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Graduating from war culture to peace culture

August 24, 2012

By Mathias Pollock

Peace culture – a novel concept introduced today at the IPPNW Student Congress. Not a culture of peace, a culture defined by peace. Inspiring words today from keynote speaker Steve Leeper, the chairman of the Hiroshima Peace foundation. His message was not that this is something we need to aspire to; rather it’s something we can no longer afford not to attain. We need to graduate from the war culture, the dominance hierarchy that we live in, to peace culture. We need to evolve as a global society.

This is possible, and history gives us the necessary proof. Concepts such as slavery, piracy and torture that were all widely practiced in previous centuries are now viewed as primitive and barbaric. With regard to weaponry, indiscriminate arms that were used in previous conflicts, such as land mines and chemical weapons, have been banned by international law. And none of these acts or armaments has the immediate, irrevocable destructive power of a nuclear bomb. It is time to continue our evolution.

Let us return to peace culture, specifically as it differs from war culture. When conflict arises it is perceived as an opportunity to win or lose, to move higher or lower in the power structure. Competitive culture requires others to be viewed as enemies that need to be protected against. And while individually many of us have learned tolerate, if not embrace our neighbors, many of our world leaders continue to see themselves as surrounded by enemies. They have abandoned in large part the role of problem solver for the role of warrior. We need to change this view; we need to help them evolve.

So how must we approach situations of conflict that are inevitable in a chaotic world? Do we use the war culture mindset, shoot first and ask later, kill them before they kill you? Or do we make a pact to reject violence, and follow the teachings of respected figures of various cultures throughout history- from Jesus and Buddha to Ghandi and Martin Luther King- and adopt civility, non-violence, a peace culture. We can and must evolve.

This evolution has been ongoing for thousands of years. Unfortunately, due to unprecedented threats to our world, we have reached a point in the process where we can no longer afford to wait passively for the next phase. Our increased capacity and efficiency for destruction, both of our fellow human beings and of our planet, dictate that we cannot afford to continue to make mistakes from which we may never recover as a species. For the sake of our children’s and our species’ survival, we need to evolve.

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