Progressives and peace people are probably missing a bet. We could almost certainly be more effective, wield more influence and play a more powerful role in public policy. What we lack is a unified understanding of what we mean by “peace” and a new peace strategy based on that unified understanding.
Our PeaceWorker focus topic this month explores some aspects of what peace means in a broad context. If we can come to collective agreement about our vision of peace, that is, if we can agree about what we want our world to look like, we can then do a better job of creative strategizing to move it in that direction. If we fail to do this — and do it well — we will probably condemn ourselves to continuing in a reactive mode, constantly opposing what others are trying to accomplish, and losing most of the struggles we tackle.
What Has Already Been Done?
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The most comprehensive peace vision currently in existence is probably the founding document of the United Nations, formally agreed to by almost every country in the world in 1948, more than 60 years ago. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is comprised of 30 articles which delineate in simple terms the rights and responsibilities of every human being. It is a remarkable document, both in terms of its scope and its nearly universal acceptance. Unfortunately, the nations that subscribed to it have often not abided by it, which has robbed it of most of its power. Nevertheless, we progressives should review it and use it to help focus our activities. As we do so, we need to update it, especially in the area of environmental justice.
• Rushworth Kidder’s eight values for a troubled world. In 1994, Rushworth M. Kidder wrote a book called Shared Values for a Troubled World, in an attempt to identify a core of globally shared ethical values. He interviewed 24 men and women from different cultures – all noted visionary thinkers – and asked them to explain the moral precepts that guide them as representatives of their cultures. From the interviews he drew 8 values that appear to be broadly shared throughout almost all cultures. They are: love, truthfulness, fairness, freedom, unity, tolerance, responsibility, and respect for life. If we ground our strategies and activities in these values, we can be reasonably certain they will resonate with other humans, whoever they are.
• President Obama’s foreign policy pillars. In his speech to the U.N. on September 23, 2009, Barack Obama put forward four “pillars” that are “fundamental to the future that we want for our children in the 21st century: non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people. Progressives can strategize around these positively-oriented “pillars,” knowing that the President of the United States is on record supporting them.
• Riane Eisler’s domination vs. partnership model. Author and co-founder of the Center of Partnership Studies Riane Eisler has studied societies of the past and concluded that not only is domination of the weak by the strong and women by men not necessarily “the way things are,” but there have been highly successful and more peaceful societies that lived by a partnership rather than a domination paradigm.
• The Great Turning. Economist David Korten, founder of Yes Magazine, has spelled out many of the conditions for a more peaceful and sustainable world in The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. His website is a great resource for those whom he calls “navigators” of the Great Turning. In a closely related book, Blessed Unrest, entrepreneur Paul Hawken points out the many threads currently weaving together to create the largest social change movement the world has ever known, within which the seeds of a comprehensive peace movement are already sprouting.
• Oregon PeaceWorks has established a Google Group to serve as a hub for a peace visioning think tank. This group will work on creating a comprehensive peace vision that can be “shopped around” to progressive groups of many kinds to obtain “buy in.” If you want to participate, obtain a free Google account by signing up at google.com. Then visit http://groups.google.com/group/peace-visioning-think-tank and sign up.
• If you live in Salem, OR participate in the MyPeace Project, a local peace visioning project. Members of the public, with an emphasis on youth, are being asked to imagine what peace would look like if it “broke out,” or alternatively to envision what peace means to them. They will then express their vision using some form of art. So far a mural, a photography project, a mime piece, music in several forms, a fingerpainting project and a video project are underway. In October, the collective peace vision represented by all the art projects will be presented to the community through a series of public events such as concerts, film showings, exhibits, dramatic presentations and the like.
• If you live in other Oregon communities, please consider cooperating with Oregon PeaceWorks by sponsoring a peace visioning brainstorming session to tease forth our best, most positive, most creative peace vision elements.
Shared Vision Rather Than Shared Action
The goal of all these activities is to craft a unified vision rather than continuing to unsuccessfully try to create unity of action. Unity of action, satisfying as it is when large numbers participate in doing the same thing, inevitably leaves many people and causes out. Instead, we can all work on different issues and projects while at the same time implementing a shared vision which we can constantly hold up to those we encounter in our work.
Whatever we are working on — be it ending the war, reforming the economic system, struggling for human rights, promoting ecological sustainability, improving our educational system, converting our energy and transportation systems, democratizing our governments, making the justice system more fair, or whatever else we do – we can all be pointing out with every action we take that we are doing what we are doing because we are striving to realize the vision we have all agreed we share. As the public repeatedly hears the same vision coming from many different kinds of efforts, the vision may become embedded in society’s conventional wisdom.
Moving from Vision to Strategy
With the vision clearly before us, and therefore knowing where we want to go, we can much more effectively strategize to blend our individual projects into the overall effort to get there. Instead of choosing an attractive tactic and trying to fit it into a strategic framework where it may not hold any promise – something we often do – we will plan as we would any journey: by plotting a reasonable course from where we are to where we want to end up. In doing so we will choose the “roads” and the “means of transport” that offer the greatest promise of success.
Every progressive struggle will be an integral part of achieving the vision, so rather than competing for people and resources, we can rejoice when any part of the larger team is successful, that is, we can all consider ourselves part of the same team, whatever we are working on, as long as it promotes the overall vision.
With a powerful vision and strategy and the largest team ever assembled, why wouldn’t we be able to change the world? Φ
Peter Bergel is Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks and the Founding Editor of The PeaceWorker.