Two media – two realities – is the world in transition?


The CPNN bulletin this month is in great contrast to the headlines of the commercial mass media.

CPNN tells us of progress in participatory democracy in the cities of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and the United States.  Ordinary citizens are deciding directly what should be the priorities for the budget in their neighborhoods.  And the results are to the benefit of all the citizens of their neighborhoods; not only the rich or a privileged ethnic group, not to the detriment of other neighborhoods or other cities.  The culture of peace is advancing and it is not surprising that this began and continues to develop in Latin America, which as we have seen in the blogs of March 2014 and February 2013, is at the leading edge of progress.

The commercial media feed us a starkly different picture of war in Israel/Palestine and in the Ukraine, not to mention plenty of plane crashes to make us afraid to venture outside our doors.

‘The news of participatory budgeting is carried by the local media, since citizens need to be informed about when and where they should go to vote and what are the choices that they can make.  But the major commercial media like Fox News, the New York Times and CNN do not include this on their front pages.  In the words on top of the front page of the New York Times, this news is not “fit to print.”  Instead, they consider that war and plane crashes are fit to print on the front page.

In fact, all of this is true.  There are wars and plane crashes, and there is progress in culture of peace at the local level.  But there are two kinds of media, one for the culture of war and another for the culture of peace, and so it seems like there are two realities.

There are two realities as it would seem that the world is in transition from one culture to another.

The major commercial media continue to serve the culture of war.  As I have shown in the History of the Culture of War, over the course of the past few centuries the media have become its most important tool.  Its coverage of war is designed to convince people that a culture of war is inevitable and/or necessary and that it should be supported by them.  Its coverage of disastrous events like plane crashes is designed to convince people that they are helpless in the face of superior forces and there is no way for them to change the course of history.

Media like CPNN, on the other hand, can be a major tool for the culture of peace, letting people know that a culture of peace is possible, and how they can support it.  It can give people confidence that they are the creators of history.  As we said in the slogan for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace, “Peace is in our hands.”

At the present time, there are not enough media sources like CPNN.  I have seen a few new internet sites that provide news on a regular basis about the culture of peace, such as the Good News Agency (in English and Italian) and the People’s World Peace Project (English only).  I have not found culture of peace news sites in other languages, although CPNN carries some articles in French, Spanish and Portuguese.  We need sites in Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Swahili, Urdu, Hindi, etc., as well as in local languages.  And we need many more readers and reporters!

As the number of culture of peace news sites increases, and our readership increases, the commercial media will be forced to cover more culture of peace news in order to avoid losing their readership.  If and when that time comes, we will be able to say that the tide is turning towards a culture of peace!

Democratic participation is advancing – from below


It is not by accident that the progress in democratic participation is being made at the level of the city and not at the level of the nation state.

At the level of the nation state, there is no progress.  Instead, we are going backwards.  More and more the American model is being imposed at the level of the state: a two-party system with alternation of electoral victories for the two sides, both of which are controlled by “big money”, i.e. the capitalist class. This is accomplished by control of the mass media.  Voters are given the “choice” of two capitalist alternatives and are forced to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”  Electoral candidates at the national level spend millions of dollars and are usually millionaire capitalists themselves.  A few exceptions are elected from time to time, but they have only a few votes against hundreds of others that simply represent the interests of the capitalist class.

But one should not be surprised at this.  As I have shown in the History of the Culture of War, the nation-state has literally become the culture of war in the course of recent centuries.  And it is the capitalist class that continues to profit from the culture of war.  Socialism does not survive in the competition of nation-states, because it does not profit as much from the culture of war.  We saw this most clearly in the case of the Soviet Union, but we see it today in countries like Cuba and Vietnam.

As a result, the budget of the modern state is largely devoted to preparation for war since military domination is necessary for the success of the capitalist class.  Not surprisingly, since it heads up the American empire, the most extreme example is the United States where more than half of the national budget is devoted to the military expenditures, nuclear weapons and interest payments on previous military expenditures.    This does not include social security which should be treated as an insurance investment by citizens since they have already paid for it.

To see progress we must look below the level of the state.  At the level of the city there is continuing progress in democratic participation, as illustrated in the examples of participatory budgeting in this month’s bulletin of the Culture of Peace News Network.  This, too, should not be surprising, since cities, over the past few centuries, have lost their previous culture of war.  No longer do they have armies or patrol borders or need to pay for military contracts.  Unlike the relations of nation states, the rich cities do not exploit the poor cities.

At the level of the city, progress is best seen in participatory budgeting, “presupuesto participativo” in Spanish, “orcamento participativo” in Portuguese, a process by which citizens at a local level are able to decide directly what should be the priorities for expenditures in their neighborhoods.

And it should not be surprising that participatory budgeting began in Latin America and is being practiced there more than anywhere else.  As we have seen in previous blogs in March 2014 and February 2013, Latin America is the most advanced region of the world in developing a culture of peace.

In participatory budgeting, people improve immediately the quality of life for them and their neighbors.  In no case, do we see people voting for war against an “enemy neighborhood.” or a city in another region or country.  Instead, as we see in this month’s bulletin, they vote for simple projects that directly improve their quality of life, such as parks, jogging paths, cooperatives for sewing circles, toy-making or local fruit and vegetables production. In fact, sometimes their decisions are so ordinary that rich people can make fun of them.  This was the case a few years ago when the New York Times gave space in one of their local pages to a participatory budgeting project in their city by putting it under the headline “The Voters Speak: Yes to Bathrooms.”

Of course, participatory budgeting by itself will not be enough to bring us to a culture of peace, but when we see it in the context of progress in all of the eight domains of a culture of peace, such peace education, free flow of information, equality of women, etc., then we begin to see how the world can get ready for a new way of governance when the nation states collapse under the weight of their culture of war as has happened in the past.