Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Action & Activism

August 2002;
revised Sept, Dec 2003; Mar 2007
Group Integration for peace

To play an active or political role, visit:
  • America's Future — "Over 100 Prominent Americans - citizen activists and policy experts concerned about our country and our planet - joined together to launch and build the Campaign for America's Future."
  • Anti-war links —
  • Site for taking action on-line to make a difference in social issues around the world.
  • International ANSWER Antiwar activism site.
  • Moveon — Joan Blades and Wes Boyd. "MoveOn helps busy people be effective citizens. MoveOn is committed to broadening participation to counter the influence of moneyed interests and partisan extremes."
  • Nuclear Age Peace Foundation — Diplomats & Military Commanders for Change. Introductory paragraph: "The undersigned have held positions of responsibility for the planning and execution of American foreign and defense policy. Collectively, we have served every president since Harry S. Truman. Some of us are Democrats, some are Republicans or Independents, many voted for George W. Bush. But we all believe that current Administration policies have failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership. Serious issues are at stake. We need a change."
  • Starhawk's Activism — "Here you will find links to scores of archived pieces I have written on activism, including essays and communiques from the front lines."
  • United for Peace and Justice — "United for Peace and Justice is a coalition of more than 650 local and national groups throughout the United States who have joined together to oppose our government's policy of permanent warfare and empire-building."

Most basically, we can:
  • Understand ourselves and our neighbors.
  • Look for and address common concerns in dialogue.

Turning violence into cooperation begins with each of us as part of the whole of society.

"You must believe that your voice is heard, and that it can make a difference on a global scale..."
Doug Snedden.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

We believe that collectively we can make a difference. On this page we discuss some of the issues and possibilities.

After 5300 years in a Tyrolean glacier, the "Ice Man" is now confirmed to have been a victim of terror — shot in the back with an arrow. You can view his remains at the Ice Man exhibit and research facility in the newly renovated South Tyrolean Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. Then as now, terror was common.

Becoming a peaceful species clearly begins with the person and how individuals interact with one another, with other species, and with the planet's living space. There is hope, for there are numerous examples of peaceful societies both large and small on Earth. On the national scale, both Sweden and Switzerland managed to avoid the holocaust of World War II, even though they were right in the middle of it. Each of these countries accommodated the Nazis only as necessary; neither would have been a comfortable enemy for the Nazis. Each nation has a lot of national pride that each citizen feels and each has a long history of being a nation. Each is pluralistic in allowing dissent.

On a smaller scale, numerous communities in India are showing the world how to move from conflict to cooperation. See Varshney, Ethnic Conflict and Civil Life. Varshney illustrates the many aspects of conflict and peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims. (See Integration Solution for more on Varshney.)

Two in particular stand out: 1) educated women can play extremely positive roles and 2) building inter-ethnic contacts around common issues of concerns in an organized way reduces potential for conflict. The power of the second was evident in the negotiations leading to the Oslo Peace Accord. Hands-across-the-conflict worked wondrously well—until an Israeli extremist cut down 31 Muslims in prayer and another followed by assassinating Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a primary force behind the Oslo Accord. Whether we like it or not, extremists on any side can change history.

Extremists, bin Laden in particular, are saying to the world, "Let's you and them fight" and they are getting away with it! Extremism is pulling the world ever closer to yet another holocaust and we may be near the point of no return.

The Process, 1100 days that changed the Middle East by Uri Savir, the Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and chief negotiator, is a must read for those seeking insight into the Palestinian conflict. See Zionism for more details.

On the issues of educating women and giving them equal rights, the Muslim world still has a way to go. On the score of empowering and freeing women, Iraq seems to have come the farthest; a high irony given the mess Bush made of Iraq.

We are each a combination of our genetic heritage and experience from conception. In one sense we can only play the hand we are dealt. In another sense we can surely do our part to make things better not only for ourselves but for the next generation.

Quality of all life is a key phrase over which there is wide disagreement, and our times are no different from earlier times in the larger sense. Quality of life relates to how well society meets our needs, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet even more, the quality of our life depends on our own individual inner peace.

To achieve peace individually and collectively, our basic survival and psychological needs must be met. The basic physical needs for clean air, pure water, adequate food, and shelter are not available for the majority of people on Earth today. How modern is our world when a billion people live with water supplies and sewers below the standards of ancient Rome? On a deeper level, adequate health care and physical security are available for fewer still. How modern are our morals?

All this as populations continue to explode in much of the Third World. In fact,we already use up Earth's resources faster than they can be replenished. For every person on Earth to enjoy a sustainable life style at the current American level, a planet with some four times more living space than the Earth provides would be required.

However, all the planet's people can eat healthily if we only change our food choices. Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé in their newly published Hope's Edge, and John Robbins in his Food Revolution explain how.

These are top level concerns in that change will require concerted actions by world-citizens, enlightened to the issues, guiding and supporting their nation-states. Enlightenment usually follows realization of self. Self realization produces a balance between Internal and External Loci of Control. The major issues are population pressure, nuclear weaponry, and the Authoritarian Personalities co-opting the levers of power.

An example of a top level concern: American citizens largely stood by while the Bush administration abandoned cooperation in favor of self-interest of the privileged few in both Kyoto (global warming) and South Africa (racism). Such heavy-handed government action is not the way to lasting peace. If anything, it will further radicalize the next generation. Politics is not the primary issue. Society is.

History demonstrates that real change can be brought about by nongovernmental organizations, and that means individuals collectively. Varshney in his Ethnic Conflict and Civil Life illustrates examples from our own time, led by women. And Susan B. Anthony comes to mind, and so does Joan of Arc. Women tend to be more concerned with the futures of our sons and daughters while men too often prefer to create a legacy of power.

Self-realization in this context involves two general questions discussed below:<

Question 1: Can we realize that all creatures, other forms of life, and our living space are interdependent? Can we recognize who we really are, and can we accept our own psychic need for others, in interdependent relationships? Will realization not affirm our own worthiness in reaching out to other people?

To answer these affirmatively is a big step toward self-realization. We simply cannot survive without each other—or on a dead planet. Awareness of interdependence across cultural divides may take some time to develop and become accustomed to. When we have empathy, feeling with others, we have the basic cornerstone for outreach through dialogue. Dialogue arises naturally from empathy. And empathy allows us to more easily extend our feelings of connectedness with all life in the biosphere.

Recognizing who we really are requires introspection of the deepest sort. Most of us have looked inside ourselves, perhaps in times of great loss or trial. Yet how many of us really understand our own psyches? This issue is common to all people.

Temperament is our inborn genetic potential for feeling and behaving. Modification of temperament in response to the environment begins as soon as we are conceived. What results from that process becomes our personality.

During our very earliest years we begin to develop a moral code for living, as we strengthen our ability to think, analyze, and moderate our impulses.

Understanding ourselves leads to deepened insights into why we are the way we are and therefore deeper understanding of others.

There are many problems; some of them are subtle. For example, some behaviors we learn early on to cope with danger or violence may get buried below our conscious awareness along the way. Without our realizing it, they can boomerang later, big time.

Here is how it works: Early in life we may be faced with a threat of some sort for an extended period. We quickly learn how to cope with it—simply for survival. It may be the bully down the street, a too-strict teacher, or an abusive parent we cannot avoid. After a while, our response to the situation becomes so automatic we lose awareness of it—we go on autopilot, so to speak. Our response becomes ingrained behavior at the deepest level. A contributor to our site offered the poem Little Boy Saved, that may come close to home for many.

This early coping ability enabled us to survive—at the cost of distorting our psyche and behavior. Years later, threats of a similar nature may arise. Our unconscious response to the new threats may be inappropriate and will almost surely alienate others.

For example, a defensive person may direct or displace anger inappropriately toward someone having nothing to do with the anger-causing event. The primary issue remains unresolved; the person receiving the fallout is put off; the defender can only integrate still more negative responses from others. This is a lose-lose cycle.

Most of us develop some measure of defensiveness early in life. By living in a society where paranoia is reality, we pick up a kind of collective defensiveness. In the extreme, hate and total fear can result.

Reaching self-understanding can enable us to consciously modify our behavior and become more effective. However, there are people out there too case-hardened to meet us half way, much less relate in mutual empathy and dialogue.

Character typically develops from early examples set by parents, classmates and others, and later by thoughtful consideration of the social scene. Illustrating the power of early experience, criminality and abusiveness often run in families, and even more, in cultures. It takes thoughtful and insightful people to rise above the petty jungle and establish themselves. Some people—the sociopath is an example—never develop ethical character.

Most important, understanding ourselves enables us to grow (mature) as persons in directions most satisfying, and to provide the same for all children of the earth.

A significant danger is that if we never discover the origin and nature of our own defensiveness and distorted perceptions, we cannot realize the inner peace that enables peaceful interactions. Until we can resolve our defensive conflicts, finding a sense of group-self to participate in peaceful world governance remains beyond reach.

Too many of us get stuck in question one, never in fact quite coming to terms with our own true selves or appreciating how we fit into the world.

Question 2: Can we find and develop a sense of "group-self" to provide guidance for our families, enterprises, communities, nations, and the world?

Politics, in particular, gets stuck in question one. Why else do leaders repeat the same mistakes time and time again? The most effective democracies have built-in devices to protect them from the long-term deficits of their elected leaders—by term limits of one sort or another.

This question is basically an extension of the first one. And it follows; for only if we know who we are individually can we know who we are collectively. When dialogue works within groups, it works between groups.

Individually we do well when we look for common concerns, and work with others toward their resolution in Dialogue.

Collectively, it works the same way.


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.