In 2007, I tried to imagine how the world would make a transition to a culture of peace in the year 2027 and I started to write a novella, I have seen the promised land.
In making the scenario, I imagined that the most important point in the transition would occur in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at a world-wide meeting of peace cities.
Now 10 years later, returning from visits to Brazil and Mexico, I pose the question: if today I were to imagine the transition to a culture of peace, would I still consider that Latin America, and Brazil in particular would play a central role?
If we look only at national governments, it would seem doubtful. Leaders who might have shown some sympathy with a culture of peace are gone, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Lula in Brazil and Fidel in Cuba, and their countries are moving to the right. This trend is not limited to Latin America. We have Trump, Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, rise of right-wing, even fascist parties in Europe, loss of the leadership of Mandela and Mbeki in South Africa, fading hopes that were raised by the Arab spring, and lack of any movement in Asia towards a culture of peace. Some might say it is the end of democracy, although I see it more limited as the loss of bourgeois democracy. After all, national elections are now almost solely determined by big money, and big money corrupts. To find progress towards true democracy it is necessary to look at a more local level.
As readers of this blog know, I believe that we cannot achieve a culture of peace through the system of nation-states, so the loss of bourgeois democracy at the national level is not necessarily a negative development. In fact, I interpret it as another sign that the American empire and the global system of states devoted to the culture of war is beginning to collapse.
But are we developing at a local level a new system of global governance to replace the present system when it collapses?
My recent visits to Mexico and Brazil, along with a visit a year ago to Colombia, give me some cause for optimism. Audiences in these countries, especially students, were enthusiastic to hear a message quoting the World Social Forum that “another world is possible” and emphasizing the old slogan of “think global, act local.” And, as described in this month’s CPNN bulletin, I found many local inititives underway that contribute to a culture of peace, including participative budgeting, restorative justice, struggle against the violence against women, and the development of city peace commissions.
I hope to return to Latin America next year and hope to find that these initiatives are continuing to develop. If so, may they serve as a model for other parts of the world.
If I were writing a utopian novella today, would I still imagine the culture of peace being born in Latin America. The answer is “Yes!”