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A Decade Later: We have the means so why don’t we have peace?

13 February 2012 5 Comments

Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith
Peace X Peace Founder

Where is common financial sense in terms of the dollars — not counting human loved ones — required to build peace as compared with the hundred-fold dollars spent on destruction through war?”

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In 2002 when I founded Peace X Peace, we were the first social network connecting women around the world. The term “online social network” didn’t even exist. Cascading connection was a gleam in the eyes of six women gathered at my home in January 2002 to answer the question “What is peace, and how can women build it?”

At the end of three days of intense searching and sharing, these women of different cultures and expertise said 1) Women’s wisdom and experience is required at all levels of societies, top to bottom, if we are to have lasting peace, and 2) Peace comes through connection, communication, consciousness shift in individuals, and then consciousness shift in a critical mass of people. As of 2012 we are mid-point on that continuum. Almost everyone is connected, most are communicating, fewer are experiencing a consciousness shift — though most are eager to share their own beliefs and lives — but the death rate through government-led violence is still unconscionable.

Let’s review the progress along this continuum in more detail. The Internet is, after all, the 21st century venue to exercise the Golden Rule: Treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated.

In early 2002 we in the United States were in a state of shock. We experienced collectively that people from terra incognita, cultures over there far away, came out of nowhere and assaulted us. We woke to the reality that not everyone loved us, and some people didn’t like us at all. It was confusing and our government reacted in a primal way (“You’re with us or against us”), relying upon our military power to crush en masse — but not bringing enough of the knowledge, patience, or will to the multi-layered, nuanced follow-through required to build self-led, educated, stable civil societies. That is, we knew how to “war” but we didn’t know how to “peace.” We assumed the democratic institutions that took Western societies centuries to build could be grafted unto the rootstock of Afghanistan and other nations by handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution and holding training sessions.

I know I’m stating this with a certain tone.  Millions of unnecessary deaths have that effect on me.

Yet we have learned a lot. We have, and we have been humbled. We are better than we used to be at this job of changing the governments of other nations. We needed to be better because we killed, and we were killed, and we weren’t getting the results we desired. Yet even now in the U.S. far right-wing politicians threaten to cut off funding for the United States Institute of Peace. And we withdrew the funding that stabilized the West Bank’s infrastructure because Palestine had the audacity to say it would ask for Member status in the United Nations. Where is the learning in that? Where is the Golden Rule? Where is common financial sense in terms of the dollars — not counting human loved ones — required to build peace as compared with the hundred-fold dollars spent on destruction through war?

Even so I believe that “we, the people” of the world are closer together. We are connected and we are communicating. It is not governments but YouTube, Facebook, Linked In, and Internet music that are the peace bringers. Well over three billion of us have email accounts and more than two billion of us are consistent Internet users, with more than 800 million people on Facebook alone. It is the citizens of the world exchanging information and art and videos that are the force of good will and common sense.

We have the thrill of experiencing and learning about our family and neighbors everywhere, supporting each other, reveling in our similarities, and celebrating our differences. And we tell each other of what is happening in our world that is not carried in the media. (Oh, do I know this one well!) I get my news from the Middle East through videos and blogs from the frontlines posted by Facebook friends. I’ve never met them in person but I hear from them nearly every day.

The Peace X Peace Staff

BIG NOTATION HERE: The Internet is the embodiment of Feminine Principles — inclusion, equality, communication, use of visual images as well as words, expansion, gathering in, networking, reliance on groups. It’s self-correcting, holistic.

We can say, correctly and sadly and with annoyance, that women are still not treated with equality in many places on our planet, that women, in fact, are still denied opportunities and violated in savage ways. However, the Feminine Principles of the Internet are changing our world for the better. Get that, and understand it! This is why it is important for women to have equal leadership in governments, law, education, business, the military, and everywhere.

So we are in the process, we are on the continuum toward peace, but consciousness shift is slower than we might wish, because consciousness shift requires accepting that we have been uninformed or that we might have formed, and lived by, opinions and beliefs that are not true. It is scary to recognize our limits, and scarier yet to recognize that we have been wrong, and perhaps acted on that wrongness. I speak from the experience of feeling the shifts inside myself and seeing them in others through connections made in Peace X Peace.

Peace requires getting outside of your familiar skin and challenging your preconceptions. It requires curiosity and demands truth. It means accepting what is different from us as well as what is similar to us — the irony being that strangers are like us. They are not any stranger than we are. Global communication and exchange is, virtually, a large-size family reunion with overflowing creativity, multiple languages, great food and music, colorful dress, and the normal family dramas, though we’re all watching crazy Uncle Zeke who’s mumbling to himself over there. It’s manageable and, if we work together, Uncle Zeke is manageable too — so bring on the potluck!

There is another reason why people resist embracing each other despite the availability of connection and communication. Even the Internet has a hard row to hoe in a world where governments continue to bomb people. And drones, death at arm’s length? Impersonal, remotely controlled death — of how many?  how do you know when you didn’t even see them? — is still death. There were live people who are now dead and they were related to live people who don’t like their relatives being killed. I was at the funeral of a ten-year-old girl in the West Bank, her brain stem crushed by a rubber-coated bullet from an Israeli soldier. She wasn’t meant to be hit; she was a block away buying candy to bring home after school. It was the ten-year-old boys close to their school throwing stones at the humvee who were meant to be hit. There’s no accounting for where bullets or bombs land. And no justification for such crudity. It requires voluntarily forgetting others are human.

Her father told me that day that he would not give up hope for peace, he could not give up hope, but now his hope was that his daughter would be the last to be killed. She was not. Yet he continues to work for co-existence with Israel because he communicates and is friends with Israelis who were soldiers who said they will fight no more against Palestinians. That is not crudity, that is connection and that is strength.

What I see is:  connected, communicating people rising in Arab Spring and through Africa and in Palestine and Russia and Burma and more, usually in non-violent actions — and “we, the people” will make the difference. But it is slower than it should be because most governments and other authorities are slower to change than their people. We have not reached a critical mass of consciousness shift.

And — I am sorry to say it, so sorry, but it is true — most governments are still overwhelmingly male. In the United States, and many other nations are worse, 85% of the public conversation is dominated by men through the government, public pundits, and media. My heart aches for the wonderful men, among the blind around them, who see clearly and work hard to bring creative change for peace. They are in a special place of leverage and they are important.

I must add that the percentage of women in positions of power requires more than male willingness. If the path is clear (enough) but women don’t take it, we forfeit our right to complain. Women are rising throughout the world, we are primary change-makers. The next phase is to increase our numbers and come into power with integrity until leadership becomes familiar and feels like home.

With awareness through more connections, more communications, and more willingness, this decade will be the one where consciousness shift occurs exponentially the way connections occurred in the last decade. Then our resources can go towards true equality, education and human rights for all, health care, science and space explorations, lives of art from all people and for all people — with less money to controlling crazy Uncle Zeke, who will always be with us, but who can be managed and left babbling to himself, if the rest of us work together.

 

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5 Comments to “A Decade Later: We have the means so why don’t we have peace?
  1. Ben says:

    Hi Patricia,

    I really enjoyed your piece. I will continue to browse your website as I am just learning about it. There were great parts about consciousness shifts and what you indicated as feminine values of the internet. While I agree to a great extent I also wonder where discussion about culture comes into play. Much of the current talks about peace and modernization and globalization or standardization often think people have a unified view of development. I am currently in Indonesia and there are still many small villages living quite fine outside the huge role of development and modernization where there is no internet or even electricity. Many would say, “Oh, we have to get it to them.” If they want it I think we should provide access, but if they don’t I think they should be free to use the land as they and their ancestors have for generations and thousands of years. I too get as angry as you about the useless killings but this piece I mention also angers me, possibly more. When you, or I or others, talk about consciousness shift, How far are we shifting? The people I talk about are extremely intelligent and live ‘with’ the land and the animals in harmony. Something many people read about in their Bibles or other holy books but this is reality. Are we shifting to return to that, or to destroy that in the name of modernity or can we have a cultural aspect in this discussion? I thank you for your time. I am excited by much of the understanding I got from your piece. If we can discuss any further please let me know, bh303204@ohio.edu. Thank you so much.

    Also, about your question regarding why have we not got to the peace we thought we could arrive at. I think we are taking that question as far as we can. Similar to the conscious shift how far are we taking that discussion. You mentioned some conflicts or perceptions about governments and I question it further. Your piece discusses 10 years. 10 years since what? The start of the war, the 9/11 incident? Are we properly questioning the start of that war? Are we reviewing all the questions raised that say there was involvement from the US government or other parties or the companies making big profits off of the war? I think that can lead us to real causes for the slow progress. I look forward to talking with you more. I just raise question also. We can work together to arrive at possible solutions. Thanks again.

  2. Ben says:

    in my comment the second section the second sentence should read, I think we are ‘not’ taking that question as far as we can. Thank you.

  3. Jahangir Jawid says:

    When the men Fall, Women Arise.
    I am working on Women issues in a country that no one believes in women but i am shrieking out: if you want the peace you should let the women to govern, to lead and to train.
    the men race is old and selfish after the long centuries. the universe need the GOD.
    Afghanistan can face the peace if the men respect the women existence.
    i am so happy for you for starting with 4-6 women. I started the same year with a man, and it is myself.
    hope you achieve the peace that human race deserve it. I am with you.

  4. Patricia says:

    Thank you both, Ben and Jahangir, for your thoughtful comments. Ben, when I referred to ten years, I was simultaneously referring to since 9/11 and the founding of Peace X Peace, which was a response to 9/11. It has been an amazing decade of change and of “waking up,” though in many ways it feels as though most of the Western world has only begun to become aware of people of the larger world. We are terribly uninformed (and fear-addicted) even with the Internet. But wakng up has begun.

    When I refer to consciousness shift I think mainly of the principle that the “other” is the same as us, the awareness of resonance between ourselves and others, the decimation of the arbitrary perception that humans are fundamentally different rather than fundamentally the same. I know this because of my exposure to people around the world. The range of personality types I meet in the Western world is the same range as in other cultures. It is the awareness that Peace X Peace works for through sharing of personal lives and of information. When you see the “other” is the same of you, you identify with them and you care, and you help them rather than harm them.

    This doesn’t mean, Ben, to me that villagers need to be connected on the Internet. It does mean that we need to respect their choices, their authenticity, their history and their culture. And the moment we stop doing that, it is we who lose our humanity, not them. Modernity is, in many ways, only a question of passing style.

  5. Jo Wharton says:

    Patricia,

    Thanks again for a brilliant and thoughtful essay. You are a blessing to all peaceloving people.

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