A Paradigm For Peace

Raise your hand if you weren’t surprised when fancy films of beheadings resulted in bombings?

Keep your hand up if you weren’t shocked when bombings resulted in more brutality and beheadings?

Is it possible we need a radically different way of thinking about how to solve violence?

Listen to this quote:

“Neither governments nor terrorists analyze the Defensive and Aggressive Roots of Violence within their enemies and themselves. Consequently, their policy solutions are imbalanced, hostile, and impractical. The habit of antagonistic debate further impedes the development of solutions, while threat-oriented psychological patterns and assumptions buttress a belief in war.”

Please don’t scream “What are we suppose to do, have a friendly discussion with the man with a knife on our throat?”

I actually know someone who did that and lived to tell the tale. But that’s not the idea. We don’t actually have a collective throat, and we aren’t actually engaged in debates or discussions of any sort with the people our government is bombing thousands of miles from home. The point, as I take it, is to alter how we are thinking about matters of war and peace. Kristin Christman, whose quote that is, has produced a remarkable project called Paradigm For Peace.

She takes on the policy of war and the propaganda of war. She rethinks it all in her own language, very much the autodidact but very much dedicated to seeing the perspectives of others. Her writing could help war supporters begin to question their beliefs, which she sees as often noble, if often also shameful, if always misguided, in motivation. Christman applies the same generosity and insight to an analysis of war supporters on both sides. That is, she asks both why someone would support bombing Iraq and why someone would support anti-U.S. terrorism.

Another excerpt:

“Since its first foreign policies towards Native Americans, the U.S. has perceived the opponent as two-dimensional and deficient in qualities worth respecting and perspectives worth understanding. It is similar to the faulty way in which some have perceived slaves, children, animals, trees, rocks, rivers, and land itself: to be much less than they really are. Yet trying to obliterate the enemy does not resolve the threat; it does not address why the enemy became a threat. And if motivations are not discussed, solutions to motivations will be omitted. Foreign policy must be based upon a Science of Peace.”

And one more, just to get a proper taste:

“We wouldn’t kick a car to make it go. If something were wrong with it, we would figure out which system wasn’t working and why: How is it not working? Does it turn on a little? Are the wheels spinning in mud? Does the battery need recharging? Are gas and air getting through? Like kicking the car, an approach to conflict that relies on military solutions does not figure things out: It does not distinguish between the causes of violence and does not address aggressive and defensive motivations.”

Christman has organized her ideas into a system of categories that can be a bit intimidating, but often extremely valuable. I’ve sometimes struggled with the concept of the “roots of war” because I recognize factors that facilitate war, while recognizing that they are neither necessary nor sufficient to actually cause war. Christman makes use of a very helpful category that she calls “The Escalators of Violence.” These are broken up into mental, legal, and physical varieties — that is to say, mental habits that make war a first resort, legal structures that permit war, and physical facts like the presence of weapons and troops that make war the easiest option.

The “Roots of Violence” is another piece of Christman’s analysis, itself divided into defensive, aggressive, and accidental roots. Christman is not using “defensive” as a legal justification for war, but rather as a category to facilitate understanding of what is motivating the actions of one’s government or its declared enemies.

Continuing her mission of categorization, Christman creates a “Taxonomny of Peace” including an in-depth and specific look at roots and escalators of violence, and at solutions — with a focus in particular on the United States and Western Asia (the “Middle East”). In fact, Christman lists 650 Solutions for Peace.

That’s quite a leap from the currently common U.S. wisdom that one must choose between bombing and nothing, to a menu of 651 choices (including bombing as 1).  But the 650 are not all concrete and discrete steps.  Many are guides to better thinking.  Many are rules for what not to do. For example: “Do Not Determine Solutions Based Merely upon Snapshots of a Conflict” is the heading of one of the 650 sections.

I spoke at an event along with Christman some weeks back (video), and recognized that she was a brilliant independent thinker. It then took me weeks to get around to reading her work, which I still haven’t finished. Why? Because it’s too big, too disorganized, needs an editor, needs a web designer, and ought to be published in a hardcopy book for us old-fashioned types who like those. I mean all of that as constructive criticism, and I really very much do hope those steps are taken.

In the meantime, take any amount of time you have (such as time you might have wasted watching TV news) and check this out.

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  • paul

    One little problem. The motives of warmongers in particular, and war supporters in general, are not noble. To assume they are begs the entire question.

  • SeeTruth

    I agree, this begs the question. The masters of 9/11 wanted that “Pearl Harbor” event that would allow them to introduce the Patriot Act, a.k.a. police state, and suspend the Constitution in the name of national security. Indeed, the evidence is mounting that 9/11 was a “false flag” event intended to bring into being an authoritarian government with the cover to launch a world-wide war for oil and other natural resources while the dollar was still the world’s reserve currency. Without the latter, the United States is a bankrupt Third World country. Mussolini said that “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” If this is the case, then the United States has been a fascist country since the American Civil War in 1861. This is just coming out of the shadows.

  • T. Matson

    I have an idea–Let people and nations decide their own fate. The reason we are hate in the Middle East is because we are always meddling(or doing the bidding of Israel or the Saudi’s, etc) We get no benefit whatsoever except risk of terrorism and higher oil prices(yes the Saudi’s are greedy and not dumb). If Obama and the Democrats and Republicans(both side are guilty of this theory that we must engage the world to be safer) Really?? We must meddle and piss nation after nation off to be safer and in the process spending billions and billions on equipment that ends up in “terrorists control”??? We no longer need middle east oil–and I am willing to bet the Middle East would be a lot more stable if we completely pulled out of that region. The people who say we need to provide safety to the FLOW of oil since the world economy depends on the Gulf oil…The people saying that have no clue about anything–it does not matter who runs any of the Gulf Slave states–either the terrorists(created by US, Israel, and the said Gulf Nations) or the Corrupt current governments of said nations–people no matter what race or age like money–and guess what the oil is going to keep flowing no matter what–and even if there were a few price spikes–why should we worry about China having to deal with that? Or Europe for that matter–virtually every nation puts its nations businesses and people first–except for the USA–our current president opening trashes the majority of this nation and promises to help non-citizens as soon as possible……I guess my point is–once Obama is gone–we need a President who is an adult and who has no SECRET allegiance to certain Middle East Nations….We need a President who will say–Hey Israel you have an all powerful military per your own statements–if you face a threat take care of it–ba bye-and the same goes for Saudi Arabia–how many palaces and tacky buildings, etc can they build–here is an idea they already spend nearly 100 billion a year a defense–let the Saudi’s use that force to do its dirty work instead of having the USA do everyone’s dirty work. If the USA put all of these troops that are currently protecting or attacking various middle east nations on our borders–guess what a Adult actual Loyal American President could say the borders our secure and the people of the USA are Safe and should not be worried about a terrorist attack–DARE to DREAM of a President who actually intend to Protect the PEOPLE of our Nation with our OWN Military–I know–crazy almost revolutionary talk by me…………….

  • colinjames71

    When’s the last time anyone heard the word “diplomacy” come out of the mouths of any US official? It’s like that word, and concept, is completely being erased. They might talk about “diplomats” or “diplomatic missions”, bit diplomacy itself is verboten.