Now I’m going to let go, and take off on a flight of hopeful, faithful fancy.
The task at hand is still to imagine ways that peace may still have a chance, even as the death and devastation continues day by day in the cities, towns and oblasts of Ukraine.
I’ve suggested imagining both Putin’s armies and “the West” standing down, and agreeing, say, to a non-aligned Ukraine while the Russian Federation begins a process of normalising relations with the rest of Europe.
To offset yet another existential standoff between hyperpower clusters, I’ve proposed imagining longitudinal networks to match the great northern latitudinal alliance: a pole to pole expanse encompassing the nations with the largest landmasses along with those that have the greatest concentrations of human beings: Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, China, India, with Canada and Australia as bookends.
Our hemisphere is already longitudinally connected: We’re all settler societies, with a balance of Latin and Anglo coexisting with varying concentrations of Indigenous and African elements, as well as a growing Asian presence. We have been dominated, from pole to freezing pole, for 200 + years by the great republic to the South of Canada, and to the North of the rest of the Americas.
Latitudinally, a South Atlantic to Pacific Treaty Organization, from South America across the Atlantic to Africa to South Asia and over the Pacific back to America again, would help establish an even better balance.
South Europe would do well to seek a rapprochement with the rest of the original Mediterranean World, including Turkey, Iran, the Middle East and North Africa. The separation of Latin Europe, including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Romania, from the rest of the Mediterranean World is as unnatural, and unfortunate, as the separation between Christendom East and West, including what is now Turkey and once Byzantium.
To offset all those extensive new unifications, disunion could also be part of the picture. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Anglo Empires East and West break up into smaller, less dominant entities. The United Kingdom is already well on the way to dismemberment.
This is a process that actually began with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The independence of Ireland, Canada and the other “Dominions” followed from that, as did Ireland and all the other former colonies, not just of England but all of Europe’s Atlantic powers. Barbados and Jamaica preparing to break ties with the British crown are just the latest examples of the whole world following the U.S. separatist storyline.
But separations can facilitate new unions and reunions. A free Scotland and a free Wales joining hands with an undivided Ireland, and from there working to strengthen a trans-Atlantic Celtic alliance stretching from “Newfoundland to Brittany, from Scotland to the Basque Country” looks, to me, not just like a beautiful dream, but manifest destiny. If it comes about, it will all be thanks to the rebels that started dividing the British Empire when it was only just starting to rule the waves.
Harmony, rather than unity or solidarity, is preferable in situations where nations and peoples don’t fit exactly and exclusively within the boundaries of a single sovereign nation state. That means almost everywhere. In previous musings, I’ve even imagined a plural Canada, centred around cities, towns, watersheds, and multiple nations, both Indigenous and of settler origins.
None of these arrangements need be permanent. The time for Thousand Year Realms is long past. A thoroughfare can become a byway; a fork in the road can merge again on the other side of a mountain or lake. Peace in Ukraine can start with a 60-80 year truce, during which we can dedicate all the time, energy and resources previously devoted to defending ourselves to healing the planet, and developing ways to achieve a responsible, sustainable and fair kind of prosperity. Once that’s settled, the people of Earth can decide what to do with nations, lands, tribes, associations, provinces, watersheds, cities and towns.
All we have to do to set such trends into motion is give peace a chance, starting right now.
That means thinking of ways to give the war criminals who started the killing in Ukraine a way out. If they act now, there is still a possibility of a pardon, and, if they change their course, even of forgiveness.
I’m trying to keep alive a glimmer of hope that Fats Domino and Blueberry Hill can be part of the solution. I not only hope and pray, but truly believe music can serve as the engine of the Peace Train.
The Rolling Stones just announced a European tour to celebrate their Diamond Anniversary, as always, just a decade behind succession of the jubilees celebrating the reign of our gracious Queen. The Stones have been to Russia before, 23 years ago now. It shouldn’t be difficult to add a few concerts in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia. An extended concert tour could be a kind of peace offering that just might stop the masters of war in their tracks. If not, such a prospect could encourage the Russian people to demand their leaders stand down and give peace a chance.
As with this entire generation of music artists, we won’t have Mick, Keith, Ron and their remarkable organization with us forever. This could really be the last time. But it’s hard to imagine a happier ending, not just for their remarkable career, but for the hopes and dreams of my generation.
How about a one-time only Glastonbury East, somewhere in the steppes of Eurasia, complete with Paul McCartney, Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish and Diana Ross? It’s at least possible.
Or a 21st century Woodstock. I was going to say in Vladivostok, but that may be going a bit too far out. But then I started to imagine an actual Peace Train, filled with global musical talent, with Yusuf/Cat Stevens as the honorary Engineer and Buffy Sainte-Marie the Conductor, making its way from London to Paris, along the Orient Express to Bucharest, up to Moscow via Kjiv, and from there to the Pacific along the Trans Siberian Railway. Why not?
Music may not be enough. I’m also keeping my hopes up by imagining a proposal to redo both the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and the 2021 Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2023-24. For complicated reasons, some blameworthy, some just bad luck, these events resulted in disappointment for all concerned. Let’s make the possibility of doing them over a component of a deal to end the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s offence was longing to join the West. That highway sign modified to read that all roads lead to The Hague comes to mind. What if, instead of leading to the heart of the original North Atlantic West in The Hague, Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Paris, the traffic went in the other direction?
Just imagine the Crimean peninsula designated as a kind of Vatican for the new order of World Peace, with branches of the International Court of Justice, the new NATO, its North-South equivalent, the EU, the United Nations, and maybe even the new Union of Mediterranean States.
To complete the picture, something similar can be planned for Taiwan: another Peace Land, symbolizing a world that has outgrown the Eurocentricity that has dominated modernity so far, a humanity that is on the road to solving the injustices that can accompany nationalist solidarity.
To start things off, there could be something like a World’s Fair, running simultaneously in both of these “Peace Lands,” operating under the auspices of one or more of these grand alliances rather than a particular nation.
The theme could be areas where self-determining nations run by their respective “masters” in their own house become problematic: minorities, Indigenous peoples, non-conformists, economic hostility and exclusivity, regional disparities, colonial and imperial vestiges, and, above all, “Man and His World” style arrogance in relation to how we treat our Earthly home. In other words, an intra-national and supra-national approach instead of the usual international one.
In sum, in exchange for standing down in Ukraine, Russia would get a guarantee for security within her borders for the next three to four generations, host a sequence of historic celebrations, and become the home for a new kind of world capital. That’s a good deal. Every child, woman and man on the planet would be a beneficiary: win-win-win multiplied to 7,753,000,000. And if the leaders who have turned Russia into a rogue power don’t accept the offer, peace makers can go over their heads and make the offer to the Russian people.
The promises needn’t flow only in one direction. I’m imagining a much more dynamic, more creative, more courageous and more independent role for the Canadas in the new world order.
Canadian towns and cities could use help in the area of arts, culture and heritage. Looking for ways my city, my region and my watershed could benefit, I’m imagining the Russian Opera working with their German counterparts to finally fulfil Raffi Armenian’s dream and utilize that world-class concert hall that bears his name for something magnificently ambitious.
We could learn from secular missionaries sent from Europe, especially Eastern and Central Europe, to teach us how to appreciate, enjoy and take proper care of our heritage, tangible and intangible, cultural and natural.
Young Canadians need opportunities beyond McJobs, side hustles, Uber-style sharecropping, contractual peonage, out of control landlords, diminishing expectations, inflation on all fronts except their wages, and the vagaries of an economy no one, young or old, rich or poor, has any control over.
And those hordes of older Canadians — my generation, conceived and raised in the new hope that came with the peace of 1945 — need something meaningful and practically useful to do with what’s left of our allotted time here on Earth.
So I’m hopefully, faithfully wishing and praying that, despite all evidence to the contrary, in 2022, the peace business is where it’s at.