What Is PRISMS?


“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Chief Seattle

Prisms_01The PRISMS acronym was the brainchild of the San Diego Peace Campus leaders, Pastor Sara Haldeman-Scarr of the Church of the Brethren, Pedro Rios of American Friends Service Committee, and Mariah Gayler of the Peace Resource Center of San Diego. It arose out of their efforts to help people connect the dots amongst the issues of Poverty, Racism, Immigration, Spirituality, Militarism and Sustainability. To some, these connections are clear, but for others, it may take some explanation and elucidation.

In this document, we will refer to the PRISMS lens. What we’d invite you to do with each part of PRISMS is to ask yourself how the pieces interconnect. We’ll be providing examples, but the discussion here will be far from comprehensive.


 U.S. Policy = Structural Violence

Looking at U.S. policy, and starting with the budget, it’s easy to see where the priorities of our representatives lie. Twenty-five percent of our $3 trillion plus budget is expended on current military, including procurement, personnel, research, homeland security, and nuclear weapons, for example. Nineteen percent is spent on veterans’ benefits and interest on the debt incurred by military spending1. Adding insult to injury, the Department of Defense has not been audited in decades 2. Despite talk of a “peace dividend” by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, we now have a larger military budget than we did during the Cold War3. So, a first step in connecting the dots can be made in recognizing that “billions of dollars are spent annually on militarism and corporate tax breaks while families and communities
across the U.S. experience cuts to essential services like education, housing, healthcare, and worker protections.” 4 This is structural violence.


 What Is Militarism?

Militarism_01Militarism is a philosophy of using force over other alternatives5. This philosophy underlies our military budget and enormous worldwide military presence. But, in subtler ways, militarism pervades our daily lives, has huge implications for how young people are raised (think first person shooter video games), and how we feel and think about the world. As news outlets emphasize the dangers our enemies pose to us, our fears can lead us to support more military buildup and aggression. While there are plenty of profits to be made from weapons manufacturing and military contracting, these benefit company shareholders much more than ordinary workers. Using prisons as a solution for undocumented immigrants and drug addicts is militarism too. Rather than keeping us safe, police in many places have responded to peaceful protests by showing up in riot gear bearing high-powered weapons. Something is wrong.

For More Information on Militarism, click here