This note is to provide a perspective on peace from the trenches. Our view leans heavily on natural and human history--backed up by science--but only lightly on dogma. Dogma is good in many ways, but on the question of peace, dogma has had a net negative effect, at least historically.
Jessica Stern (Terror in the Name of God) captures an important essence of our times:
"What is so deeply painful about terrorism is that our enemies, whom we see as evil, view themselves as saints and martyrs. As such, religious terrorism is more than a threat to national security. It is psychological and spiritual warfare, requiring a psychologically and spiritually informed response. ..."
Jessica Stern (Harvard University).
Taking a lead from Stern and others, we therefore tried a more scientific approach and were quite surprised to find many investigators in disparate disciplines have already identified some of the roots of violence and also some initial bricks in the wall of peace. But apparently, no one has tried to put them all together into a comprehensive and coherent view. We have made a start on this website.
We cannot change our genome, but we can change our culture. Indeed many people, even nations, have done just that. Our animal impulses can be reined in when family units, schools, and benevolent local authorities cooperate in establishing individual moral behavior with balanced internal and external loci of control that puts the welfare of the many ahead of that of the individual. Several nations seem to have done that with relative, if varied, success. From them we can learn.
Our genome also contains genes for emotional pathologies (extremes) such as psychopathic, sociopathic, and narcissistic personalities. None is illegal or psychotic, but any can cause untold grief and violence if given the reins of power. History is replete with examples and such people are alive and well today, doing their dirty work. Identifying these individuals early in life could lead to means for limiting the damage they can do. Most criminals are in this class. But the problem is much larger and more serious than overt crime.
If our enterprises ever permit, we will establish a small, rotating group of experts in dialogue from various fields to dig into the most basic roots of human behavior which ranges from suicide, through genocide, to cooperation, love and caring for others altruistically.
Surely these tendencies predate antiquity. The expected product from such an effort would be an outline of steps toward modifying violent behaviors in individuals and therefore in the various societies on earth.
The roots of violence have already been well defined by others. The flip side of the coin is there, but it has not received the attention and wide application needed to establish a movement--with enough momentum to carry the day for peace. The US is in a unique position to lead such an effort. Almost certainly, such an effort would benefit from Hollywood's help, and we are not particular fans of Hollywood. Nevertheless, Hollywood can help immensely.
Education in peace is the byword and this logically leads to a broadband Internet connection in every home on earth, and a computer of course. Money spent toward that end would be money well spent. Certainly it would be better compared to the four trillions or so added to our national debt that went down the drain over these last eight years.
We read you as an authentic article, a questioner, listener, thinker, and an action taker. What you have done so far is right on--both in direction and style. Social integration is one keystone for lasting peace. What you have accomplished in that direction already is simply astonishing.
It will take a movement to capture popular attention with world-wide effect. We hope and expect the tide of history you are creating will put humanity on track to peaceful co-existence. It may take more than the two terms you might have, almost certainly it will. Momentum you create could become self-sustaining. We hope that happens.
We can Do It!
Thank you for you being you, Barack. Good luck--and God speed.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Tuesday, November 11, 2008.