Thursday, October 24, 2013

When the world has no more war

The day will come when humankind is free of the practice and threat of war. The only question is whether that day will come as a result of our foresight or our hindsight, that is, as a result of our collective wisdom to choose to develop a culture of peace that has some common aspects all across the world or as a result of our profound post-disaster late realization of the maladaptivity of our war system that virtually destroyed our species.

When we have succeeded in abolishing war it will be because we have rooted peace in institutions, values, and beliefs that penetrate all aspects of culture.
--Kent Shifferd (2011, p. 168)
Over the decades I've heard activists and students make statements that indicate they regard the problem of war as a single-source issue, sometimes fixable and mostly not. Statements like:
  • War will end when human nature changes.
  • War will end when all the fighting over resources stops.
  • War will end when our ethnic differences are celebrated instead of hated.
  • War will end when religions stop fighting.
  • War will end when we outlaw war.
  • War will end when we take the profit out of war.
  • War will end when humans no longer take revenge.
  • War will end when we have world government.
  • War will end when women rule.
  • War will end when the schools teach peace to children instead of war.
  • War will end when families teach peace to children instead of war.
  • War will end when religions teach peace to children instead of war.
  • War will end when people learn that nonviolence works best.
  • War will end when there is no more exploitation.
  • War will end when human rights are respected
  • War will end when media and other propaganda sources stop promoting war.
  • War will end when we elect politicians who will choose peace.
  • War will end when we defund the military.
  • War will end when no nation tries to take over others' lands. 
  • War will end when the arms trade ends.
  • War will end when those who refuse to fight are honored instead of those who kill others.
  • War will end when soldiers refuse to fight.
  • War will end when no one signs up to be a soldier.
There are more such statements, but these samples show this sort of thinking, which is fine as far as it goes. Most of the time these single sentences have a comma and conclude with "which will never happen."

So our thinking needs to expand, doesn't it, to show ourselves that if we work on creating success in each of these categories the trends will make further progress in all the rest more likely. In short, taking a systems approach, valuing the work done by all peacemakers, is how we slowly build up a peace system and dismantle the war system.

There is no work that is more critical, but there are infinite arenas in which we each can move the ball forward and protect against the sort of apocalypse we rightly fear from a war system that threatens all our children, all our grandchildren, and the future of humankind. Do we need to be coordinated in our work? It helps, but even if we don't feel it, the connections are valid and ongoing. The mainstream Rotarian who avoids controversy may feel the nun who takes a little hammer to a weapon and goes to prison is not really making progress, and vice-versa. The loyal opposition in the Democratic Party who works hard to influence policy votes toward peace may believe that the Sunday School teacher who teaches little children to love Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and Hindus is simply naive. But if we follow our passions and skills we can make key differences in our own chosen areas that reinforce the good work of others in their arenas.

Do you work for peace in your favorite organizations or in your aspects of culture? I value your work. I hope you do more of it and increase your influence. We are racing against Armageddon and we are on the same team. Like an ecology, we are stronger in our diversity unless we advocate violence or preparing for "defensive" violence, which is the poison that the war system uses against our work toward a culture of peace. Planting the seeds of peace and nurturing them while weeding out war is how we finally get that edenic peaceable kindom of the idealists' dreams. Will we have conflict? Always, but a peace system will enable us to engage fully in conflict without any threat of war. It is our destiny when we choose it.


Shifferd, Kent D. (2011). From war to peace: A guide to the next hundred years. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

No comments: