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Why we can do what no others in history could – our unique window of opportunity to abolish war.

August 21, 2018

by Judith Hand

Mirriam Webster defines “meme” as an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.

sixchanges.001A current, virtually global meme is that war is inevitable. We need to replace that defeatist meme with a powerfully positive new one…that ending war is possible. Here are six historical events that lay the foundation for that possibility, that make our time different  in ways that offer opportunity for major change…if we are willing to act.

Remarkable events, beginning roughly 700 years ago, have given humanity an open time-window of opportunity. These changes created conditions that offer the hope that we can succeed in bringing off what would be a monumental, historical, paradigm shift away from dominator cultures and war, a shift that people of good will who had tried before us could never achieve.

The first two changes brought the enlightenment in the Western World, the Renaissance and Reformation. The reformation in particular encouraged persons to think for themselves…beginning with their approach to the divine. They could talk to God directly, without an intermediary. With the Renaissance, the individual came to be viewed as something of worth, not just an obedient tool or possession of a king or of a state. The effect of both of these massive shifts in thinking about individual behavior and worth allow now for the possibility that people can think for themselves, and if they choose, reject a ruler’s call to war.

The next big change was introduction of the modern Scientific Method. Beginning roughly 350 years ago, this way to search out truth unleashed -ologists: primatologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and so on. The work of thousands during these intervening 300 some odd years has allowed us at last to figure out why we make war and very recently, how to set up peace systems, something we’ll examine shortly.

A third big change was a return to the ideal of democratic/republican government. Democratic government provides the possibility that free people can refuse to elect or follow a leader inclined to go to war. Especially important, in a liberal democracy the votes of women equal men’s.

The 4th big change was women getting the vote. This trend started only slightly over 100 years ago, first in New Zealand. We now have powerful women heading up NGOs, businesses, and even governments. This is part of a “feminization” trend that arguably began with the Romantic Period in Europe. You may have read the book by Harvard neuropsychologist Steven PinkerThe Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Pinker also points to feminization as one of 5 key factors facilitating declines in violence in the last several hundred years. Certainly giving women the vote puts real political power in their hands. This is very very different from centuries that preceded ours.

This was followed by the introduction of reliable family planning in the 1960s, which further empowers women to participate in governance. It also facilitates reduction in family sizes which is key to getting a hand on totally out of control population growth that can otherwise lead to conflicts over scarce resources.

And finally we have the birth of the Internet – this tool facilitates global connectedness in ways we couldn’t have imagined, not even ten years ago. It’s used by criminals and terrorists to facilitate their agenda. But everyone wishing to abolish war can also use it for advancing their agenda. It is a powerful global force multiplier.

To sum up, literally hundreds of thousands of good people before us have worked, and many have died, to bring us to this unique window of opportunity. Our time—this moment right now—is absolutely different, in key ways that provide an opportunity for global abolition of war. What we need to do is seize this day before it is too late, and key to doing that is spreading the idea that ending war is possible.

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