Sunday, June 05, 2011

Peace educators and our public discussions

Public peace intellectuals are from many disciplines--Chomsky to Zinn, Mead to Shiva--and Peace and Conflict Studies is a good place to synthesize the peace strands of those disciplines. One in current hot discussion about matters quite close to peace and nonviolence--and when I use peace I use it in the context of the field of Peace and Conflict Studies, which is to say, positive peace, or peace and justice by peaceable means--is from Anthropology.

Gavin Smith (2011) observes that the Gramscian notion of an intellectual's mission as a dialectical process with the public is bent sideways frequently by the desired results of the funding of the ethnographic fieldwork, especially if that funder is the government in a time of war and the human geography is where that war is occurring.

Researchers require funding and those who do their work with teams in foreign places require a great deal of funding. Sometimes the funding comes free of contaminating interests of powerful players, state or corporate, but when it comes with strings they can be strong binding wires. That is one way junk science happens and is how public intellectuals become little more than purchased puppet intelligentsia.

A critical thinker, trying to decode all this, is helped by finding the independent ones, those who cannot be purchased, even when they apply for and receive funds from parties with interests beyond objective science. Yes, results may be ignored, but they cannot be flipped unless that researcher allows it. And no researcher should sign away the ability to speak freely except, obviously, to protect research participants.

It has been very important to corporate and imperial designs to control intellectual interface with the public. Peace intellectuals are challenged to overcome the painted picture of the ivory tower pointy head, of lack of realism, of lacuna of disciplinary rigor, and of blinding bias. These images are created by our own faults and by war propaganda--recall Goering's admonition to blame the pacifists first. We can eliminate the former and work to counter the latter. Is research too expensive? Go get arrested for peace and make that part of your research. Take a stance, timid or truculent, observe what happens, and report it to the people.

Public peace intellectuals did not stop the invasion of Iraq, and my dear departed Dad, who was our Pee Wee hockey coach, said, "Always change a losing game." If we are peace educators, let's think about how we can reach into the national discourse rather than wait too long and in vain for it to come to us.


Smith, G. (2011, March). Guest editorial: Pretending we do not know what everyone knows we know. Dialectical Anthropology. pp. 1-6. doi:10.1007/s10624-011-9227-9.

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