Culture of Peace as the Alternative to Terrorism
Culture of peace and Conclusion Page 14

Title/Summary page

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United States government
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European Union
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Islamic states
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Terrorist statements
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State terrorism
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Aerial bombardment
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Commercial mass media
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The contradictions
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Culture of war
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Explaining the contradictions
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Culture of Peace and Conclusion
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Although the culture of war analysis was eliminated by the European Union from the UN resolutions on a culture of peace, fortunately, the culture of peace and non-violence was not eliminated. It was adopted in the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace passed, along with other resolutions naming the year 2000 the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the years 2001-2010 the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World. This provides us with a program to eliminate terrorism, both the terrorism of the state and the terrorism of non-state groups. And it includes reference to the non-violence ideology of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King which is a powerful force for change toward a culture of peace.

Although the opposition of the Europeans, Americans and their allies was not enough to block passage of the culture of peace resolution, they managed to remove the provision of funding for a culture of peace. Hence, since 1999, the UN system has not had any culture of peace programs and very little staff resources devoted to the culture of peace and non-violence. Anticipating this limitation, we had written into the resolution a role for the civil society:

Civil society should be involved at the local, regional and national levels to widen the scope of activities on a culture of peace ... Partnerships between and among the various actors as set out in the Declaration should be encouraged and strengthened for a global movement for a culture of peace. A culture of peace could be promoted through sharing of information among actors on their initiatives in this regard.

Is the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace making progress? To answer this question, we recently prepared a report at the midpoint of the Decade for the United Nations based on contributions from 700 civil society organizations in 100 countries. Their contributions show that despite being ignored by the mass media and by the United Nations system, the Movement is advancing around the world.

In sum, the culture of peace and nonviolence, as it has been described and adopted in UN resolutions, provides us with a viable alternative to the culture of war and violence which underlie both sides of the terrorist struggles of our times. And the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace provides an historical vehicle for the profound transformation that is needed.

The transition from culture of war and violence to culture of peace and non-violence: Is it necessary? Is it possible?

The initial call for the global movement for a culture of peace was issued by a group of activists, diplomats and staff members associated with UNESCO at a meeting in Central America, who called it "a utopia that is both viable and necessary."

Nuclear weapons have changed the nature of war to the point that the abolition of war has become necessary. War always included terrorism, but the terror and destruction was often confined to the armies themselves. Now everyone is terrorized by nuclear weapons, combatants and non-combatants alike. During the Cold War, it was often claimed that possession of nuclear weapons led to a balance of terror. But more recently, it seems likely that non-state terrorists, even if they are only a few in number, can potentially make and use nuclear weapons. Because of nuclear weapons, states are become more vulnerable rather than more secure.

The old concept of peace as the balance of terror among states is no longer viable. It is the very culture of war itself that must be replaced.

The idea that a culture of peace is "necessary" echoes the conclusion reached long ago by Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud in their correspondence about war. They considered how modern science had invented such new and more powerful that humanity would either have to abolish war or be destroyed by it. The invention and use of nuclear weapons brought their predictions to pass. As Einstein said afterwards, "Everything has changed except our way of thinking."

But is a culture of peace possible? Or is this only a utopian vision? In the North, the term "utopia" is usually considered to be something that is a good idea but not possible to implement in practice. In the South, however, my colleagues assure me, it is possible to conceive of a utopia that is viable, in other words, possible to implement.

Although, as noted above, the report on the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace indicates that progress is being made, the progress seems insufficient when one considers the enormous resources and power of the culture of war and violence. This perception is magnified by the fact that the mass media regularly report news of war and violence, but they do not report the news of a culture of peace.

To see how a culture of peace is possible, it is necessary to take a dialectical view of history. As one famous revolutionary described it, history proceeds by: inner impulses towards development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; a development by leaps, catastrophes, and revolutions; - breaks in continuity";

We have considered above some of the problems and contradictions associated with terrorism within the present world system of state power, including the contradictory economic, political and military effects of reliance on nuclear weapons, military production, internal culture of war and secrecy. The problems and contradictions appear to be increasing rather than becoming resolved. Hence, when the historical changes come, they may well be catastrophic and revolutionary. The West has seen revolutionary change in its past, in 1789, 1850, 1917, 1946 and 1989. There is no reason to assume that this trend has ceased.

It is my impression from the revolutionary periods of the past that ideologies and consciousness of the citizenry can play a key role in determining the outcome. With this in mind, I submit that the key to transforming our culture from war and violence to peace and non-violence will be the consciousness of the people at the time of the next revolutionary period of history. The transformation will be possible if enough people consider it to be both necessary and possible.

But here again is a contradiction. Historically, revolution has usually been organized according to the principles of the culture of war. And, as a result, the revolutionary countries that have emerged have been organized on the basis of the culture of war, authoritarian, secretive, male-dominated, exploitative, and militaristic on the basis of 'defense of the revolution against its enemies.'

To achieve a culture of peace, it will be necessary to transform the principles and the organization of revolutionary struggle. Fortunately, there is a successful model, the Gandhian principles of nonviolence. Systematically, the principles of nonviolence reverse those of the culture of war employed by previous revolutionaries:

* Instead of a gun, the "weapon" is truth

* Instead of an enemy, one has only opponents whom you have not yet convinced of the truth, and for whom the same universal human rights must be recognized

* Instead of secrecy, information is shared as widely as possible

* Instead of authoritarian power, there is democratic participation ("people's power")

* Instead of male domination, there is equality of women in all decision-making and actions

* Instead of exploitation, both the goal and the means is justice and human rights for all

* Instead of education for power through force, education for power through active nonviolence


On the basis of the preceding analysis, the culture of peace and nonviolence is proposed as the appropriate response to terrorism. Other responses tend to perpetuate the culture of war which provides the framework for terrorism; hence they cannot abolish terrorism.

Given the danger that war, terrorism and especially nuclear weapons pose to the world, the transition to a culture of peace and nonviolence is a necessary next step in history.

To conclude, when the contradictions of history reach a certain point and the consciousness development of the people is sufficiently engaged, it may be possible to make the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. For this, it is essential to employ the Gandhian principles of active nonviolence.

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