From Tribal Warfare to Global Tribe
Flipping the Trigger

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

War is not inevitable as some would have us believe. Peace can be created by identifying and understanding the causes of war. By knowing what triggers this most violent of human behaviors, we can work to pull it out by its roots. The skeptics among us may scoff at the notion of peace on earth. But we are hopeful. There are successful illustrations that peace is not only preferable to violence and war, not only possible, but has already taken hold among many nations and many people.

Experts in the fields of non-violent communication, social justice, conflict resolution, peace advocacy, behavioral science and others have documented in extensive fashion the causes of war. It is clear that the reasons for war are complex and fluid:

  • Lust for power and material wealth.
  • Economic disparity and inequality.
  • Ideological differences based on intolerance of others’ values or morals, and nationalism fueled by politicians and/or religious leaders.
  • Conflicting religious beliefs.
  • Ethnic and cultural differences based on long-running animosities and conflicts.
  • Desire for natural, industrial, and technological resources.

Some experts would likely define the above in much greater detail, but our task is to offer a broad view to show a better way, a flip. Those desiring a detailed examination can visit the 50th Annual Pugwash Conference website ( on Eliminating the Causes of War.

A basic principle of life is polarity—the relationship of opposing energies or forces. It stands to reason that taking each cause of war in the list and looking for its opposite may be a wise course. But human nature is not so simple. As we stated before, the reasons for war are complex and fluid. On the surface it is logical to think that in order to stop war based on intolerance of ideological differences we need to instill tolerance. Ah…easier said than done.

How is tolerance encouraged? We can suggest that showing that “we are all one” is a good start. Accentuating our similarities and finding common ground seems a good notion. Using methods of non-violent communication, employing conflict resolution techniques, and educating children at an early age to be open and accepting of others in order to break the generational cycles of intolerance also sounds reasonable. Exhibiting patience and understanding with people who may have rigid views and strong egos would be useful.

But to fully understand the origins of war, we turn to those who dedicate their lives to world peace. These are the heroes we should be celebrating. The Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) web site ( offers the following suggestions for creating a culture of peace:

  • Educate for peace, human rights and democracy.
  • Counter the adverse effects of globalization.
  • Advance the sustainable and equitable use of environmental resources.
  • Eradicate colonialism and neo-colonialism.
  • Eliminate racial, ethnic, religious and gender intolerance.
  • Promote gender justice.
  • Protect and respect children and youth.
  • Promote international democracy and just global governance.
  • Proclaim active nonviolence.
  • Eliminate communal violence at the local level.
  • Enlist world religions in transforming the culture of violence into a culture of peace and justice.

The Movement for the Abolition of War takes it further and offers a plan for disarmament and human security. The idea is that we can be secure without the threat of annihilation. This makes great sense:

  • Global action plan—Implement a global action plan to prevent war.
  • Demilitarize—Demilitarize the global economy by reducing military budgets and shifting resources toward human security programs.
  • Eliminate nuclear weapons—Negotiate and ratify an international treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.
  • Prevent use of conventional weapons—Prevent proliferation and use of conventional weapons, including light weapons, small arms and guns and safeguard personal security.
  • Ban landmines—Ratify and implement the landmine ban treaty.
  • Prevent weapon development—Prevent the development and use of new weapons and new military technologies, including a ban on depleted uranium and the deployment of weapons in space.
  • Control biological weapons—Encourage universal adherence to and implementation of the biological weapons convention and the chemical weapons convention.
  • Accountability—Hold states and corporations accountable for the impact of military production, testing and use on the environment and health.
  • Civil society movement—Build a civil society movement for the abolition of war.

Sound impossible? Read on as we show how people around the globe have found the courage to speak truth to power and change their societies’ belief that violence is inevitable.

Don’t Know Much About History
Much has been written about humankind’s unquenchable thirst for blood and destruction. In fact, there are those who espouse the belief that all life comprises stages of creation, maintenance or destruction, so therefore our penchant for violence through war—the destruction part of the theory—is human nature and cannot be quelled. This is simply not true.

Consider the events of the Velvet Revolution, or as the Czechs prefer, the November Events of 1989 when massive demonstrations and work stoppages toppled the Communist regime of Gustav Husak. Without a shot being fired the people of Czechoslovakia, led by two groups, the Civic Forum and People Against Violence, overthrew their oppressors. Despite calls for retribution against the former Communist leaders, Vaclav Havel insisted that his newly elected government would not partake in the bloody repression that they had worked so hard to overcome.

After centuries of subjugation and decades of apartheid, the people of South Africa peacefully rejected the elected government and voted overwhelmingly to replace it with one that was more tolerant of all people. Nelson Mandela, previously imprisoned for life as a dissident, was elected President of South Africa. Rather than prey on the inhumane slights done to him and his people as an excuse for retribution, President Mandela instead instituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The Commission heard testimony from victims of violent acts, atrocities and human rights abuses committed against South African blacks. The TRC provided an outlet for thousands of victims to be heard, and also allowed perpetrators to confess their crimes in exchange for immunity. This lead to a time of great healing in South Africa and became the process through which democracy flourished.

If further evidence of a flip is needed one only need look at Europe, which after half a century of two devastating world wars, decided they had enough bloodletting and needed to work toward common goals. Now, the European nations have formed the European Union, giving equal rights to all citizens of the member nations regardless of their country of origin.

Or perhaps we have all forgotten the great Soviet menace, which shadowed our lives and instilled fear in U.S. citizens for four decades. It was dismantled without violence by the visionary Mikhail Gorbachev, who saw that the constant competition of warmongering between the Soviet Union and the United States was an insane zero sum game which no one could win. President Gorbachev simply decided he wasn’t going to play that game anymore—and he quit. End of the Soviet Union, end of the Cold War.

So when someone says to you that war is inevitable and our differences are too hard to overcome, give them a few of the examples above—and the ones that follow…

It’s a Matter of Culture
Believe it or not, there are peaceful societies to which we can look for inspiration. The Zuni tribe of the American Southwest, the Arapesh of New Guinea, the Semai of Malaysia, the Xingo of Brazil, the Kogi tribe of Peru, and the Buid of Mindoro are all societies that accept the possibility of violence but stigmatize anger, violence, boasting and arguing. They honor those who ascribe to generosity and gentleness. These are cultures that promote the importance of the individual to the greater good of all.

So, it can be done. It is a matter of culture. It is a matter of who and what we choose to be. It is matter of vision, of will, of heart.

If the United States turned its great power into a force for good we would reap untold benefits. Our might could indeed stop all wars. We could support the United Nations in real peacekeeping efforts rather than token exercises with no impact. We could educate every child in our country teaching them critical thinking and self-reliance, instilling confidence so that our leaders cannot mislead us into unnecessary conflicts. We could redirect a full fifty percent of the defense budget (and still outspend everyone else) toward the Apollo Alliance and create a strong energy-efficient country that doesn’t need foreign adventures to feed its energy addiction. We could eradicate poverty. We could focus our energies on cleaning up the environment. We could provide health care to every man, woman and child in this great nation regardless of income. We could tend to the elderly and allow them grace and dignity in their twilight years. We could reduce violence in our own streets. We could put our attention on preventing drug addiction rather than incarceration.

We can turn an upside-down world Right Side Up in just a few short years. A dream, you say? A fool’s errand? What is the upside-down alternative? More bloodshed? More dead innocents? More crying mothers and distraught fathers? More anger, rage and retribution? More of the same is not an answer.

The flip is occurring. But this one, perhaps the most important of them all, requires you. It cannot happen without you. The world needs your commitment, your strength, your resolve and your enduring love to make the flip toward worldwide peace. We all deserve a better world. Let’s create it together.

“We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of Peace.”
______________________________—William E. Gladstone

David Rippe and Jared Rosen are coauthors of The Flip—Turn Your World Around, Hampton Roads Publishing Company. They can be reached at or 513-253-4854.




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