Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

The Culture of Peace and the Eevolution of Human Beings

Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

The Culture of Peace and the Eevolution of Human Beings

Article excerpt

A letter to you, the readers

Dear Friends,

This is not going to be a typical objective academic article, rigorously excluding emotions and personal experiences. When I began writing it, the "dear friends" salutation came into my mind, and respecting the creative impulse, I accepted the intuitive decision to write in a different style. Given that the culture of peace is as much about attitudes and practices as it is about outcomes and programmes, this approach makes sense. My understanding of the culture of peace is inextricably intertwined with my involvement in the project, so I cannot leave myself out of the story. I have thought deeply about the concept of the culture of peace, and it is my intention to engage you on an intellectual level. But a true understanding of the culture of peace involves more than just the mind, and I invite you to bring your dreams and passions, emotions and intuition to the task, as I have brought mine.

The conventional, accepted style of academic writing is not really appropriate for explaining the culture of peace. Manifesto 2000, a personal pledge inspired by the Nobel Peace Laureates and a central organizing tool of both the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the Decade of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World, is worth examining in this context. The Manifesto calls on all of us to respect the life and dignity of all human beings. It also asks us to "reject violence" in all its forms, to "listen to understand" and to "rediscover solidarity", and it seems to me that all of these principles are violated in rome way by the traditional forms of academic discourse.

In the process to which I invite you, in contrast, I endeavor to treat myself and you as "ends also and never only as means" as Kant has put it, and ask you to read, not just to find points to refute, but to understand, using dialogue in the literal sense of going through the words to the meaning behind them. Physicist David Bohm pictures a dialogue as "a stream of meaning flowing among us and through us and between us". The culture of peace is complex. We need to find ways to explore its contradictions, and to speak frankly without fear of censure or accusations of disloyalty. And we need to do it in a spirit of cooperation and bridge-building, seeing how all of our limited perceptions together can generate a fuller picture of the truth without falling into the us-and-them mentality that infuses the culture of violence, a mind-set that those of us working in the social movements are not immune from and must also learn to transform.

For all of these reasons, dear readers, I write this article as an open letter to you all, in friendship, solidarity and love, seeking to awaken your hearts as well as your minds, and inviting your participation in creating a culture of peace, the most important, far-reaching transformative task that humanity has ever faced.

My journey

I have always been an activist. In my native country, South Africa, I worked in the anti-apartheid straggle. Moving to Canada, I became involved in the social movements -the peace, environmental and women's movements-- and in party politics. Through this work, I came to appreciate the ninny strands of what has become known as the global problematique, the complex interlocking set of problems that will have to be solved together if they are to be solved at all. I came to understand that everything is connected and that everything will have to change, and that sustainable human development, protection of the environment, human rights, disarmament, women's equality, and respect for diversity are inextricably linked.

Returning to university as a graduate student in education, I explored the theoretical underpinnings of these themes. It was not surprising that these issues were interdependent, I realized, since they were all rooted in the unspoken taken -for-granted assumptions underlying our civilization, a civilization based on the history and values of modern industrial society of the West, the scope of which now encompasses the whole world. …

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