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
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
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
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 (www.abolishwar.org.uk)
offers the following suggestions for creating a culture
- Educate for peace, human rights and democracy.
- Counter the adverse effects of globalization.
- Advance the sustainable and equitable use of
- Eradicate colonialism and neo-colonialism.
- Eliminate racial, ethnic, religious and gender
- Promote gender justice.
- Protect and respect children and youth.
- Promote international democracy and just global
- 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
- Prevent use of conventional weapons—Prevent
proliferation and use of conventional weapons, including
light weapons, small arms and guns and safeguard
- 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
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.”
David Rippe and Jared Rosen are coauthors of The
Flip—Turn Your World Around, Hampton Roads Publishing
Company. They can be reached at www.theflip.net