Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bowing to the future and to the past

I spent yesterday with Glenn D. Paige, 82, a man born just a half year after Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1929. He's a public peace intellectual, walks slowly but thinks fast ("I talk too much") and he took me to breakfast on a veranda restaurant overlooking the warm Pacific at the north end of Honolulu. I would need a few months of such meals with him to properly understand his life--so far--and his contributions to peace in the world. After breakfast he drove us to his temple, the Dae Won Sa Broken Ridge Korean Buddhist Peace Temple in the Palolo Valley. It is remarkable. It is how Paige quiets his racing intellect, which still sprints even as he ages into his 80s.

Paige's academic life as a political scientist began as a linguist and Korean expert, which naturally followed his military service in Korea, a nation that he says is a classic case of one culture split into two by war and politics. His dissertation dealt exhaustively with the decision-making processes that drew the US into that war and was informed by his own observations, access to top officials in both cultures, and his study of Korean culture and language, as well as two more germane languages, Chinese and Japanese. He was on the straightforward Political Science/Security Studies academic success path, with degrees from Princeton, Harvard, and Northwestern Universities.

He was enjoying his 'short stack' of pancakes in the warm trade winds ("I'm freezing") and he suddenly stopped. "Then, in 1974, I had a sudden change. It was like an electric charge ripping from the tips of my toes up through me to the top of my head. Three words came, but silently. I mean, it wasn't a burning bush where I fell over--I said nothing--but the three words were clear: 'No more killing.' And then I wondered, 'Now what?'"

Academically, Paige reviewed his first book, which was his dissertation, and critiqued his own conclusions. I can only imagine the academic nerve it took to do that. His political science research and his civic engagement ever since has been devoted to nonkilling. The integrity to embark into areas where political scientists fear to tread is another classic--it is why tenure exists. He was able to pursue his intellectual challenges without the usual trepidation of the anxious scholar, tiptoeing a half-inch into new territory with phobias about validity. Paige just decided to Go For It and did. He found his intellectual home at the University of Hawai'i and never looked back.

Well, maybe he looked back all the time, and forward too, but with a different goal and analysis. His central question has been, "Is it possible to have a nonkilling society?" His answer is "Yes." His research has been on 'how' that can be accomplished and maintained. He worried decades ago about "So, after we achieve a victory with either violence or nonviolence, how can we maintain a nonviolent society?" This is now beginning to be central to our field of Peace and Conflict Studies, with a great deal of research into the post-peace accord process. Paige did a great deal of the early work and continues to push for more publications via his Center for Global Nonkilling, now directed by a young scholar, Jo├ím Evans Pim, who is busily edited a series of peer-reviewed books on the topic of Nonkilling from the viewpoints offered by various disciplines and fields of study.

As I entered my senior citizen years and am still struggling to learn more about how we can evolve toward nonviolence as a species, I am so buoyed and bolstered by spending some valuable time with one of the pioneers who helped put this into play. Paige's 2002 book on Nonkilling is now translated into 23 languages "with 16 more coming," he says, and is being used by people where they live around the world. "It was rejected by the normal academic political science publishers," he told me, "but with happy consequences. I just put it online for free downloading and now it's in use."

His ideal scholar is a "researcher, a teacher, and is involved in giving back to our world, in helping to spread the knowledge where it can be used." That makes Glenn D. Paige a model for how the academy can actually serve the polis. Mahalo, Glenn. Live long and may nonkilling philosophy prosper.

1 comment:

Terri said...

What a wonderful man and life. I have downloaded and look forward to reading his work - Nonkilling Global Political Science. May it continue to spread and guide us as we create a new safe world for all.