peace culture

The Low-Bar Trope


Democratic Primary Debate Participants, 27 June 2019: Michael Bennet, Joseph Biden, Peter Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernard Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang. (Credit: DonkeyHotey / Wikimedia Commons)

You have heard it said before. I’ve said it myself. As a colleague recently grumbled: “The bar is low. All I want is a return to the rule of law.”

Indeed, the bar is set low for the 2020 presidential election if it means Democrats should nominate the person most likely to defeat Trump, that candidates competing for the nomination should do no harm to one another in the primaries, and that they and their supporters should rally behind the Party’s eventual nominee on the assumption that winning the election will return the nation to the status quo ante.

Is a reset enough? Is restoring the state of affairs as it existed before Trump’s presidency the right goal and the likeliest way to win the election? (more…)

Western Worldview: A Latent War Myth


“St. Bartholomew Day’s Massacre,” oil on panel, by François Dubois, circa 1572-84. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I recently came across a striking depiction of the dominant Western worldview, which underlies our conventional way of thinking about violence, especially our assumption that war is natural and inevitable. It is our present-day mythos—our deeply embedded conception of humanity—rendered so starkly that it startles one momentarily into a state of recognition.

I found this remarkable depiction in a book about the history and vitality of peace movements, specifically a chapter on psychology and peace. The authors, Marc Pilisuk and Mitch Hall, observe that we live in a world we have created, both a physical world we have significantly changed and “a symbolic world of mental images that define what we assume to be true.” Our prevailing myths are our most comprehensive symbols for identifying our place and purpose in life. They constitute social and political entities, such as nation-states, that “exist only because we believe they are real,” that is, “because we invest them with sovereign powers and sacred attachments” and “willingly kill or die for them.”[i] (more…)

An Answer Other than War

President Ronald W. Reagan salutes military personnel gathered in his honor, Oct. 12, 1986. (Credit:  PH1 Sammy Pierce / Wikimedia Commons)

President Ronald W. Reagan salutes military personnel gathered in his honor, Oct. 12, 1986. (Credit: PH1 Sammy Pierce / Wikimedia Commons)

To say that war is not the answer (as suggested in a previous post) is to underscore that war lacks salience in the public mind and that peace is next to impossible for Americans to envision. US war culture displaces both an understanding of peace and a desire to pursue it.

War culture is difficult to change. It is deeply ingrained. Americans have been continuously at war for the past 250 years. The absence of war—which is not the same as a positive state of peace—is a rare and short-lived phenomenon in U.S. history. A condition of positive peace is unprecedented.

Nevertheless, culture is something learned and, therefore, subject to change. War culture does not just naturally persist. It is sustained by ritual. At least theoretically, a culture of war can be transformed over time into a culture of peace. (more…)