Peacemakers: Paradigm Changers

“Peace through nonviolence is possible.”

I don’t know about you, but in my attempts to promote this idea I hear a lot of, “Don’t be naive. You are being unrealistic. Violence is natural, conflict is inevitable, and peace is impossible. This is the way it has always been and will always be. Attempts to curb violence without using violence will never work. We have to be strong and show strength. We have to be ruthless and eradicate everyone who threatens or is a potential threat to us otherwise they will annihilate us. We have to use violence to protect ourselves and others.”

In such situations, my answer usually is, “One thing we undoubtedly know is that violence will not end conflicts, reduce tensions, or bring lasting peace. We have tried it for millennia and it has already proven its ineffectiveness. Violence may curb violence temporarily, but it does not end conflicts permanently. In fact, it only creates additional ones. Violence begets violence; this we all know for sure. And I am not talking only about direct violence, the one that wounds and kills fast. I am talking also about the indirect violence, the one that through exploitation, oppression and all forms of social injustice, wounds and kills slowly. This widely accepted and often ignored violence is the root of all other expressions of violence. It is time for us to apply nonviolence and bring about equality on a large scale.”

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Nonviolence has already proved its effectiveness. We know nonviolence works and is an effective way of bringing about justice and peace; we have plenty of examples of that. Take a look, for instance, at the evidence presented by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan in their book “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” or the compelling historical facts lined up by Mark Kurlansky in his book “Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea.” Nevertheless, the majority of human beings still is not convinced of its effectiveness. Nonviolence still is not their tool of choice to dispel conflicts. And this is so because people are not aware of what nonviolence is, how it works, how to apply it, and how effective it is. It’s time for us to invested massively in nonviolent education, nonviolent communication, and nonviolent conflict resolution. Although education and training in nonviolent techniques is gaining ground, we still have a long way to go. We need to expand our reach and coverage so every human being can receive training on how to communicate and solve conflicts nonviolently.

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Peacemakers need to understand that changing the prevailing ideas in the world is not an easy task. And that is what we, peacemakers, are doing: we are trying to transform the culture and change the deeply rooted paradigm that violence is inescapable, conflict is inevitable, and peace is impossible. We are trying, in the middle of all skepticism, to bring people to believe that peace is possible. Even more, we are trying to bring people to accept and believe that peace through nonviolence is possible.

Our final goal is to bring lasting peace to the world, but our main job right now is to take people to a place where they can see new possibilities, and by seeing new possibilities they may begin to question their current beliefs and ways, and choose to adopt new ones.

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OK. This is our task, but before we move forward we must have one thing clear: even though we would like people to see as we see, and think as we think, we have to realize that all we can do is to inspire others, and hopefully instill in them the desire to look into new possibilities. That’s it. From that point on it is up to them to embrace new visions and understandings, or not.

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We need to reflect and recognize our own violence. When we talk about violence, we are, the majority of time, thinking about the violence perpetrated by others, but we ignore our own.

In what ways are we violent? In what ways do we contribute to violence in the world?

To begin with, we have to look at history and see how we may have benefited from the historical oppression and exploitation of others. We need to own the fact that some of us have been the beneficiaries of a system built on the lives of others. We have to recognize that we belong to a group that benefits from the unjust ways we have organized ourselves to live in society. We have to realize that the goods we buy may have been manufactured by workers who may be subjected to oppression and exploitation. We have to be aware that we are enjoying freedoms and privileges that others aren’t, and recognize that we are the ones who have put in place organizations, structures, and repressive systems that maintain such privileges, and deprive others from enjoying them. We have to realize that we benefit from this unfair system, and that, in many ways, we contribute to this institutional violence.

We also have to recognize that we live immersed in a highly individualistic and competitive culture that promotes excessive and unnecessary consumption, praises go-getters, and separates winners from losers. We are living in a self-centered culture, where everything is about “me,” and where very few think in terms of “we.” We are violent, demanding a lot from ourselves and others, and we pass this on to our children. This brings about an inherently tense and violent environment of competition for the accumulation of wealth, an environment of division between those who have achieved material success and those who haven’t, a culture that promotes competition over cooperation.

We must also reflect on the violence perpetrated by our groups, the ones we belong to. We must realize how we separate ourselves in all forms of clans, tribes, gangs, countries, nations, ideologies, religions, and so on, and how we use violence to impose our ideas, our ways, and all sorts of arrangements that benefit us. We like to think of ourselves as being nonviolent, but we must recognize that, in a way, we pay for the emissaries who go out and wage violence on our behalf.

We don’t even notice how violent we are, and how we contribute to violence in unexpected ways.

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Ideas shape our reality. The idea that prevails is the world today is that of scarcity — that there is not enough — and this idea becomes an impediment for living in peace and harmony. Fear of not having enough infects our lives and all our relationships. Fear opens the floodgates for selfishness and greed. Fear leads people to hoard, to accumulate more than what they need, and to get more than what they give. Fear unleashes impulses to compete, fight, conquer, and subjugate. Fear propels people to move ahead at all costs, ignoring the pain and suffering they inflict on others. Fear moves people to oppress and exploit other beings without considering the effects on mankind and the environment. Fear of scarcity unleashes the worst in us, and creates a violent world. Our unconscious acceptance of this “Scarcity Paradigm” brings violence to everything we do.

But if we believed the opposite — that this planet of ours is a place of abundance where there is more than enough for everybody, and that we will always have access to what we need — then we wouldn’t be so afraid of lack. We would be more gentle and generous with one another. We would compete less and cooperate more. We would be less violent.

So, our mission, as peacemakers, is to inspire people to look beyond the prevailing mindset, and take humanity to consider and adopt the “Abundance Paradigm.”

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We have to recognize that, right now, we are violent people living in a violent world.

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Peacemakers and worldchangers must work in two fronts: curbing existing violence and preventing new violence to erupt.

1 – Stopping both direct and indirect violence.

  • Can we use nonviolence to stop direct violence? How?
  • And how can we utilize nonviolence to promote social change and diminish the structural violence, the one brought about by oppression, exploitation and other forms of social injustice?

2 – Preventing the emergence of violence.

  • Utilizing nonviolent methods for resolving disputes and conflicts.
  • Teaching nonviolent methods of introspection and self-awareness.
  • Teaching nonviolent communication, mediation, and conflict resolution to the young population.
  • Promoting widespread social justice, therefore reducing tensions, and the rate of success of indoctrination and recruitment for the perpetration of acts of direct violence by radical individuals.
  • Promoting a new paradigm, a new way of seeing the world and life.

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A day will come when it will be common knowledge that we are not independent, but interdependent, and that the well-being of others enhances our own. We will then understand the value of taking good care of our fellow human beings. In doing so, we will realize that this is a world of abundance where there is more than enough for everybody, and that we are the ones who create scarcity for others, because our fear makes us consume and accumulate more than what we need. We will realize that scarcity only exists when we let our fear dominate us.

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What should peacemakers do, then?

We must keep promoting nonviolence and its advantages. We must continue reminding people that violence is destructive, while nonviolence is constructive and creative. Those who resort to violence to solve conflicts seek to defeat, subjugate and segregate their opponents, invariably creating new enemies in the process. Meanwhile, those who adopt nonviolent means for conflict resolution don’t see opponents as enemies to be defeated, but fellow human beings who need to be heard and understood, human beings who, in essence, want the same things we want. Nonviolent practitioners seek to communicate and integrate.

Let us invest in teaching less violent ways of dealing with one another.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if schools all over the planet taught that we all should work for social justice and peace? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all children learned Mindfulness, Restorative Justice, Nonviolent Communication and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution techniques early in their lives, so they could take those techniques to their homes, to the streets and their communities, and not only apply them, but also teach them to others?

So, let us continue our efforts. Let us teach the new generations that everyone’s highest moral calling must be to end oppression and exploitation. Let us continue pushing for our history books to reduce references to armed conflicts, and give more relevance to those events when social advancement was accomplished through nonviolent civil disobedience. Let us raise humanity’s understanding that those who fought injustices and attained social justice through nonviolent means deserve more praise than violent warriors.

Let us make a concentrated effort on education. Remember that “if we want to leave a better world for our children, we must leave better children for the world.”

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” ~ Victor Hugo

A change in the prevailing ideas is what will change the world.

Meanwhile, while we are educating the new generation, we have to find nonviolent ways of curbing the bullies of the world, and reduce the damage they do.

We need to be a voice for the voiceless. We need to encourage and support the oppressed to challenge their oppressors.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

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There is a difference between the use of force to attack and the use of force to protect. Peacemakers must develop a good understanding of the difference between the two. Many times, the use of force to expand influence — to conquer, dominate, subjugate, and even punish others — is presented as force being used to protect. That’s a lie, used all the time, by those who benefit from violence.

I am against violence, but I am not against the protective use of force as a last resort to save lives. Lives must be protected. And we have to achieve the goal of protecting lives without ending other lives in the process, because all lives are sacred. We have to stop people from killing without killing.

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Let us continue our efforts to put an end to exploitation, oppression and poverty, knowing that injustice and inequality are the breeding grounds of violence. Those who are hopeless and desperate — those who feel that they have lost everything and have nothing to lose — are the ones who lend their ears to radicals and their messages of hatred and violence.

Let us recognize that social injustice, inequality, oppression and exploitation are the roots of the social instability we are facing in the world, and that to tackle those problems we need a new consciousness that values life, not only our own and those of our loved ones and tribe members, but all lives, even the lives of our enemies.

A consciousness that, because it values all life, and considers all life sacred, rejects all killing.

A consciousness that cannot stand seeing billions of children around the world living in the dirt, scrounging for their next meals.

A consciousness that knows that a child who was wounded, who lost his father in war, who saw his mother suffering and crying, who lost his home, who went to live in a tent in a refugee camp, who doesn’t have a school to go to, and who was robbed of his innocence and childhood, is a child doomed to choose the ways of violent revenge.

A consciousness that does not allow us to close our eyes to abject poverty any longer.

A consciousness that shakes us from our indifference and moves us to change the ways we organize ourselves to live on this planet, so we can assure that every single person can have a caring family and a dignified life.

A consciousness that will not only say that they value work, but that really show that work is valued by compassionately understanding the needs of their fellow human beings and paying honest wages to all workers, wages that really allow them to live with dignity.

A consciousness that morally compels us to do something so everyone in the world, not just some lucky ones, can have shelter, food, water, health care, and education.

A consciousness that believes that where a person is born should not determine if that person is going to live or die.

A consciousness that is not blind to the military industrial complex and to the interests that move those who manufacture and trade weapons, and profit from conflicts.

We need a new consciousness that non-judgmentally values all life, the lives of the poor, hungry, and homeless, the lives of the less fortunate, the lives of the less able to deal with the complexity and nuances of life, the lives of those who need to label others and make sure they belong to an ‘acceptable’ tribe, the lives of those who find comfort in easy, rushed, primitive “us against them, good against evil, hard-workers against lazy bums, conservative against liberals, capitalists against socialists” explanations…

That’s what we, peacemakers, are talking about.

Yes, you can call us naive and unrealistic, but we will keep saying that we need to move to a higher ground. We need a new consciousness for a new world.

Are we going to succeed?

I believe that eventually we will, since a change in the prevailing paradigm is our only real hope. Let us continue moving forward. We are making progress. Soon we will reach that tipping point — the so called critical mass — when the majority of mankind will accept widespread social justice and nonviolence as the most effective way of solving current conflicts, preventing the emergence of new ones, and manifesting peace. This will be the new paradigm.

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So, let’s be patient and generous.

Let us respond with love to those who scorn us and our peace-promoting efforts.

Let us face the skepticism with serenity and hope.

Let us compassionately realize that those who mock us are operating in a realm where they are unable to envision new possibilities, and that we are the ones who can guide them from the deepest valleys where they are now to the top of the mountains from where they will be able to see the Promised Land.

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” … And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers… Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. — I’ve Been to the Mountaintop — delivered 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee — the night before he was assassinated

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Our job is to meet our brothers and sisters where they are. We must listen. We must acknowledge their views of the world. We must allow them to feel that we have heard and understood them. No one will listen to us if we act as if we are better and know better. No one will listen to us if we talk down on them from a pedestal. We must meet them where they are, listen to them, empathize with them, and show that even if we don’t agree, we sincerely understand them. This is our job. We must seek first to understand, because only after they feel that they have been deeply and completely understood is that they will be open to listen to what we have to say. We must lead by example. People will listen to us if they see something different and special in us. If we exude peace they will pay attention to what we have to say about peace.

Finally, we have to understand that because each one of us has different personalities, talents and skills, each one of us will find different ways of contributing to peace. But whatever you may be called to do, I would like to encourage you to put your focus on facilitating opportunities for people to experience inner-peace.

In this violent world of ours, people are always in a fast, competitive mode. We need to create opportunities for people to understand that it is perfectly OK to give themselves time to slow down, to pause, be gentle with themselves, and touch that peace that resides within.

Peace in our hearts brought peace to our families

Peace in our families brought peace to our communities

Peace in our communities brought peace to our nations

Peace in our nations brought peace to the world

There is peace on Earth, and it began with me.

Let us facilitate opportunities for people to see beauty and abundance.

Meditate, teach meditation, and guide others to places of inner peace where they will have those awakenings that will allow them to realize our oneness, and that life is more than what we are able to see.

Walk in silence in nature, touch your inner peace, and lead a Silent Peace Walk.

Become a more peaceful human being yourself, and spread peace.

Remember:

We must be the change we want to see in the world. We must have peace in our hearts in order to give it. Peace begins with us.

Be peaceful. Be patient, generous and forgiving, always. Give love.

Our job is to keep the possibility of peace alive in people’s hearts and minds. Acceptance of the worst scenario — that violence will never stop and that we will never experience peace — is very dangerous for humanity. Even though the violence and insanity of some desperate individuals push us to places of skepticism, cynicism, and pessimism, we must do what we can to highlight all the good that there is in this world, and do what we can to keep the hope that peace through nonviolent means is possible.

Just do it!

Namaste. ~ Piero

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us, and the the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon

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