A Peace Tax. Our right to stop financing the murders
Tolstoy Center for Nonviolence
Apr 25, 2019
With what can we confront the law that turns people into murderers? Literally, without any exaggeration…. Perhaps, the best choice would be the law of humility and love: “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” But, when we are learning humility, it becomes impossible to put up with killing and mutilating people. Just impossible.
It is the time to share results of our initiative, which would be interesting for anyone, who finds murders and maiming to provide safety for yourself or others unacceptable. The results are interim, but they are worth looking into.
In short, the raw data is this
On the one hand, the Constitution guarantees each of us the right not to participate in armed violence and bloodshed, and the Federal Act regulates “repayment of the debt to the Motherland” in the form of alternative service — with no weapon in hand.
On the other hand, government budgets are a real thing. They are generally designed to pay expenses from a general pool of money into which our taxes flow. When we are paid our wages, or receive a service, or buy a product, we automatically pay a tax — which goes, among other things, to maintain governmental security forces. (Here we are not even mentioning all sorts of other taxes, excise duties and fees, charged separately.)
As a result:
- Each one of us supports the army, police and other security forces daily — from every loaf of bread, litre of fuel for our cars, and kilowatt of electricity.
- The army, police, and other security forces that benefit from our support — these are institutions that use death threats, as well as violence, torture, injury, and killing of people as their main working tool.
What does this mean?
Yes, we kill and mutilate people. And, before anything else, we threaten them with it. Not by ourselves, not with our own hands, but with the hands of others — which is twice as bad. And we finance it daily, and draw more and more people into it — leaders and functionaries of the security forces, yesterday’s boys and girls.
We pay for it throughout our lives. Day after day, month after month, year after year. As if this is how it should be. As if we want it to never stop.
What to do?
Change the situation.
One possible method is already known — “small good deeds,” growing the seeds of peacefulness, so that, years later, the flowers of peace would bloom. But at the same time, we would have to keep murdering and maiming people every day.
But it is also possible to stop killing people. This is how we currently participate in this killing:
- by our citizenship, making us stakeholders of the violence that is institutionalized in the country;
- by direct funding of security forces.
And if the first point, our citizenship status, is too complex for us to deal with at the moment, we can nevertheless follow the dictates of our conscience about paying for the military and police. Specifically, we redirect our investment from lethal protection of life to purely peaceful purposes — cultivating mercy and compassion among children and adults, development of non-lethal and non-traumatic means of individual and collective protection, establishing awards for peacefulness and peace-making instead of punishment and retribution for evil. Or, at least, we redirect our investment to purely humanitarian goals: supplying hospitals, constructing schools, road repairs, etc.
It is logical to call it a “peace tax”.
Can’t we just eliminate the military-police tax?
Unfortunately, this custom of imposing a blood “debt to the Motherland” on our own people will not be eliminated from our society overnight. That is why there must be an alternative to taxes for the military and police. If that alternative tax is linked to peacekeeping, so much the better … but at least let it be linked to the peaceful sector of the state, such as the civil service.
Why is it still not realized?
Indeed, such a mechanism still does not exist in any country of the world, including the most developed democracies, such as Switzerland. However, movement in this direction has already started. And in some countries, peace tax legislation is already under consideration at the highest levels.
Why we began with the most important thing
First of all, it is vital, in full view of state and society, to uphold our right not to kill people — not by our own hands, nor by others. To be more precise, to take back that right, which had been given up (or, rather, taken) at birth.
We do not want anyone to fear us. We ourselves do not kill, and we can not finance others to kill for us. Our intention is to support fundamentally different life protection mechanisms, with values that are not emphasized under existing arrangements: peacefulness, peacekeeping, non-acceptance of violence and murders, prevention of conflicts, and resolution of disagreements.
We started, as the situation requires, with the Government (excluding the President, who is Commander-in-Chief, and whom it makes sense to reserve for a final appeal). First, we drew the officials’ attention to a horrible contradiction: one law guarantees people the right not to commit large-scale executions, and at the same time, another law forces the very same people to finance murders and mutilations.
Who are “we”?
We are authors and editors of Tolstoy Center for Nonviolence. We are not experts in public financial management, so we did not offer to the Government our solution for re-crediting of taxes. But we were confident that, due to the extreme importance of the topic, the officials were bound to pay maximum attention to this question and professionally (unlike us) address the implementation of a peace tax mechanism, just as tax reduction legislation and the civil service were adopted in the past.
Now the most interesting. What did we get in return?
This is the summary of our dialog with the State. More precisely — our dialogue with the Administration represented by the staff of the senior administration of the executive branch, the, Ministry of Finance, the Lower and the Upper houses of the Federal Assembly. With people who proved NOT TO CARE.
- We tell them about murders and mutilations of people — they tell us about “wastewater treatment” and “grants for painters.”
- From us to them: “What steps are going to be taken?”— from them to us: “We shall take it into account in our work where possible.”
- From us to them, about the necessity of urgent changes in the law — from them to us: “Thank you for your active citizenship; we simply follow the law at all times.”
Corresponding with officials took almost two years. A mutually respectful dialogue never took place. Not to mention any steps to implement the initiative itself.
So what is the result?
Now we have all the grounds to turn to the courts for recourse. Which we, however, are not going to do, because modern courts are not very far from the security forces (since the courts are based not on trust and respect, but on punishment for disobedience).
What are we going to do next?
Instead of cynical inaction we need the legislative machinery to get moving in the right direction. If you have ideas how to launch the process without involvement of the courts — we will be glad to hear them.