To see around the corners of time and reach into the future some GPS would help. More apt metaphors might be a foggy night, a dark jungle, being blind; for these are where we are. Which way can we go? How do we decide?
Not having prescience, what we can do is look for clues in the mirrors of today, natural history, archeology, anthropology, biology and evolution; maybe that is all we can ever do. If we read closely and well we can discover what needs to be done and how to go about it. Making those discoveries and following them up must be the actions of our times.
What we see is an imperfect humanity, not yet fully evolved socially. A finished article? Not yet. Maybe never if we cannot shake the devastating dogmas that drive us and keep us apart.
Since 9/11 we have come to appreciate how complex, yet how simple the broad avenues are. For an overview of some of the many facets, see: Peace Via Nature's Way.
A further example: most people we know take recourse in religion and find answers for peaceful living. Of course, that is one of the purposes (and benefits) of religion--any religion it seems. And most religious people are peaceful, but not all. It is the radicals, the extremists, who hijack any organization they choose for their own purposes. The concept of God has been hijacked since the time of Abraham. those with charismatic fervor are most successful. They radicalize the youth, teach that heaven and martyrdom await their acts of suicidal terror.
In the other expression, it is the imperialists (themselves extremists) who exploit others, giving their opposite numbers motive to become martyrs for they have nothing to lose. And these radicals are as often as not from well educated families, families with enough social insight to recognize exploitation when they see it and feel the humiliation engendered. When the oppressed or abused voice their plight to no effect, they have little recourse but terrorism.
One primary question of our time is why has religion not eliminated violence and brought peace on earth? Religion, over millennia, has embarked on any number of actual attempts to do so--all to no discernible effect. Why is this so? See Terror In The Name of God for what one well-qualified scholar discovered.
A common belief is that it is the devil that brings evil. Of course this explanation works in the sense that if there can be good, there can be evil. Both exist. So do we simply accept that and move on? Do we tacitly accept that war is the natural state among societies? In doing so we let winners create and revise history for posterity. The genocide against American Indians and the Mexican war of expansion are both distorted in many history books, especially those use in K12 textbooks. In the good old American view, good triumphs over evil--a common theme in our cinema. Not so in fact. Violence begetting violence ad infinitum has, so far, Nature's way. Do you suppose Hollywood is just one huge Defense Mechanism we need just to feel good about ourselves?
In Grecian times, art forms were more honest; the Greeks mixed in tragedy and human pathos.
Or is it? We think there is another opton: look for the roots of violence and fix them. Before that, we must ask the tougher question: Is fixing violence what we really do want to do? All religions pay lip service to peace, and so do all responsible media and national leaders. It has always been so--amid violence. Nevertheless not all of us want to do that. Maybe that is one place to start.
Elsewhere on this site we explore good evidence that we have indeed inherited genes for violence from our jungle and savanna heritage. We also find, and anyone can confirm, that there are a number of peaceful societies on earth. They must have made peace between their benevolent and violent selves; how do they do it?. Beyond that, we also find that it is an easy matter to show that the most violent of societies have pockets of peacefulness, and of course there are great differences among societies. So at least there are some sign posts to work from.
From Natural and Human History there is evidence that species can be nudged out of their natural violent niche. For example, no one would adopt a wolf cub as a pet for his/her children. Yet somehow, way back in history, humanity did just that and, by happenstance or reasoning, learned how to select out their violent natures, and breed docile animals that eventually became the lovable and peaceful Poodles and Cocker Spaniels of today. In a sense, this is anti-nature, but it worked. Can we not therefore domesticate ourselves somehow? What are the means? One solution (selective breeding) is evident from the wolf-to-dog story. In view of the previous paragraph, however, it is likely that means other than selective breeding are available.
Actions For Our Times
Action 1: Answer the questions in the previous paragraphs and accept only those answers that have been proven or can be proved, to be cause and effect via independent observations under strict control. The stakes are much too high for guess-work.
Action 2: Devise means whereby the secrets of peaceful local and national societies become available to all of us.
Action 3: Implement Action 2, adjust, if / as necessary, for circumstances that change with time and place.
Action 4 Get involved locally. Employ Dialogue at every opportunity--especially with family, friends, neighbors, schools, and churches.
Action 5 Get involved in society at large. Write and e-mail your congress people, mayor, pastor. Attend city council and school board meetings. make Dialogue your method operandi.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Friday, August 26, 2005.