PRACTICAL THINGS WE CAN DO AS INDIVIDUALS
Often in the face of huge social problems, we can feel very helpless. We may feel that there are others who are much better placed to find solutions than we are.
In fact the world can be changed by quite small groups of people, or even by individuals (if those individuals are reflecting a feeling shared by others). There are large numbers of people already active in promoting peace in various ways. Further support will add to the momentum.
Here are a few suggestions about what we can do as individuals.
Question the idea that war is inevitable
Just accepting the idea that it might be possible to end war is a great step forward.
• Discuss the issue with our friends and colleagues and (if the opportunity arises) in the media.
Start in our own backyard. Almost everyone who wants to can have an influence on her or his own local government.
• Lobby for gun-free areas (for example that the local council does not engage armed security guards).
• Encourage our local council to support programs for reconciliation, anti-harassment, rehabilitation of offenders and so on.
• Urge our schools and education authorities to introduce peace education and related subjects.
Join peace organisations
There are many admirable organisations working at ending war. Some will have local branches.
Guns in the community
Campaign for good firearm control and for the replacement of the guns carried by police and security guards with non-lethal weapons.
A significant number of people believe that lasting world peace can only be achieved when there is sufficient inner peace amongst individuals. Whether these beliefs are true or not is beyond the scope of this book, but peaceful people will obviously make a significant contribution to developing a culture of peace.
Working at a local level will be very powerful. If we want to widen our activities:
- We can lobby our regional and then national politicians to initiate reform of the defence forces. On the international level we can support the United Nations and campaign for its reform.
- We can also support properly designed international aid programs to improve equity in the world.
SUMMARY OF STEPS FOR ACTION
In summary, here are some of the steps that we, as a world community, need to take to tame war:
- Study the origins of war
War is much older than humans. We must continue to explore why and how it has permeated our biology and our culture.
- Study what drives humans to make war
We need to analyse and understand the powerful drives that, to date, have ensured our survival, but which also propel us into warfare.
- Design a scientific strategy for peace
We have to treat war objectively and without moral judgement, just as we would treat a disease. By doing this we can design a rational effective plan for dealing with war, based on fact and not emotion.
- Use non-lethal weapons to limit the damage
Armed conflict is likely to be with us for a while at least. If we can use non-lethal weaponry to repel or constrain aggressors, we may be able to minimise immediate pain and grief and also reduce the long-term risk of revenge. We can start by using non-lethal weapons in United Nations peacekeeping.
- Control guns domestically
We need to greatly reduce the number of firearms in the community, except those used for sport shooting. We also need to give our police officers non-lethal protection instead of handguns.
- Increase United Nations peacekeeping
UN peacekeepers play a very important role in preventing conflicts and in halting and resolving those that start. We need to give peacekeepers much better support.
- Redirect the military into community work
While for the moment supporting their role in defence, we need to change the military into becoming for the most part community workers.
- Create useful challenges to satisfy aggressive drives
Society already redirects our competitive aggressive war-making drives into such activities as commerce, sport and adventure. We need to deliberately increase this involvement, concentrating particularly on designing challenging experiences for all our young people. There are many needs in the world such as reducing poverty, arresting global warming and repairing the environment, which can provide any amount of challenge.
- Share satisfying employment
Unemployment is dispiriting and disempowering as well as being a factor in social unrest. Repetitive mindless jobs can dull the senses as well as wasting skills. We need to share employment opportunities across the community. In addition, we need to share the tedious and unpleasant tasks that have to be done.
- Develop a culture of peace
Because war has been so central to human existence, our culture is very much imbued with the symbols and language of war. While honouring the warriors of the past, from now on we need to develop a culture which expresses a non-violent approach to life. This will include strong support for human rights and ending capital punishment.
- Better manage our political leadership
We need to improve the way we select and manage our political leaders so that we are less at the mercy of psychopathic, incompetent or just misguided individuals.
- Reform the United Nations
The United Nations needs strengthening and supporting, but it also needs reform. We must establish a more democratic governance which is not so controlled and manipulated by the Great Powers. At the same time we must ensure that the UN bureaucracy becomes more efficient, effective and accountable.
- Eliminate nuclear weapons
There must be no more proliferation of nuclear weapons. Those nations possessing nuclear weapons must together start progressively to dismantle and destroy their weapons until no more remain.
- Reduce world poverty
We must keep to the commitment of Making Poverty History (which aims at halving world poverty by 2015). We must aim to eliminate world poverty as soon as possible after that date.
- Improve the world environment
We must work together to improve the environment, reducing carbon emissions and arresting global warming. Our long-term goal must be of world-wide sustainable development.
- Promote world citizenship
We need to promote the concept of world citizenship. We have to encourage the development of democratic structures which transcend national boundaries.
- Break up super powers into smaller states
We must gradually, peacefully and naturally dismantle our super powers into smaller more equal-sized states, so that there is consistent representation and responsibility around the globe.
- Establish a World Parliament
Finally, we need to establish a world parliament. This parliament would not enforce conformity and blandness. In contrast, it would support the diversity and self-determination of individuals and of small communities. Indeed its main role would be to protect individuals and communities from being damaged or destroyed by what at present we call sovereign nations. As one ‘sovereign nation of the world’ we would have no excuse to go to war with anyone.