Culture of Peace: Are we making progress?


This month’s bulletin gives us an idea of where progress is being made (or not being made) towards a culture of peace if we compare it to the CPNN bulletins of 2015.

On the good side

Progress is being made at  a grass-roots level by social movements for sustainable development and food sovereignty, often led or inspired by women and indigenous peoples.  Often this involves the return to traditional practices.

On the bad side

The national governments of the world, gathered in Paris, did nothing to reduce the global dependence on fossil fuels which makes development unsustainable, contributing to pollution and global warming.   Despite technical advances which begin to make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels, a large portion of technological innovation and development planning continues to favor the old unsustainable energy systems.

On the good side

Increasingly there are political movements against the policies of austerity that have been imposed by international financial institutions and national governments, policies that have accelerated the concentration of the world’s wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

On the bad side

The rich continue to get richer and the poor to get poorer, both within and between countries.  This is not just.  And it is not sustainable!

On the good side

Wise men and women tell us that the scourges of terrorism and displacement of peoples (refugees) cannot be defeated by more violence and xenophobic barriers, but we must address the roots of these problems by rejecting the culture of war and adopting policies corresponding to the culture of peace.

On the bad side

Influenced by the mass media and political demagogues, many people, perhaps a majority in many countries, continue to support policies of violence and xenophobia.

On the good side

After decades of civil war, Colombia is arriving at a peace accord with participation of the entire country and, in fact, all of Latin America.

On the bad side

Wars and civil wars, often fueled by the most developed countries, continue to plague much of the rest of the world.

In sum, are we making progress?  It would seem that we are developing the base for a future culture of peace, but it will not come easily because at the higher levels of the world, things are getting worse.  Where is the United Nations in all this?  What if it could be reformed to really represent “we the peoples”, as stated in the opening lines of its Charter?  Imagine what it would be like if the Security Council were composed of representatives of the mayors of the world.  Do you think they would want to maintain nuclear weapons?  Or to make peace by bombing people?  Look, for example, at the recent approach of the mayors of Madrid and Paris!

Some Advice to the New Generation


Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace and the indigenous elders who came to Paris for the Climate Negotiations are correct in their assessment.

As the elders say, “We have misplaced our trust in governmental leaders and the leaders of industry. They failed us by trying to maintain their profits, economies and their power over the people . . .  Those seeking profit and power have created a business of war and destruction that now threatens the lives of billions around the world . . . We can no longer wait for solutions from governmental and corporate leaders. We must all take action and responsibility to restore a healthy relationship with each other and Mother Earth.”

And as Naidoo says, “We need substantial, structural, systemic change – and this change can only be led by the youth, who are not infected by the political pollution of the past.”

With this wisdom in mind, I should like to offer some advice to the youth who are seeking “substantial, structural, systemic change.”  It concerns two needs: 1) a general raising of consciousness; and 2) the development of new institutions.

At CPNN we are very familiar with the challenge of raising consciousness.  In contrast to the dominant culture of war that uses the mass media to justify their power and their violence, we are part of a growing movement of alternative media that seeks to provide what the people are seeking: the truth.

Of course, the truth is not simple.  As Gandhi teaches us, the truth is mountain that we are climbing by many different paths, often invisible to each other.  We may not always understand each other’s truth, but we can always recognize the falsehoods of the propaganda for the culture of war by its emphasis on violence, fear and passivity.

Never before have so many people come to the truth that we need a world without war.

What is more difficult is the development of new institutions.  It often seems that the state has already pre-empted the possibilities for institution-building.  But the state, as I have shown in the History of the Culture of War, has come over the centuries to monopolize war to the point that it has become itself the embodiment of the culture of war.  Even when revolutionaries have sought to end war by taking over the state, they have simply ended up by creating new cultures of war.

However, the state is neither stable nor necessary.

Several times each century the state system collapses from the contradictions of its culture of war.  In the 20th Century we can point to four such crashes, two of them from the two world wars and two of them from the economic contradictions of the culture of war (the Great Depression and the crash of the Soviet empire).

Nor are states necessary.  Human needs, as well as care of the environment, can be handled by local and regional government and coordinated at a global level by institutions such as those of the UN system.  For what is the state necessary?  For wars and war preparation and for the guarding of frontiers.

So here is my advice: don’t worry about the state, but strengthen local, regional and global institutions that can replace the state next time the system crashes, so that we can arrive at a world without war or frontiers.