Agreements, not wars, start with a walk

by Terry Mollner

Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

I can feel it in my bones. I suspect you can also. It is the time in history for the people on Earth to speak with one voice: we want agreements not wars.

It is time to end the killing of children, women and men as part of resolving our differences. We have put slavery, the horse and buggy, outhouses, rotary phones, and typewriters in the history books. It is time for war to join them.

All wars begin and end in agreements. Look at the relationship between Germany and the rest of Europe today. Look at the relationship between Japan, the U.S., and the rest of the world today. All the lives lost and cities destroyed during the two world wars would not have occurred if the agreements they are all operating on now could have been forged and the war part skipped.

Think of your children and you will be aware maturation cannot be escaped or stopped. Since the 1940s, we, the people of Earth, have also matured.

The current situation on Earth is serious. More than one leader has backed himself into a corner, has access to nuclear weapons, and has threatened to use them. We, the people of Earth, need to speak lovingly in a way they and all our leaders can hear: we first want you to use agreements to end the war in Ukraine and skip the now potential for World War III.

The last two years was the first time in the history of Earth nearly every human being joined in the same conversation at the same time. It was about COVID-19. Now it’s the Russia-Ukraine War.

I began thinking of an action we could take to have a persuasive voice in this global conversation — we could all take a walk. Taking a walk is not illegal in Russia or anywhere else. I then imagined people around the world taking a walk each evening on their downtown streets between 6 and 6:30 p.m. If people in Ukraine and Russia, and every nation on Earth, took a walk on their downtown streets at that time in their time zone, it would be a global referendum where people daily vote with their feet.

This made me think of Mahatma Gandhi’s 1930 march to the sea to make salt. England had outlawed Indians taking salt from the ocean that surrounded them, clearly an absurd law. When the liberation of India from English rule had stalled, Gandhi vowed to walk to the ocean where he would publicly break this law by taking salt from the ocean. By the time he reached the ocean, hundreds of thousands of Indians were walking with him. It was then clear to all India would eventually have to be given its independence from England. They were speaking with nearly one voice they now wanted to, and believed they were capable of, managing their lives as an independent nation.

In 1945, through the creation of the United Nations, the people on Earth reached an agreement that all nations would honor the sovereignty of other nations. The leaders of the Russian government argue Ukraine used to be part of the Russian nation, then called the Soviet Union, and never should have been allowed to leave it. And, as the response of the Ukrainian people to Russia’s military action clearly reveals, like the Indian people, they want and believe they have the right to be an independent nation. I am confident Russia, like England, will eventually honor this right.

One way or another, the Russian people and their government leaders will eventually discover they will never win this war. Then, like Germany and Japan, they will be celebrated for their maturation into forging agreements with their neighbors and the rest of the world that give priority to the common good. It includes respecting the natural maturation process that each community of people with a strong common identity has the right to be an independent nation. We, those walking, will not be prescribing a solution to end the war, nor will we hold placards or make speeches. However, by walking in large numbers we will make a statement in this now global conversation. As the numbers of people walking increases in cities and towns around the world, as well as within Russia, Ukraine, and in other wartorn and polarized countries, our leaders will hear us. It will strongly move them to end the killing of people by reaching, sooner rather than later, what we know eventually ends all wars: agreements.

We, the people of Earth, can now, for the third time, be in the same conversation at the same time. By walking the people of Earth will be making a statement for current and all future generations on this stunningly beautiful Earth: humanity has matured to be capable of skipping the war part.

We live in Shutesbury. Lucy and I will walk each evening from 6 to 6:30 on the Town Common and around the center of town. Come join us or, better, walk in your downtown at that time. And let the others you meet know what you are doing. Each night, invite more friends in your town to join. Invite your friends around the world to walk in their towns. Our numbers in each town each night will be our statement.

When millions, maybe billions, of people are simultaneously walking it will surely influence our leaders, even those who some can’t imagine could hear us and it will change their behavior.

—Terry Mollner lives in Shutesbury and is the retired founder and board member of the Calvert Funds and Calvert Impact Capital in Amherst