled it with my self-image.

"Neither safe nor wholesome"

My story is quite harmless compared to real acts of conscience. In Germany, the term "conscience" was long associated primarily with Martin Luther. He refused in court to recant his attacks against the pope "because to do anything against conscience is neither safe nor wholesome." Luther narrowly escaped arrest and was on the run for a long time. English poet and Baptist preacher John Bunyan refused to obey the Anglican Church's ban on preaching. He spent 12 years of his life in jail. "I will rather endure to the end of my days in the dungeon than offer up my conscience," Bunyan said. When he was released, he preached again and was imprisoned again. It wasn't until 1687 that he was rehabilitated with the "Indulgence Act" - only to die shortly thereafter.

In post-war Germany, Sophie Scholl has become the prototype of the heroine of conscience. The 4th leaflet of the resistance movement "The White Rose" reads, "We are not silent, we are your evil conscience." Sophie and other members of the group were executed by the Nazis in 1943. Was "all well" with the Allied victory over Nazi Germany? Not at all, racism lived on in a different guise, and in the U.S. Martin Luther King became a fighter for black rights.

"My behavior is determined by the compelling voice of conscience and the desire to follow the truth and the will of God wherever they may lead. (...) Something must be done to awaken the slumbering conscience of America before it is too late."

Martin Luther King also paid for his decision with his life.

The binding conscience

People who accept disadvantages for their conscience move the world. Today, Edward Snowden or Julian Assange come to mind. However, the concept of conscience has changed: Whereas Luther identified it strongly with "God's voice," modern heroes tend to perceive conscience as an autonomous instance in the innermost part of the human being. Even older than these two versions, however, is probably the binding conscience. Bert Hellinger understands it as an admonishing voice that ensures belonging to a certain social group.

"Wherever there are ties, there is automatically a spontaneous perception: 'What applies here so that I may belong, and what must I do and not do so that I do not lose my belonging?' The organ of perception for this kind of perception is the conscience. Therefore, one who belongs to several groups also has different consciences."

The truth of Hellinger's statement can be easily verified. Someone is professionally engaged and a family man. If he neglects the business, he has a bad conscience toward his boss; if, on the other hand, he works late into the night, he has a bad conscience toward his children. Betrayal of the "national community" could also be a source of remorse in the Third Reich, for example. Paradoxically, not killing an enemy, not betraying a hidden Jew, and so on, could cause someone to feel remorse. The binding conscience often proved stronger than any cloudy notion of humanity.

The bad conscience - an autoaggressive act?

The bonds that chain us to our parents' values are arguably the strongest there are. What we heard as children imprints itself so deeply that we later feel even the result of clumsy manipulation as our "primordial". Sigmund Freud tied conscience to the "superego."

We internalize the norms and rules we have received from our parents. The image of the admonishing father stored in the subconscious then acts as a strict disciplinarian even in the absence of the real father.

Omar Khadr, who came from a family of al-Qaeda fighters, was driven by his binding conscience to fight against the Americans in Afghanistan at the age of 15. His guards at Guantanamo Bay then tortured him just as "conscientiously." Perhaps such behavior was in keeping with their parents' ideas of a "good American."

Is conscience, then, a nebulous, arbitrarily malleable thing that we wrongly identify with "steadfastness"? Friedrich Nietzsche, in his writing "On the Genealogy of Morals," branded the bad conscience as an autoaggressive act. Man, Nietzsche argued, is full of natural, destructive impulses: enmity, cruelty, lust for destruction. If these impulses are inhibited by rigid morality, they turn against their originator. He then constantly torments himself with scruples and develops a bad conscience.

"But with it was introduced the greatest and most sinister disease from which mankind has not recovered to this day, man's suffering from man, from himself: as the consequence of a violent separation from the animal past."

Yes, conscience also has opponents, but is their judgment just?

The conscience demands decisions

For me, conscience is not a disease, but the only healthy thing when the world around us goes crazy. The binding conscience tries to avoid personal disadvantages - the exclusion from the community.... But it becomes interesting when someone consciously accepts a disadvantage for reasons of conscience - in the most extreme case even death. The book "The Power of Conscience" by Siegfried Fischer-Fabian tells some shocking stories about this. For example, that of a farmer's son from the Sudentenland who refused to join the SS. He writes to his parents in February 1944:

"I have to tell you some sad news today, that I have been sentenced to death, I and Gustav G. We did not sign up for the SS. (...) We both would rather die than stain our conscience with such atrocities."

In such cases, one has the feeling that "higher human abilities" are at work. Normally, humans strive for happiness and want to avoid suffering - a truism constantly repeated by the Dalai Lama, for example. How is it then that people so blatantly violate their own interests? That they even give their lives for an idea of "decent action"?

To speak of a "sacrifice" is not very fashionable today. Many try to avoid clear decisions. Politicians want to prove that "economy and ecology are not opposites." Companies try to combine profits with an ethical set of values. Vegetarians attach importance to the fact that environmentally friendly food also tastes fantastic. It may be possible most of the time to be a good person and live a good life at the same time. Sometimes, however, conscience demands a decision.

An organ for wholeness

I want to offer another definition of conscience of my own for discussion here. I call it an "organ for wholeness." Philosophers, mystics and quantum physicists agree that the world is a unity. We, all living beings and inanimate matter, belong inseparably together. It is only astonishing how the illusion of separation could arise.

The knowledge of wholeness tells us that we cannot hurt other people, animals or the environment without hurting ourselves at the same time. Due to cultural conditioning, this knowledge is not always consciously accessible to us; unconsciously, however, it certainly lives within us: as Ge-knowledge. Sometimes it shows itself in the form of an intuitive uneasiness that arises when we have violated wholeness.

In contrast to the binding conscience, the conscience as an organ of wholeness can certainly rebel against the norms of its own social group. The wholeness conscience has its seat in an "innermost district" of the human being. It was there before the manipulations of parents, milieu and zeitgeist can take hold, and is therefore independent of them. We do not have to acquire the wholeness conscience, we only have to remove the deposits that cover it. To be conscientious does not mean an egocentric fundamental opposition. It results from the realization that "It's not all about me." We need this kind of wholeness conscience today more urgently than ever.

An unused muscle

But do democracies actually still need tutoring in conscience? Germany's Basic Law states that "Members of parliament are 'subject only to their conscience.'" On the other hand, they are representatives of the whole people - both would be noble values if they really determined practical politics. In truth, factional constraints often override the connection between the people and "their" deputies. A small leadership within the parties dominates and manipulates the grassroots. The leadership, in turn, is controlled by "constraints" created by powerful global corporations and banks.

It suits the powerful that the term "conscience" has a somewhat dusty reputation. It no longer seems to fit well into an era of global entanglements and well-meaning but helpless political leaders. Decisions of conscience demand a clear separation: here the evil tyrant, there the hero who opposes him with pathos. The citizens of modern, controlled democracies, however, are themselves entangled in tyrannical systems: through wrong voting and consumption decisions.

In recent times, for example, through quite unobjectionable participation in the discrimination of the unvaccinated. In an era of "no-alternative" politics, conscience is not forbidden, but it atrophies like an underused muscle. The best way to put conscience to sleep is to deny that there is a conscience decision to be made at all.

Heroes of conscience - only historically popular

Politicians praise the resistance fighters in the Third Reich and those who opposed the GDR dictatorship. A little later, they go about unapologetically breaking the will of those who, for example, violate rigid demonstration requirements.

Anyone who rebels today will not have a monument built to him. He is worn down by fines and lawsuits, feels isolated and little respected. His deed is lost in a flood of superficial media reports. Even like-minded people still ridicule him for his unreasonable tendency to self-harm.

The historical hero serves to edify; the neighborhood hero is a provocation and therefore undesirable. He confronts one with one's own cowardice and shows that there is an alternative to inaction.

But there is also a hopeful aspect: conscience enjoys the highest prestige of all motives for resistance. A conscience that is stronger than the desire to avoid suffering sets one free - even today. A great hero of conscience can be locked away and later lauded away into history; many small heroes of conscience would call into question the plannability, the controllability of political processes in the first place.

"Imagine": an officer would order to bomb civilians in Afghanistan, and the pilot's answer would be "no." Caseworkers at welfare offices would refuse to harass benefit recipients. Bank employees would stop lying to their customers and selling them bad paper. Police officers would suddenly discover that they are being abused by politicians to enforce decisions against their own people. They would refuse to take action against demonstrators. Unthinkable?

Beyond practical constraints and self-interest

What would a world look like in which conscience replaced obedience as the guiding principle? It would be a world in which chains of command would break and means of power would fizzle out. Certainly also a chaotic world in which mistakes would be made, but a very lively one. In the reality of constraints, grotesque situations occur time and again. When, for example, additional contributions are collected from health insurance patients, although it is clear to everyone that the power of the pharmaceutical companies should actually be broken and the prices of medicines should be limited.

Hardly anyone wants what is happening, but everyone plays along: the health minister, who is often more driven than active; the health insurance company management, which obeys the politicians; the administrators, who obey the health insurance company management and collect the contributions; the patients, who reluctantly accept their fate. "Lack of alternatives" wherever you look. What is missing is a countervailing power that would be capable of parrying the pressure from above with counterpressure.

This counter-power is present in each of us. It is our highest instance, the forgotten organ of wholeness: our conscience. With the awakening of the conscience, alternatives suddenly appear, the automatism of obedient functioning disappears. To use our conscience today, we lack neither opportunity nor urgency.

What is lacking is the awareness that an authority exists at all beyond practical constraint and self-interest.

Where it speaks up, it is silenced or trivialized. We must not only sharpen our sensors for the violation of wholeness, but also strengthen the courage within us to resist destructive forces. A conscience that has no practical consequences remains stuck in barren musings. Let us rediscover it, nurture it and respect it! A world where conscience rules, not certain interest groups, would be a better world.

Roland Rottenfußer, born in 1963, studied German and worked as a book editor and journalist for various publishing houses. From 2001 to 2005 he was editor at the spiritual magazine connection, later for the "Zeitpunkt". He currently works as an editor, book copywriter and author scout for Goldmann Verlag. Since 2006 he has been editor-in-chief of Hinter den Schlagzeilen.

We are the state!

"The community of values and the rule of law are disintegrating because they have been corrupted by ideologies," writes Alexander Christ in the new Rubikon bestseller - and shows how law and justice can still be saved.
18.06.2022 by Roland Rottenfußer, Jens Wernicke
Unashamed sounds of freedom
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