Cultivating Peace-Introduction [downloadable PDF]
Cultivating Peace-Chapter 1 [downloadable PDF]
Cultivating Peace-Chapter 10 [downloadable PDF]
History is replete with examples of devastating wounds suffered by the social body when the voice of conscience is struck down because it dared to articulate the morally untenable aspects of a regime. We see also how societies heal when questioning and dissent become foundational to a nation’s process of recovering truth. Democracies have furthered the cause of global peace because, when they are healthy, they allow for deep introspection and debate. The work of the peacemaker is to help us identify with this potential for critical self-awareness in democracy and then to practice, practice, practice getting free.
The essence of this practice is for the peacebuilder to build the continuum from healthy personal introspection to societal introspection. At the personal level, when we process our own shadow experiences, the object is not to wallow in guilt and shame but to gain more integrity and to become a healthier, happier, and more effective human being. As we shall explore in the chapter on energy mastery, effective introspection helps us see how to process energy so that we can deal with our own blockages and not find ourselves mysteriously triggered by others. When we can transform the energy that triggers us, we are well on the way to being able to deal with the triggered aggression and threats of others. In fact, we can and should model how to successfully transform unhealthy conflict in our families, workplaces, and local communities.
The same is true at the larger societal level. The health of a democracy is in direct proportion to the strength and vibrancy of its ability to acknowledge and then to transform the kinds of conflict that can polarize people and even degenerate into violence.
The evolving peace movement understands that it must nurture the evolution of healthy democracy on a global scale; if it doesn’t, it knows it will be spending eternity opposing war. It knows that when any form of national debate creates name-calling, bitter rivalry, or hostility, peacebuilders must quickly become active in creating contexts for the productive exchange of views.
Today’s evolutionary peace movement further knows that when dissidents and minorities are scapegoated, it must come strenuously to their defense. Any effort to collapse diverse societies into monocultural expression leads inevitably to violence. Peace work is about expanding the capacity of a society to embrace multifaceted identities. Democracy is the best tool we have to align individual and collective freedom, but it must be worked at and slowly evolved. It is an ideal we must stretch for. Peace and democracy are a common signpost that says, “Take this path if you want to grow and evolve. Struggle to align individual and collective rights.”
Democracy is vulnerable precisely because it seeks to maximize openness, transparency, and freedom. Peace activists must be vigilant in protecting it from those who would exploit its freedoms to subvert the rights of individuals or groups. Tending to the health of democracies and evolving them in ways that optimize deep and skillful participation by the citizenry is peace work.
Today’s peace activists are akin to physicians and healers working to improve the health of the social body. They identify the systems, policies, and practices, on the one hand, that support societal health and collective well-being and, on the other, identify those that break up social cohesion, increase divisiveness, and become the equivalent of disease in the social body. When a doctor diagnoses cancer in a patient, she is identifying a condition that is negative for the health of the body, but the doctor herself cannot be construed as being negative. Unfortunately, those working on the ills in the social body are often attacked as though they were trying to do it harm. But the promotion of healthy social practices does not mean ignoring our obligation to oppose those practices that are unhealthy.
Studying the epidemiology of violence as a social disease and coming up with recommendations to address it are concrete examples of tending to the inner health of a democratic society so that it can authentically reflect the reality of peace. There is an international campaign to get the governments of the world to do just that-to study the root causes of violence in their societies and to come up with policies and programs to mitigate it. The campaign aims to promote the establishment of national ministries and departments of peace that will take on the work of ending violence in society not by incarcerating more people but by conducting research, providing education, supporting restorative justice initiatives, and addressing the social conditions that lead to violence. Too many democracies have proudly proclaimed their ideals while failing to address the root causes of their appalling homicide rates, gun violence, rape and sexual molestation, battery of women, and multiple forms of social and economic neglect, which tear at their social fabric. The emerging peace activist does not have the luxury of complaining about what is wrong with systems where these kinds of social pathologies are prevalent unless he or she is committed to help solve the problems. That means the peace movement will have to gets its hands dirty with the many initiatives it will take to sustain a healthy and vibrant democracy.