Consciousness, by itself, is not enough; the task is also political

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We are seeing progress towards a culture of peace on several fronts:

In this month’s CPNN bulletin, we feature progress in peace education around the world.

In the bulletin of May, it was progress in the practice of nonviolence.

As described by the Brazilian pedagogue, Paulo Freire, there is a development of consciousness in the sense of understanding plus action.

But consciousness, by itself, whether through peace education or the practice of nonviolence, is not enough to change the course of history. If we are to make the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace, our task is not only psychological, but also political. I have discussed this previously by insisting that peace education, to be effective, must be prepared to confront the dominant culture of war.

To be political, consciousness needs to be linked up to the development of a new institutional framework.

As we have previously observed, peace education is an integral part of the peace process in Colombia, but to make a permanent change, it needs to be linked to a network of peace committees at the local and regional levels.

We can begin to see signs that such a linkage is happening. For example, restorative justice, a key practice of nonviolence and an important aspect of peace education is being promoted by the peace commissions of the cities of Londrina in Brazil and Ashland and New Haven in the United States. Cities are also promoting the practices of mediation and participative budgeting, two other key practices of a culture of peace.

A great step forward is underway as cities for peace link into global networks such as those described in a recent CPNN bulletin. This process should be strengthened by regularly assessment of the state of the culture of peace by each city (see CPNN February 24) and exchange of their practices and results in this regard.

The development of networks of cities for peace can be seen as a step towards the development of a global institution of the culture of peace, perhaps a radically-reformed United Nations (as we suggested in a previous blog), or perhaps an entirely new institutional framework at a global level.

Looking at the headlines of the mass media might make us pessimistic, but we need to keep in mind that a better world is possible and keep working to establish its institutional framework.

The Colombia Peace Process and Education for Peace

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Several years ago (September 2013 to be exact), I posed the question in this blog, “What Kind of Peace Education?” and responded that an effective program of peace education must begin by analyzing the culture of war. But this approach is strongly opposed by those who hold state power because, in fact, their power is based on that culture.

Therefore, it was a refreshing change to hear the discussions when I took part last month in the National Encounter for Peace Education for post-conflict Colombia. The people of Colombia know very well what is the culture of violence and war, as they have experienced it for many decades, and now that a peace accord is being reached, they want to change from that culture to a culture of peace.

An especially clear exposition of this kind of peace education is made by Alicia Cabezudo, who also took part in the Encounter. As she says in her essay, reprinted by CPNN, “violence, and especially the ‘culture of violence’ needs to be analyzed and studied in the content of education for peace because the concealment of violence in the educational system serves to legitimize violence and makes it more difficult to study and understand its causes and search for its roots. The analysis of violence, including the actors and the specific context is needed if we are to identify and select potential solutions to this violence.”

As Alicia says, “one of the characteristics of education for the Culture of Peace is the social construction of knowledge, following the educational precepts of the famous Brazilian educator Paulo Freire.” Education should be a process of democratic participation: “Not only teachers, but also student representatives, parents associations and relevant members of the education community should be involved in establishment of the curriculum and how it is taught.”

The National Encounter was organized in a culture of peace manner. Most of the time we sat in small circles in workshops, face-to-face, and exchanged ideas, listening to each other rather than “talking at each other.” As I remark in my description of the event, there was a remarkably high proportion of young people involved in these discussions. It is evident that the youth of Colombia wish to construct a new society of peace. And they realize that it must be “peace” in the broad sense, not just the absence of war but a culture of peace.

There was a rumor that President Santos might stop by the Encounter on his way back from Havana where he was taking part in the negotiations around the Peace Accord. After all, he was elected President on a platform of peace, and only a week before had taken part in a nationally televised program on peace education with some of the educators who organized our Encounter.

Although the peace initiatives of the national government are needed and applauded by the people, they realize full well, as Alicia insists, that this “should not be only an agreement between the government and the guerrillas or the paramilitaries – It is and should be an agreement of everyone. It is and should be an agreement in which the civil society participates actively. For that reason, it is an educational theme par excellence.”

The message that I brought to Colombia from South Africa (see my previous blog) was one that they were ready to hear and take seriously, that they should “develop a network of local peace committees and keep them strong and independent so that [they] do not have to depend solely on the national government to maintain the peace.”

As Alicia says, peace education has a crucial role in the peace process: “Peace Education should be used as a tool, a way to facilitate the return to peace at the territorial level; the democratization of the political, social and economic system, and the effective practice of social solidarity and equitable justice . . . Never before has a peace process after an armed conflict been accompanied simultaneously by a pedagogy of building a culture of peace as it is being discussed today in Colombia. It’s an opportunity that must not be wasted.”

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Le processus de paix en Colombie et l’éducation pour la paix

 Il y a plusieurs années (Septembre 2013 pour être exact), je posais la question dans ce blog: “Quelle éducation pour la paix?” et j’ai répondu qu’un programme efficace d’éducation pour la paix doit commencer par analyser la culture de guerre. Mais cette approche est fortement contestée par ceux qui tiennent le pouvoir de l’Etat parce que, en fait, leur pouvoir est fondé sur cette culture.

Par conséquent, ce fut un changement rafraîchissant que d’entendre les discussions lorsque je pris part le mois dernier à la Rencontre nationale pour l’éducation pour la paix en Colombie post-conflit.  Les Colombiens savent très bien ce qu’est la culture de la violence et de la guerre, parce qu’ils l’ont vécue pendant de nombreuses décennies, et maintenant que l’accord de paix est atteint, ils veulent passer de cette culture à une culture de paix.

Un exposé particulièrement clair de ce genre d’éducation pour la paix a été fait par Alicia Cabezudo, qui a également pris part à la rencontre. Comme elle le dit dans son essai, réimprimé par CPNN, “la violence, et en particulier la« culture de la violence »doit être analysée et étudiée dans le contenu de l’éducation pour la paix parce que la dissimulation de la violence dans le système éducatif sert à la légitimer, ce qui la rend plus difficile à étudier, à comprendre ses causes et à rechercher ses racines.  L’analyse de la violence, y compris les acteurs et le contexte spécifique est nécessaire si nous voulons identifier et sélectionner les solutions possibles à cette violence.”

Comme le dit Alicia, “l’une des caractéristiques de l’éducation pour la culture de paix est la construction sociale de la connaissance, en suivant les préceptes éducatifs du célèbre pédagogue brésilien Paulo Freire”:  L’éducation devrait être un processus de participation démocratique: “Non seulement les enseignants, mais aussi les représentants des étudiants, les associations de parents et les membres concernés de la communauté de l’éducation doivent être impliqués dans l’établissement du programme et comment il est enseigné.”

La rencontre nationale a été organisée dans l’esprit de la culture de paix. La plupart du temps nous nous sommes assis en petits cercles dans les ateliers, en face-à-face, et avons échangé des idées en s’écoutant les uns les autres, plutôt que de parler sans s’écouter.  Comme je le remarque dans ma description de l’événement, il y avait une proportion remarquablement élevée de jeunes impliqués dans ces discussions. Il est évident que les jeunes de Colombie souhaitent construire une nouvelle société de paix. Et ils se rendent compte que ce doit être la «paix» au sens large, et pas seulement l’absence de guerre, mais une vraie culture de paix.

Une rumeur a couru que le président Santos pourrait passer par notre conference sur le chemin du retour de La Havane où il prenait part aux négociations autour de l’accord de paix. Après tout, il a été élu président sur une plateforme de la paix, et seulement une semaine avant il avait pris part à un programme télévisé à l’échelle nationale sur l’éducation de la paix avec certains des éducateurs qui ont organisé notre rencontre.

Bien que les initiatives de paix du gouvernement national soient nécessaires et aient été applaudies par le peuple, celui-ci réalise très bien, comme insiste Alicia, que ce “ne doit pas être seulement un accord entre le gouvernement et la guérilla ou les paramilitaires – Il est et doit être un accord de tout le monde. Il est et doit être un accord dans lequel la société civile participe activement. Pour cette raison, il est un thème éducatif par excellence.”

Comme écrit dans le blog de septembre, de mon voyage en Afrique du Sud, j’ai apporté un message aux gens de Colombie, un message qu’ils étaient prêts à entendre et à prendre au sérieux: “vous devez développer un réseau de comités de paix locaux et garder ces comités forts et indépendants afin de ne pas dépendre uniquement du gouvernement national pour maintenir la paix.”

Comme le dit Alicia, l’éducation pour la paix a un rôle crucial dans le processus de paix: “L’education pour la Paix doit être utilisée comme un outil, un moyen de faciliter le retour à la paix au niveau territorial; la démocratisation du système politique, économique et sociale, et la pratique effective de la solidarité sociale et de la justice équitable. . . . Jamais auparavant après un conflit armé un processus de paix a été accompagné simultanément par une pédagogie de la construction d’une culture de paix comme il est discuté aujourd’hui en Colombie. C’est une occasion qui ne doit pas être manquée.”

What kind of peace education?

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I was struck by an important difference between the two international summer schools mentioned in this month’s bulletin of CPNN.

The summer school of young human rights activists at the University of Connecticut invited me to speak on the transition from culture of war to culture of peace.

The summer school of young activists by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations could not mention the culture of war because the United Nations does not admit that it exists.

How important is this difference? As I said to one young activist at the UN school, “If you cannot talk about the culture of war, you cannot understand the dynamics of a culture of peace.” The culture of peace is ultimately a non-violent revolutionary program to replace the dominant culture of war with a new culture (see “the future of the culture of peace” as well as the page that follows). If you cannot mention culture of war, how can you understand its revolutionary dynamics?

Of course, as peace educators we live in a real world where the power and the resources are firmly in the hands of the culture of war, although they deny it vigorously. If we are to promote peace education, we have to live with this contradiction.

Hence, for example, when we sent the draft Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace from UNESCO to the UN General Assembly, it derived the eight program areas of a culture of peace as specific alternatives to the culture of war, one by one (See UN General Assembly document A/53/370, Consolidated report containing a draft declaration and programme of action on a culture of peace). However, during the informal meetings about the resolution, on May 6, 1999, the representative of the European Union explained that he had deleted the phrase “speedy transition from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace” because, according to him “there is no culture of war and violence in the world.” Over the course of the informal meetings, all the references to the culture of war were systematically removed from the definitions of the eight program areas for a culture of peace. Ironically, at that time, NATO was bombing Kosovo with depleted uranium bombs from high-flying B-52 bombers.

In general, the United Nations and its Member States categorically deny that there is a culture of war. Why? Because they have come to monopolize the culture of war, and they do not want to be challenged about it. This monopolization is described in considerable detail in my book, The History of the Culture of War.

This attitude of the UN and the nation-states, that there is no culture of war, is reflected in the attitudes of the commercial mass media and the various institutions of education, including most universities.

Hence, as a peace educators, if you dare to speak about the culture of war, you risk to lose funding from the UN, from UN member states and from major universities. One must be reminded of the biblical parable of Jesus speaking with the rich young man, and saying that if he wanted to follow him, he would have to renounce his wealth. Of course, if you can find support for peace education that deals with the culture of war, you should use it as much as possible. This was true, for example, during the 1990’s when Federico Mayor was Director-General of UNESCO, and we were able to make remarkable progress, culminating in the 75 million signatures on the Manifesto 2000, an initiative that continues to reverberate around the world.

Often it is possible to discuss the culture of war without being so explicit as to bring down the wrath of its institutions. Thus, for example, it is often possible to discuss the eight program areas of the culture of peace as specific alternatives to the eight basic principles of the culture of war (see, for example, “values, attitudes and behaviors” ).

If it is to be sustainable and yet address the culture of war, peace education must therefore be prepared to work without steady and reliable financial support. That has been the case, for example, for the Culture of Peace News Network, which depends exclusively upon volunteer labor.

Peace education, with or without funding, can be ultimately more powerful than the nation-states and their culture of war. Why? Because peace education can deal with human consciousness and with what Gandhi meant by “truth.” The nation-states and their allied institutions, to maintain their culture of war, depend upon control of information, secrecy and ultimately, brute force. Ultimately, they cannot sustain their falsehoods and initimidation, and from time to time, they will crash, as did the Soviet Union in 1989, and as did all of Europe in 1914 and Europe and East Asia in 1939-1941. It is at these moments when they crash that the people who have developed the truly sustainable forces of history, which are consciousness and truth, have a chance to make a revolutionary change in human culture.