banksy-star-warsPeace is often thought of as a passive state – being “peaceful”, whereas war is almost the epitome of action – armies fighting, marching, bombing, killing and dying in order to find some resolution. This peace & war paradigm is so entrenched in our lives that it is not widely understood that peace is not simply, “the absence of war”, but rather the presence of unrelenting action to dismantle the military-industrial complex across the globe.

Governments actually work to make war happen by continually preparing for war and funding the armies to fight them. Imagine if you continually prepared for a test, you would be wanting and expecting to take the test as soon as possible, otherwise all that preparation would seem quite pointless. On the contrary, imagine if you did everything in your power to never, ever take another test. The decisions you would take to make sure you don’t have take another test would be very different from the ones you would have taken if you were sure you would.

Here in New Zealand, the government is working right now to make war happen. How is New Zealand preparing for war? At present, New Zealand is preparing to host major Navy war training exercises in the Hauraki Gulf with 17 countries including the US, Australia, and Indonesia. The government is has committed an additional $20 Billion to military spending over the next 15 years, and a major weapons expo is being held in Auckland to provide an opportunity for arms dealers to showcase their ware to potential customers.

The consequences of these decisions and these preparations are not simply that soldiers may die in horrible wars. Rather, the costs that we as a society bear are the real opportunity costs – the benefits of all of the things that we might have done if we weren’t preparing for war. Right now, our health system is failing. Some estimates put health underfunding at $1.7billion annually. Now to put that in some perspective, that means people having to live in continual pain and forego major life-improving surgery, because they don’t even reach the threshold to go onto the waiting list. People are literally dying in New Zealand waiting for a simple operation because there isn’t enough money in the health budget. Our health system is just one of the many lost opportunities of this war economy, but there are many, many others – dealing with poverty, housing, education, and protecting the environment just to name a few.

The war economy does provide benefits – it provides huge benefits to those who make weapons. Lockheed Martin, the company sponsoring the upcoming Weapons Expo, made $3.6 billion profit in 2015. It is only one of the thousands of companies that are making money from war and disasters. These companies are not simply neutral businesses responding to supply and demand in the market. They are active players shaping the demand for more weaponry. They lobby governments, and if that doesn’t work, they often just bribe them. The men (and few women) who run these businesses are largely drawn from the ranks of the military, and know both the political maneuvers and people to get lucrative contracts awarded.

The sheer size and power of the military-industrial complex is intimidating. The trappings of the military give it the veneer of impenetrability. But we do have the power to change that and to dismantle the military-industrial complex. It starts with the recognition that peace isn’t a state of mind. Peace means positive action to stop war. There will be plenty of peace action happening from 13-20 November, including a blockade of that weapons expo, so please join us in the Week of Peace actions and activities.