It’s the sexiest kind of activism I’ve come across in a long time. Earthdance is, by its own description, a “global peace party” featuring musical performances and “bouncing and swirling dancers”. Held every year for the last 16 years over the weekend of Peace Day (September 21), Earthdance purports to “create a culture of peace” by coordinating musical festivals all around the world.
Part of me wants to say that “a synchronized, multi-location psytrance dance party” is not legitimate peace activism. I don’t know how world peace can be achieved just by having people dance to music. There doesn’t seem to be a coherent Earthdance plan for peace.
On the other hand, nobody else seems to have a coherent plan for achieving world peace either. It’s true that in the two decades that Earthdance has been going on, the world has not become a more peaceful place, but the last two decades of traditional peace protests haven’t been any more successful than Earthdance. Code Pink hasn’t succeeded. Camp Casey didn’t get the job done. No matter how many times members of Catholic Worker splash buckets of their own blood over military property, war doesn’t end.
Any peace activist who says they know how to bring an end to war is full of it, and Earthdance doesn’t hurt anybody. Simply not hurting anybody is essentially what peace is about, so, when it comes to Earthdance, I find myself putting my skeptical snark aside. Earthdance isn’t perfect, but it does accomplish some good.
- First of all, Earthdance is dedicated to peace, and brings attention to the Peace Day holiday. Having a day dedicated to nonviolence is important, especially when we have so many other days, like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, that are used to glorify war.
- Secondly, Earthdance festivals donate 50 percent of their proceeds to nonprofit organizations that include food banks, environmentalist groups, and anti-war activists. These groups do concrete work to make the world a more peaceful place.
- Third, Earthdance gives people a means through which to cultivate a sense of shared identity that transcends national boundaries. At midnight this weekend, Earthdance participants will dance to the same song all at the same time, and recite a Prayer For Peace in unison. Most of the time, it’s members of military organization that engage in such synchronized movements, marching in lock step to the beat of destruction.
For atheists like me, naming something a “Prayer For Peace” is a turn off, but if you take a look at what Earthdance calls a “prayer”, it’s really not all that bad. It’s more like a simple affirmation, without any explicitly religious language to divide the people who speak it: “We are one global family: All colors, all races, one world united. We dance for peace and the healing of our planet Earth, peace for all nations, peace for our communities, and peace within ourselves. As we join together across the world, let us connect heart to heart. Through our diversity, we recognize unity. Through our compassion, we recognize peace. Our love is the power to transform the world. Let us send it out now.”
People can do a lot worse than spend a weekend dancing, while thinking of peace.