Updated 07 Apr 2008
On this website you can find procedures for how people, tribes, and nations can improve relationships with one another. And you can find avenues, some already paved, toward peace. Key steps include the following:
- Getting to know ourselves,
- understanding our authoritarianism and how it can be hijacked for good or evil,
- understanding our vulnerabilities to systemic controls,
- thinking for ourselves--ignoring propaganda,
- getting to know one another,
- developing empathy for others,
- discovering two-way communication via Dialogue,
- celebrating our differences, and
- establishing a comity of nations.
How to distinguish the above from mere propaganda depends on the actors and viewers. For more on peaceful side see: Human Rights Education and Community Action.
See also Solutions and Hope.
How these can be used is discussed below.
Traditional approaches to violence highlight religion. Religion can have great power as it comforts humankind, as it provides purpose, and is one obvious starting point. But it has a history of failure over millennia. Religion, especially in the West on the grand scale, has been addressing the question of violence essentially without effect ever since monotheism became organized. That feature is especially true of monotheism. Traces of montheistic thinking go back over ten millennia before becoming formalized with Abraham. Monotheism, as theology, points humanity in the right direction--peace. Yet it has not worked to bring peace as well as the eastern religions and philosophies, Buddhism in particular. It seems pointless to pursue more of the same.
Reasons for this are surely multiple. But a cohesive thread is apparent in the following:
Building a future begins by recognizing the individual whose influence affects those s/he comes in contact with. These contacts enable and bring about families, tribes, societies, nations and civilizations, each with more or less equivalent degrees of violence. But there are exceptions, and these are one focus of our research, the scientific approach. Some people oppose scientific research for various reasons. We employ it because it is the only method over the millennia that has improved the lot of humanity. It is not science or scientists that endanger us today, it is the extremists who use the fruits of science to destroy. To be sure, extremist of the bin Laden variety, are being destructive. But it is also the Bush administration behaving in a sociopathic manner that misuses the "system" to dehumanize and torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib and "Gitmo." (Citizen soldiers on the night shift, too lightly supervised, untrained, full of their power, became abusive tyrants.)
We do not excuse the tyrants; we indict those who permitted abuses. This is not the way to win hearts in the war over ideas. Part of building our future will involve building better interior communication links within and among our societies and governance systems to contain the animal that resides in each of us. Yes, each of us.
The variability in behavior among groups reflects the potential variability of an individual spread out among a huge number of individuals. As a consequence, nations and societies vary naturally. But there is more to it: There is as much variation within societies as there is among them. This provides a starting point: Investigate the causes for the variability in violence, and upon their discovery, work toward resolution. The barriers to this approach seem huge, as considerable reformation of societies world-wide seems necessary. But on the other hand, many societies have already made significant progress. Why not study them? Many scholars have done just that, each in a narrow way, but still with significant results that seem to spread over into the world population at large. See the bullets above for some of the more pertinent research on what ails us and how to resolve differences.
Beyond that, if it is a matter of nature more than nurture, then our natural origins need to be studied for any clues there might be. That has a mythical component, too. A realization of the wonders of nature and vastness of the universe inspires awe of a new sort. Our generation owes it to the next to continue Nature's grand plan of exploration and progress, with emphasis on how the violent man and woman came to be.
Humankind seems to be almost infinitely adaptable. All degrees of social justice are practiced, especially in our modern world where our age could come to be known as the genocide era. Just as species evolved, so also have social systems. This is a new issue only in that instant communication and near-instant transportation have made cultural and societal clashes inevitable--given limited resources and the authoritarian nature of humanity.
Nevertheless, some outlines of social evolution are now apparent. Looking back at the last three millennia, it is easy to see huge progress in improving survival rates for humankind, especially in the modern era with its scientific approach to matters of health. And there has been a commensurate population explosion of some 200 multiples or so over the last two millennia, again mostly in the modern era.
On the political front, it doesn't take much thinking to realize there is something wrong in the world when over 120 nation-states collapse in a period of just 40 years. Doubtless, multiple factors contributed to this. But from the data, the two strongest factors seem to be 1) the degree of democracy and 2) openness of international trade. Most of those that collapsed had little or none of either.
Democracies liberate the best in their citizenry and put more value on the individual than do autocracies, plutocracies, or even theocracies. They
- value individual freedom and representative governance;
- expand the arts and sciences;
- establish trade relationships to mutual advantage;
- rely on an educated populace and a socioeconomic infrastructure.
Democracy is not a gurantee against violence. The US is the most violent of the democracies, though it is usually better than the unstable nations of the third world. And within the US, and other nations, too, there are wide disparities in violence among cities. For example, Honolulu and El Paso are each multiples more peaceful than are Washington DC, Baltimore, or Detroit. While a case can be made that violence increases with city size, Tokyo is a prime exception, being multiples larger and multiples safer than the capital of the US! A wise woman once said: "We are not violent because we have guns; we have guns because we are violent." Our research is proving that she was right.
Nevertheless, democracy, while not providing immunity to violence, does in fact do better than the more authoritarian forms of governance.
International trade requires substantial cooperation between and among societies. Societies that communicate freely in mutual respect are those that establish trade relationships most easily. In that sense societies are similar to people. The converse works, too. Trading can improve communication, understanding, and inter-dependence as means for maintaining peace.
All types of national governance benefit from free trade. Since national resources differ markedly, free trade tends to even out such inequities. Japan, one of the world's largest economies, has precious little by way of natural resources. But Japan learned how to add value by converting imported raw materials into finished products for home consumption and export.
Free trade is too little understood by too many. The relatively random distribution of natural resources requires either free trade or a close approximation in order for the world's societies to enjoy economic equivalence.
Among rich nations the export of jobs has a high profile:
- The benefits of low priced imports go unrecognized because they are diffuse and harder to identify quantitatively.
- Workers in poor nations are seen as exploited when their benefits do not match those of rich nation employers; their economic condition relative to their local brethren may go unrecognized.
- Behind both the foregoing is an economic gap that may be extreme indeed; this gap bears little relationship to natural resources; it depends on the economic and military competitiveness of the trading societies.
Individuals who relate in dialogue rarely come into conflict and when they do it is more easily resolved. And so it is between nations, even in Palestine. In 1996, according to Uri Savir, the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators working to implement the Oslo Peace Accord reached dialogue.
What Savir and his Muslim counterparts could not control was the Jewish-extremist assassin bent on torpedoing the peace process and changing the government. Neither could Savir prevent Sharon's provocative visit with a column of "armed guards" to the Temple Mount that so inflamed the Muslims.
The resulting Intifada II became a loser for both sides, with demarcation lines drawn ever more severely with yet more extreme humiliation. As predicted by the arch Zionist Jabotinsky, Israel now in fact lives behind an Iron Wall. As history illustrates, the Berlin Wall also served an essentially futile purpose.
And now Iraq has been added to the list of Islamic grievances. What our leaders do not seem to appreciate are the lessons to be drawn from Vietnam and history itself. The Vietnam "hot war" occurred during the height of the "cold war." Dare we ask which, if any, history of war prevailed in their thinking? Not of this Administration!
Consider the similarities between Vietnam and Iraq. Each case involved:
- propaganda by an administration that painted a rather different picture from reality. It was so effective, it seduced the American people. Most Europeans, more historically aware for the most part, did not buy in.
- a perceived bogie, an "evil spirit": Communism on the one hand, religious extremism (terror) on the other. Whether we like it or not, Islam sees Iraq as a threat to Islam itself, a religious war, as bin Laden and other muslims declared it to be.
- an actual threat to a vital American interest. Vietnam threatened to spread Communism; Iraq, in the wrong hands, threatens our energy supply.
- a misperceived threat. Dominoes falling to Communism in Asia; Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
- misguided projections about:
- the effectiveness of projected American power.
- how long the conflict would last and its human toll, not to mention its cost.
- possible responses by native people who feel invaded by alien forces and culture. See Iron Wall.
- the workings of history.
- our presence in a foreign land with force of arms that was and is vastly superior in head to head fighting and a diffuse "enemy" that could/does pick the time, the place, and the mode of conflict. In each case, our generals were/are denied their primary weapon of surprise.
- terrorism on both sides with grievous loss of innocent human lives.
Northern Ireland is another case in point. There, dialogue brought about a more cooperative system of governance. While there are still serious strains in Belfast, the efficacy of dialogue as a means to ending conflict is proven. Dialogue must be given a chance.
Nutrition is an additional pressure driving social evolution. Infant mortality correlates with social instability, as both a cause and an effect. Infant mortality is governed by the amount of food available and its nutritional quality, prenatal medical care, general medical care, and disease. Nation states nearing collapse simply do not have the necessary means to manage these features, much less wisely.
The effects of education also seem clear-cut--another message of the last four centuries. When societies are in conflict, their relative success is governed by the qualities of their educational systems, their means of implementing knowledge (technology), and the liberation of the best within every person--given equal opportunities.
What we as individuals can do is communicate with our brothers and sisters in dialogue world-wide in mutual acceptance of our differences. Communications on the Dialogue level can help bring about the empathy that underlies mutual acceptance and our ability to celebrate our differences.
In working toward peace on earth, we provide procedures for damping down interpersonal conflict on this site. See especially: Locus of Control, Social Activism, and Conflict Resolution.
It seems that all societies might be ahead to consider the following:
- We must proceed in dialogue as we can, bullets only when we must.
- Act thoughtfully; never substitute military action for diplomacy.
- Proceed with cool resolve in new directions only as sound research indicates; never should de-humanize others or employ Scare-tactics or propaganda.
- Proceed via grass-roots actions; the top-down approach, being power oriented, has failed to bring peace after three millennia.
- This undertaking is much too huge, difficult and delicate to allow the time of year, an election process, or any special interest whatsoever to govern, or even appear to govern, the timing of any diplomatic or military action.
- Rely upon logos; lean on mythos (without its famously inconsistent histories and dogmas) for those aspects of our environment and experience that remain beyond the tree of knowledge.
- Develop a balance between external and internal loci of control.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Sunday, August 28, 2005.