Friday, October 23, 2009

Peace And The Prize Response


Hello Tim,
Thank you for asking the Dallas Peace Center for a response to Mr. O'Neill's essay.  While I am replying in my capacity as President of the Board of the Dallas Peace Center, these are my views and are not to be construed as official policy of the DPC. The mission of the Dallas Peace Center is based on a vision of reconciliation: to promote education, dialogue and action for peace and justice, and all that we do is governed by that mission and our values. 

Mr O'Neill brings up some good points, yet I believe he falls short of recognizing what true peace is.  He seems to limit his definition to conflicts between organizations (government) and its citizens, and where I would expand this definition is to include conflicts between individuals, and ultimately, conflicts within ourselves. You see, the world cannot be at peace until we, as individuals, are at peace.   The government, our elected or appointed officials, are a representation of our collective consciousness, what we believe in as a society is reflected in those we allow to govern us.  Limiting a definition of peace to simply the absence of war or aggression falls far short.  One need only look and you will find many individuals who do not display aggression, but harbor so much anger, resentment, hatred that only the right circumstance need present itself and these people will become violent.  The rate of domestic abuse will give you an indication of just how prolific violence is. 

Furthermore, until we put into place mechanisms that teach people how to resolve conflict in a peaceful, nonviolent way, there is no hope for peace.  Until we teach people that yelling, hitting, bullying, beating and killing their fellow human beings is not acceptable for any reason, until we give them other tools to not only resolve the conflict, but to understand their own needs and feelings, there will not be peace.  Currently, we teach our children that violence and aggression are suitable means to resolve conflict, and until we replace that model with one of nonviolent conflict resolution, this is the only way they will know.  And they will pass this down to their children, just as we have done with ours.  You may say, gee, this sounds good, but it is not practical, not feasible, and I will reply to the contrary, that indeed such a model is workable, and it is happening right now in Costa Rica, where it has been put into law that BePeace is to be taught in every school.  It is happening right now in schools in Washington DC, where Colman McCarthy teaches his "Alternatives to Violence" courses.  And these programs have profound effects.  I'm not naive enough to think all we have to do is turn a switch and make it happen everywhere and all will be well, but these examples are shining hopes of what is possible, of where we can go, of the real possibility of peace.

Of course these principles were recognized millennia ago, and we're still not there.  Lao Tzu, over 2500 years ago, taught:
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

Even the military leader Napoleon recognized the need for resolving conflict at the individual level when he said " If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots." 
Mr O'Neill also says to be an advocate for peace "one must oppose the initiation of force . ."  I contend that to be an advocate for peace, one must model the peace, not oppose it.  Opposition merely brings about more resistance, more conflict.  Rather, as Buckminster Fuller taught, we must provide a new model that makes the old model obsolete.  And Gandhi, of course, to be the change we wish to see in the world. 

As to the statements about peace activists being hostile and only opposing large-scale military operations, I submit that first, the idea there are "many" is false, and second, of those that fall into this category, these are not peace activist at all.  Sure, they may take up a sign and march in a group or attend a rally, but are there perhaps only for the novelty.  Just because a person is part of an event does not make them an advocate or a member, it just means they are present.  And yes, some peace events have erupted in violence, but I believe this is the exception, not at all the norm.  Of course when something like this happens, it comes to the forefront and attention of the media, and perhaps hyped-up because it is an oxymoron. 

At the Dallas Peace Center, we provide peacemaker training prior to a public event, to be prepared if any conflict is initiated or develops. 
For some additional thoughts, I encourage you to read my Op-Ed "Creating a Culture of Peace":

Now, to address the issue of President Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize. . . .

The author seems to focus on government taking advantage of its citizens and calling this violence.  Personally I don't see it that way. Yes, there are times when various government agencies may be strong-armed in their enforcement or interpretation of the law, the IRS of past years would be a good example. 

We live in a society with agreed upon rules and covenants, some more well-defined than others, and some called laws.  Some are good, some not so good, but we, as citizens, have the mechanism in place to change the laws.  Thing is most people would rather complain about some part of, or an entire law, and rather than work to get it changed, simply gripe about it and say how unfair it is. 

We do not live in a dictatorship, so all the references to President Obama forcing people to give up land or rights or property is simply untrue.   While he may suggest a policy, a course of direction, he cannot on his own do any of these things, this is the job of Congress.  And last time I checked, congressmen and women were elected by us, the citizens, and as such, are accountable to us.  If we abdicate our responsibility and don't call them on what legislation they are or are not supporting, then shame on us.  And to me, that is what has differentiated a Libertarian from other political directions - personal responsibility.   It doesn't mean you can do whatever you want, it means you work together with your community, with your nation, and bring about change, while taking ownership for your part in the process.

To the point of President Obama receiving this award, Mr. O'Neill has not provided any supporting references to his statement that " . . the award goes to those who do their utmost to aggrandize government . ."   This simply does not ring true and is a broad generalization, seemingly to air his disdain for government.   I see the award as an affirmation that those who have a vision of a world at peace are recognized, even though the way to get there may not be realized at the time.  And indeed it is not realized, but unless we hold out hope, unless we value those who are willing to keep the vision alive and in sight, unless we see that others have the same vision in mind, then we will never get there.  We, and our children's children's children, will simply continue with the same violent mindset, the same set of tools that beat down and enslave and oppress our brothers and sisters, the same attitude that condones violence and even killing for whatever reason. 

Let us celebrate the foresight of the Nobel Committee in making this selection, and do our part in moving the vision of peace and nonviolence forward.  The real question is not whether President Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, but what is it that you and I will do to receive the same recognition? 

Again, thank you for this opportunity to reply. 

Len Ellis
President, Board of Directors
Dallas Peace Center

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