Monday, September 22, 2008

Peaceful Warriors Training Camp

My previous post was about why I think military service holds appeal for many young people. In this post I'm going to write out my vision for a non-violent alternative to military service.

What I'd like to see is a peace activists training organization. It would combine elements of the military, the Highlander Center, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Civilian Public Service. It would operate much like military basic training: Recruits would live together in barracks with a drill instructor for a set amount of time, learning basic skills, discipline and regimentation. They would learn team building and trust in one another and in authority. They'd spend the first 6-8 weeks learning basic things such as woodworking, how to use tools, group cooking, and basic survival skills. They'd also do some amount of classwork learning about non-violent social action and studying conflict resolution from the personal to the global. They'd study the teachings of Gandhi and what the Highlander Center did; they'd learn about the Lunch Counter Sit-ins and other real examples of peace action. They'd also study self-defence through aikido or another non-aggressive method.

Next they would learn about current, active peace work throughout the world. They'd study about AFSC and Peace Corps and Doctors Without Borders and Mercy Corps. They'd learn about all the kinds of opportunities for work there are and then they'd choose a field of study. The training camp would provide education to train the recruits in whatever area they wanted to pursue, possibly through a community college but maybe also with paid staff or volunteers. I envision areas of study such as medicine/first aid, firefighting/natural disaster management, community gardening/sustainable agriculture, teaching, water resources, sustainable energy, building/architecture, land reclamation/forestry, midwifery/family planning and the like.

During this time, they would be working and doing community service projects, spending time with local or regional non-profit agencies. During study breaks, they may travel to other areas to do internships or more intensive work.

I see this as a 1-2 year program. I think it would be good to consult with many cross-border and national agencies to learn exactly what skills would be valuable to them and try to structure the program to teach those skills.

The program would have to be privately funded, not taking any government money.

The recruits would be paid some amount for participating in the program and upon completion would earn something extra. In exchange, they would commit to X amount of service upon completion.

The recruits would also have to understand that they would submit to the authority of the program and give over their identity as "civilian" to that of "peace warrior" (in the way that a "hero's journey" makes one die to one's old nature and accept a new identity. The U.S. military is brilliant at enacting this rite of passage for recruits--one of the only powerful, active rites in our entire society.). The program would be hard and challenging and would not allow for the kind of dissension or questioning of authority that we so often see in the liberal community. In other words, if you trust the organization enough to want to take from it, you also make a real commitment to give and to follow the structure and rules.


Jennifer said...

What an interesting idea! My gut reaction when I first read about its similarities to boot camp were negative because of the person my brother became after he joined the marines. But as I read on, especially about it being a rite of passage, I had very positive feelings about your idea. I remembered that for some people the military is a positive experience, so your idea would be an excellent substitute. I did wonder why you thought it should be privately funded? While we're dreaming, why not use the defense budget? lol

Friendly Mama said...

Simply because the government would not support it properly. Americorps started out as a great program but funding was cut back and back and it's still a good program for a few individuals but it has lost it's real potential, I think. I feel strongly that the government should has as little impact on this as possible. I mean, yeah in a perfect world, we'd be able to go through the Department of Peace to use the defence budget (when everyone sees that this world IS the Kingdom of God), but for now, I feel we should forgo involving the hawks in any way.

I know what you mean about discomfort with the idea of boot camp but think of this as a way for a young person to embrace a new identity-not that of macho soldier or mercenary, but that of powerful warrior for peace (I'm still trying to find a word that fits better than warrior. I'd like to describe someone who fights for peaceful causes without perpetuating violence).

Jennifer said...

I actually agree with you more than my first comments sounds. I have friends in the Peace Corps who have been basicially dropped in Tanzania with no resources. They are literally starving right along with the people they are supposed to be helping. :(

I was definitely thinking perfect world scenario. :) And in that scenario, I would be president, too. ha ha

Being a homeschooler, I do kind of shy away from government involvement in things that primarily need an element of compassion (which includes education!).

I still like your idea. :)