What kind of peace education?

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.