Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category


Gandhi’s Constructive and Obstructive Programs

August 22, 2018


It’s Time To Change

Is it not time for our species—inheritors and caretakers of this wondrous planet—to renounce the waste of resources and lives taken from us by war?

Growing evidence suggests that with regard to using deadly violence, we have over evolutionary time preferred to get along or move along. That whenever our numbers seriously outpaced our resources, we split up and sought out new territory rather than fight to the death.

Space Shuttle Launch

Space Shuttle Launch

Our cooperative abilities have now led to many amazing results. Among these, we now control staggering and dangerous powers. We are sculpting the planet itself—changing the land physically, altering the numbers and kinds of other life forms, even shifting the weather.

Most awesomely, beyond the wildest imaginations of all generations before us, we have taken our first steps off-planet. We begin to reach for the stars. Destiny calls. What kind of destiny shall we create?

War is not a genetically built-in trait, inescapable and inevitable. It is a recent cultural invention/habit/meme. We can tolerate it, or dump it, along with other things that have become obsolete, into the dustbin of history. For suggestions how to accomplish that goal see To Abolish War” and “Paradigm Shift: Shaping the Future.”

Dismantling the War Machine


To abolish war, a critical mass of global citizens must come to share the following beliefs.

  • Believe that war is a cultural invention, not part of our inescapable biology.
  • Believe that when humans set their collective mind to it, we have the power to achieve pretty much whatever we choose: we can climb the highest mountains on the planet. explore the deepest reaches of the Earth’s seas, fly in the sky, end human sacrifice and slavery, and put colonies on the Moon and Mars. We must believe that we can end cultures of war—and create a culture of peace.
  • Believe that great achievements, certainly one as massive as ending war, require that our efforts be organized, focused, and well led.

Unless these beliefs become the guiding reality for a sufficient number of global citizens, we cannot end war. When, however, these beliefs do become real for enough of us, success is only a matter of will and time.

So the next question becomes, how do we dismantle the war machine?

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The Shared Characteristics of Peace Systems.

August 21, 2018

by Judith Hand, Ph.D.

Something that has changed very recently is that scholars have developed an understanding of what have been called “peace systems.” In a May 2012 issue of Science, Doug Fry, in a paper entitled, “Life Without War,” presented research looking for shared characteristics of groups who consciously created an alliance designed to prevent wars between them. [scroll down a bit to access the article]

They created “active peace systems.” He wanted to know if these have features in common that maintain peace. It’s important to note that some of these groups make war with communities that aren’t part of their alliance, but that within the peace system, peace holds. Also, from a number of peace systems, he picked three with very different cultures for detailed comparison.

Looking for commonalities among very different cultures allows us to ferret out features that are key to success of any peace system. The three alliances he focused on were4Maps.001

  • 10 tribes of the Upper Xingu River Basin in Brazil,
  • the Iroquois Confederacy in what is now the United States, and
  • the European Union.

Although he didn’t include it, he could have added the United States, because as you’ll see when we go through the shared traits, they also apply to the US. It is a confederation of states that do not use violence to resolve differences…they abide by the “rule of law.”

Six general kinds of factors are associated with all of these peace alliances. These factors are not so much responsible for MAKING the peace, but for ensuring that it endures.

Longhouse.001First, they develop ways to tackle xenophobia by creating an overarching sense of shared identity: it is essential to tackle the “us-versus-them” mentality, because us-versus-them inevitably fosters conflicts. They devised means to “expand the us.” For example, the Iroquois tribes pictured their union as a shared longhouse…the symbolism of being one family. The United States has a flag with stars on it, one star representing each state, and they take great care to maintain respect for the flag as a symbol of their committment to each other.

EUSymbols.001Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, and other influential European men believed there could be a kind of United States of Europe that could end vicious and destructive cycles of war, and they acted on that belief.

The European Union fosters shared identity with EU passports, automobile license plates, currency, an EU parliament and EU flag, etc. This peace system has worked for 70 years. The stresses they are now suffering, from things like the finances of Greece or influx of Syrian and other refugees, is a serious test of their union…will it disintegrate or strengthen? Only time will tell. The British recently held a referendum in which they voted to leave a union that has worked to keep peace between these nations.

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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 highlighted in an essay “Peace Systems and Shaping the Future” on the website

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.


Ending War, Sexual Dimorphism, and Human Destiny: A Biological Perspective

September 4, 2017

Judith L. Hand, Ph.D.

This essay explores the possibility of ending war and a facet of biology called sexual dimorphism. It describes how these relate to creating a more just, secure, and peaceful human destiny. A “better” future.

Two radical changes in the way we organize our lives, guided by both political and biological reality, would substantially advance the creation of such a future. First, we need to craft a maintainable, global peace system. A critical mass of citizens and visionary leaders must commit to securing a global, enforceable peace treaty and a global peace alliance with qualities needed to maintain it. We’ll look at three such peace systems to learn how they work. Second, we need to embrace gender parity governing (koinoniarchy, from the Greek word koinonia, meaning to share). We’ll explore why biological reality dictates that partnership between men and women in governing our lives is central to success.


Consider the enormous problematic issues listed above. Arguably all are legitimate evils that don’t fit into anyone’s vision of a “better” future. Consider also these threats: a highly contagious, highly lethal natural pandemic; a nuclear war; leakage of large amount of stored nuclear waste into the atmosphere; an out of control computer virus used in a global cyberwar; release of a biological or chemical weapon of mass destruction; collapse of the ocean ecosystem. With the single exception of a highly lethal natural pandemic, every one of these is a potential disaster of our own making.

The essay has two main sections, the first on the potential to end war and the second on human sexual dimorphism, followed by a brief conclusion. But we begin with a broad historical perspective.



This graph plots estimated numbers of humans on Earth going back nine thousand years. At the far right, roughly 250 years ago, an explosive rise in our numbers begins, attributed mostly to preventing early deaths and increasing food productivity (Daly 2005). Imagine the disruptive social effects of that explosive rise. During hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that shaped our natures, we lived in a world where, when resources ran out or disagreements erupted that might lead to what we call war, rather than make war, some group members could have packed up their meager belongings and moved to an unoccupied place. Moving would have relieved the social pressure, and biologists call that very successful adaptation, dispersal.

Full World.001

As a result, as the graphic at the bottom right indicates, we occupy ALL habitable landmasses, and in this Scientific American article, the economist Herman Daly described this by saying that we’ve transitioned from an empty world to a full world (Daly 2005). This transition is putting enormous pressures on our affairs. Large cohorts of young men, East and West, fall into crime or a drug culture or are seduced into radicalism. Sweeping tides of refugees and immigrants impact nations across the globe. There are no empty places to which unhappy or starving people can disperse without bumping up against people already present, who are possibly themselves in dire conditions. We’ve created a new, changed environment to which we need to adapt.  I agree with experts convinced that we’ve reached an existential tipping point with respect to the global social order, or improbably but not impossibly to our extinction.

To avoid or survive such catastrophic events, we’ll need money and legions of humans applying ingenuity and sweat. Given the financial, physical, and human capital wasted on wars, avoiding wars would unquestionably be a wise and sane adaptation now. So consider Albert Einstein’s insight that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Insanity or Build Better Future.001

The essay’s subtitle is “A Biological Perspective.” From that perspective, the essay’s primary assumption is that to solve these problems, to get some different results, and shape a “better” future, we need to understand ourselves; we need to look through the lens of biology to answer the question, “What kind of animal are we?”

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Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?

April 17, 2017

Judith L. Hand, Ph.D.

[A video also presents much of the material in this essay]

Why do our two sexes, in many ways, behave so differently? As Pygmalion’s professor Henry Higgins puts it, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”


(Rex Harrison, Audry Hepburn – “My Fair Lady”)

Here’s another, related, question. Is it possible that understanding how and why some sexual differences lead men and women, generally speaking, to make some very different social choice–is it possible that understanding why that happens could help us find solutions to a host of social nightmares? Consider these problems facing us right now….many of them genuine evils.


To avoid a dystopian future—a hell with all of these raging in full force—we’ll have to deal with these, and many more, under the pressure of ever greater numbers of people trying to make a living and raise healthy, successful, fulfilled children. In too many cases, just trying to survive. How do we do that? Can we do it?

In this essay we’re going to look through the lens of biology at a reality called sexual dimorphism. If we understand and take to heart the implications of sexual dimorphism as it relates to our social behavior, we can take giant steps in the direction of a “better” future. A future that, at minimum, reduces the effects of these social evils, and may actually avoid or eliminate many of them. A future more peaceful, more just, and even environmentally sustainable.


One of Albert Einstein’s most thoughtful insights is that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Given our biology—if you will, our human nature—it’s not possible to create Utopia. But, could we shift global culture enough to not just avoid ending up living in a dystopia, but actually build an extraordinarily positive future? What behavior might we change to get less violent, more nurturing results than what we’ve produced so far? As we’ll see, understanding some key things about our biology suggests that we need to utilize some natural inclinations of women that differ significantly, in general, from some natural inclinations of men.

A primary assumption of the presentation, which offers a biological perspective, is that to create a more positive future, we need to understand ourselves better. And that means we have to answer the question, “What kind of animal are we?” We named ourselves Homo sapiens—wise man—but much of our behavior is so harmful, to ourselves and increasingly to the planet, that the word “wise” may not fit us very well. A better choice might have been Homo acutus—clever man—because there can be no doubt that we are very very clever.

During hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived as simple bands of nomadic foragers.

ancient people.001

But they came to possess behaviors that made us one of Earth’s most dominant species. And many of these behaviors weren’t based on carefully thought-out reason. They were whatever ensured the survival and reproductive success of the individuals who gave rise to us.

So, still based on biology, this presentation’s second assumption is that rather than our behavior always being guided by reason or wisdom, we need to embrace the reality that much human behavior is, in fact, guided by built-in, genetically-based, evolved predispositions/preferences/tendencies/urges, whatever you want to call them, and that they powerfully influence much of our behavior, sometimes in contradiction to what rational or wise thought suggests would be a better thing to do. And specifically, we’re going to consider how and why—in general—some of these urges are not the same for our two sexes.

The explanation does begin with sexual dimorphism. This reality shapes much of life on Earth, and as we’ll see, that includes us. The term comes from the Greek dimorphos, meaning having two forms. Most species of plants and animals have males which make sperm, which are tiny and motile, and females, which make eggs, which are comparably huge and non-motile, and have nutrients sufficient to develop into a new individual. Humans obviously fit this pattern.


There are other reproductive possibilities. Some species reproduce asexually, like this tiny water creature called a Hydra that’s sprouting a new hydra out of one side, and single-celled forms like the Amoeba which can divide by pinching itself in half, and even a lineage of female lizards that reproduce without any males. Some, like mushrooms, use spores.

But the vast majority of animals and plants—at least some time in their life cycle—reproduce sexually.

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Ending War is Achievable. Five Reasons Why.

July 25, 2016

by Judith Hand, Ph.D.


A meme can be an idea or belief that spreads throughout a culture by non-genetic means. This essay is about an idea powerful enough to radically transform human history. If this meme spreads across the globe by word of mouth and social media and captures the minds of a critical mass of global citizens and powerful movers-and-shakers, it can usher in a social paradigm shift every bit as profound as the Agricultural, Industrial, and Digital Revolutions.

Have you ever wondered what the future will look like? For you? Or maybe for the future’s children or grandchildren? Specifically, do you fear it will be forever blighted by war?

Let’s start with a little survey, asking two questions. First, do you think it’s possible humans can build a permanent base on the Moon? Here’s question two: Based on your life experience, do you think it’s possible that we could end war? This isn’t “would you like us to end war?” Rather it’s “Do you believe it is, in fact possible?” Not a lot of rational thought, please…just, what is your first, gut response?

Most people believe that putting a base on the moon is a possibility. In contrast, the vast majority of people asked these questions say they don’t believe ending war is possible. So, if you’re a skeptic about ending war, you absolutely aren’t alone.


This skepticism, that we can’t end war, is the single biggest barrier to doing it. We can’t accomplish any great feat, including putting a permanent colony on the Moon, if we start out “knowing” that it’s not possible. Great feats are accomplishd when at least one person has the vision of something and the belief that it can be done, one way or the other.

Keep an open mind, and  hopefully what follows will convince you that the answer to whether or not we can abolish war is “yes. It IS possible.”


I’ll mention later how I was drawn into the study of war, but my background prepared me for it in several ways. I’m an evolutionary biologist, with a Ph.D. from UCLA. What’s relevant to the study of war is that my areas of specialization are in communication, conflict resolution, gender differences, and primate behavior (including human behavior). The fancy name for the study of animal behavior is “ethology.” Since I’ve been studying war and peace from this perspective for the last 15 or so years, I’m am now also officially a Peace Ethologist. Additionally, as an undergraduate major in cultural anthropology, I studied non-patriarchal and nonviolent cultures.

Hand_Shift The Beginning

I put the results of my work on war and peace into this book. Also relevant is that I’m a published novelist, which I mention briefly later.

Lest we wander astray into other aspects of human lethal behavior, WAR needs to be defined as I use it. Murder is not war. Revenge killings of specific individuals, if you will, feuding over particular grievances, is not war.  War is when people (overwhelmingly men) band together to indiscriminately kill people in another group and the community’s noncombatants and religious leaders sanction their actions. It’s the sanctioned banding together to kill indiscriminately that distinguishes war from other forms of killing. We’re NOT going to erase murder and revenge anytime soon…these go way way back into human experience, maybe even before we became humans. We’re only considering the potential to abolish war.


Now imagine a Star Trek Future. In the TV show’s first year or so we were never on Earth. But what we knew about the Starship Enterprise’s crew was that on their home world there was no money, no poverty, and no war. They were clearly using their resources to invent and do fabulous things, like mounting starships to explore the galaxy. What we’re considering is whether that kind of Gene Roddenberry vision of an amazing and positive Homo sapiens future is completely out of the question?

Although we’ll be exploring the potential for a positive future, what is presented here is presented against the backdrop of the belief of many that it’s entirely possible onrushing violent movements like ISIS, or a mistaken triggering of a nuclear war, or some totally unpredictable event like a global pandemic could plunge us into a new “dark age” or “Mad Max” future of perpetual war. We are arguably in a race against time and possible misfortune. To stop what we don’t want and build what we do, realism, not wishful thinking, is required. So we’ll be seeking enlightenment and examining positive potential, with the understanding that nothing is guaranteed.

Six kinds of evidence are presented to support the view that we can end war:

  • First we tackle immediately the idea that war is “part of human nature,” a genetically determined, inescapable trait. Something we could only eliminate, for example, if we performed generations of selective breeding for less violent males. To put that idea to rest we look first at cultures that tell us about our deep evolutionary past, namely those of nomadic foragers…often referred to as hunter-gatherers.
  • Then we look at internally peaceful, more complex state-level cultures, ancient and modern.
  • We then review six key historical shifts that set us up to end war.
  • We consider the existence of and facilitating conditions for peace systems.
  • Some examples of rapid cultural change serve to counteract the notion that ending war would take hundreds of years.
  • Finally, we’ll look at a few of an impressive number of recent historical changes that are already moving us in the direction of a global peace system.

So we begin with the nomadic foragers to tackle the issue of genetic inevitability. This is because these people are our best window into our deep human past; they reflect how Homo sapiens likely lived for hundreds of thousands of years of behavioral evolution, before we started living in settlements or villages. These were the eons during which we evolved to be what we are today.

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The Mutilation of Wonder Woman

November 9, 2011

In a recent Los Angeles Times article (5 Nov, 2011), Geoff Boucher reports on changes being made by DC Comics to improve Wonder Woman. The folks there are working on a film, and to make the Amazon heroine more understandable to today’s audiences, they explain, they are giving her a do-over.

In fact, it is a mutilation. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang were interviewed about how this fabulous heroic icon will be improved. She will no longer be the daughter of an Amazon Queen. She will be the daughter of Zeus, a god-king.


Wonder Woman - 2011

In a photo provided with the article, we see the new and improved Wonder Woman. Her fists are clenched. Her face is not calm and firm with resolve; it’s contorted with rage. She does not wear her golden lasso, a way to extract truth from the bad guys without torture. Instead she grasps a gratuitous bloodied sword, an eternal symbol of violence and gruesome death.

 It is not enough that she have her classic heroic strengths: “beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, swifter than Hermes, and stronger than Hercules.”

Wonder Woman - Daughter of Diana, the Amazon Queen of Themiskyra

Through the years, readers knew her as a woman sent to bring peace from her Amazon home to the world of men. A woman whose Amazon training also gave her limited telepathy, profound scientific knowledge, the ability to speak every language known to man, super breath, ventriloquism, imperviousness to extremes of heat and cold, the ability to ride the air currents as if flying, microscopic vision, the ability to bestow wisdom to other beings, the ability to throw her tiara with such skill it could stop bullets, and much more. No, these powers put to the defense of the good are not sufficiently “understandable.” She must be the daughter of a male god and brandish a blood-covered sword.

I read this article at my small table in Starbuck’s, then sat transfixed with tears in my eyes for a long time. A tight knot of righteous rage at what they propose to do to this beloved heroine tightened around my heart.

This corporate takeover of the female icon who uses nonviolent means in the struggle for peace and justice by the warrior, bloody culture of violence is an abomination.

You are now aware of what DC Comics intends to do. You may want to protest in whatever way you are able. I hope that all women’s organizations, women’s studies departments, peace groups, and groups or individuals who understand the value of Wonder Woman as a female champion for justice and peace will rise up, and, if possible, put a halt to this attempt to kill her by mutilation.

The stories we imagine, the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell our children. They define who we are. They shape our worldview. They shape the future we create, for ourselves and most critically, for our children and the generations to follow us.  

We do not need Wonder Woman to be the avenging, sword-carrying daughter of a dominating god-king. To what kind of future does such a heroine lead us?


Working to Prevent Extinction of Our Species and/or Eclipse of our Cultures – Why Bother?

September 10, 2011

by  Judith Hand

I live in the Western World, with access to all possible media. Since my view is that in order to change a culture, I need to know what I’m up against, I follow the news.  Most of us working for change do.  And it can be depressing in the extreme.

Follow all the negative news about what humans are doing around the world and it’s tempting to find it all too daunting. To find our situation hopeless.  Big wars and petty wars mar the planet’s face: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia.  In a peaceful country, a fanatic takes a notion to keep his culture safe, decides to do what he can about it, and slaughters nearly forty people, most of them teenagers.  Try to convince enough people to have smaller families and learn to live sustainably so we can prevent a disastrous change in our global climate and the stupidity and stubborness of thought that blocks all progress practically makes one weep.

Consider the behavior in this photo….is this what life should be about?

I will confess to having the thought cross my mind now and then that what I’m doing, well, is it really worth it?  Maybe getting us to change is a hopeless cause? And I’ve had the even more insideous thought, are we worth saving?Maybe it wouldn’t be all that great a tragedy if the planet eliminates our cultures, given that we are causing extinctions of plants and animals at an amazing rate.  And maybe we are just too stupid to save, even if one wants to.  Be honest.  Hasn’t thoughts like these crossed your mind, at least once?

Earlier in the year I accepted the opportunity to present my speech, “No More War: the Human Potential for Peace” at an international conference of humanists in early August in Oslo, Norway. The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has a big conference every three years, and the theme of their 2011 meeting was peace: “Man. A Peaceful Animal?” A friend of many years was excited to accompany me.

Sami Reindeer

We both agreed that if we were going to pay the money to go that far from our homes in California, we needed to do more than just Oslo. So we added St. Petersberg, Russia, Helsinki Finland and the far northern land of the Sami, the nonviolent and nonwarring culture that specializes in herding reindeer.

Sami Father and Daughter

They are commonly called Laplanders by others, and I was eager to visit the area in person since an interest in nonviolent cultures relates directly to my work. We would then travel by ship down the Norwegian coast to Bergen, and then cross eastward to Oslo.  And after the conference, we’d do Edinburgh and it’s surrounds.  My friend plays golf.  She wanted to include a pilgrimage to the home of golf, St. Andrews.

Catherine's Palace - Russia

It took us a month. And there was so much that I saw and learned on this trip that I scarcely know where to begin.

Each country had at least two fabulous highlights. St. Petersberg displays the opulence and sophistication of the time of tsars….they wanted to outdo Versailles, and they did. I haven’t seen China yet, but so far, in all my travels I have never seen anything to equal the Opulence or tsarist Russia. Catherine’s Palace, The Winter Palace, the Hermitage. Great beauty on display, something we do well…create astonishingly beautiful things.

Swan Lake

The architecture, richly embellished with gold, was beautiful. We also went to the ballet.  In my mind, the perfect choice: Swan Lake. Also marvelously beautiful in sight and sound.

In Finland I started learning about the Scandinavian way of life. What I learned about the so-called “Swedish model” will help me structure my next book on war.  These are people doing their best to pursue an ethos of peace.

While in Russia, my Mac laptop computer had stopped working, and I was in a panic since my speech is a slide show and the computer was essential. Happily, in Helsinki I eventually found a computer repair shop that would diagnose and treat on the spot…all I needed was a new battery. The willingness of so many people who sympathized with my stress and went out of their way to get me to the help I needed to fix my problem was a reminder of how very helpful people are to each other.  It’s another of our very best traits.

Mural of Sami Village

Then in northern Finland we visited and learned about the reindeer herding Sami. They are one of the over 80 nonviolent and nonwarring cultures I refer to in my speech. Others are the Amish in the U.S. and the Hopi of the U.S. Southwest. Anthropologists consider the Norwegians have also embraced a nonviolent, nonwarring cutlure. Think of it.  They have shifted from living by a Viking ethos to living by a peace-seeking ethos.

Seeing the Sami museum and having a chance to ask some questions of a young Sami woman and her father was invaluable. And the experiencing “the midnight sun” was a unique thing to see. This planet has truly fabulous sights to delight.

One of the questions I put to the young women was “What is the social status of Sami women. Is your culture, in fact, egalitarian?”  She looked a bit puzzled, then said, “Of course women and men are the same. We all do the work.”  This was confirmation of what experts and experience indicate about so many nonviolent cultures, that they are socially egalitarian. It was also a reminder to me that we really do have within us the power to live in communities that if not purely egalitarian, at least approach that condition.  So working toward that end is NOT a fruitless effort to reach some impossible goal.

Oslo City Hall - Nobel Ceremony

Norway…well, I suppose the success of my talk in Oslo has to count as a highlight. But also having a reception in the very Oslo City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded was a total delight. We learned about the history of the design and construction of this magnificent facility. The architect, and those seeking to have a city hall, wanted to have a structure that would be “the people’s building.”  The Parliament has their building. The King and his family have theirs. This was to be a beautiful building for the people, and it should reflect the importance of the people.

The scandinavian model is staunchly democratic.  It is the people who decide what the government is to do. A very high percentages of Norwegians vote (on average, 80%) and they have many referenda.  Here was a reminder that if the people of a culture, even a culture that has had the vote for some time, feel that their voices count, they care and they vote.

Norwegian Confirmation Ceremony - by Arid Nybo

I also attended a humanist confirmation ceremony for teens, something traditionally Norwegian.  It used to be done by the Luthern Church, the country’s predominant faith, but humanists have also begun to provide secular ceremonies that celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood. The young people take classes that include instruction in ethics, the Norwegian ethos, the responsibilities of adulthood, sex education, humanist philosophy, and so on.

A public building that had a formal feel was the site for the ceremony, and the young people wore fancy dress of their choosing.  Their proud parents were present. They could invite a given number of friends and family.

There was music, dance, poetry, and some spoken words. Very uplifting and hopeful. A lovely event. All children deserve such care and concern. We could use something like these classes and culminating ceremony for the many young people in the U.S. that have no such equivalent.  Because we do not meet this need of a great many of our young people for a passage to adulthood under the care of adults, we end up with a lot of them in our prisons or bearing children when they are way too young to give a child proper care.

And finally, medieval Edinburgh….and going to the fabulous Highland Scottish Tattoo (in the rain no less)…and seeing how very different Scotland is from England, and being in the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie was born, and going through Edinburgh castle and on and on. Like I say, the whole thing verged on mind-blowing. 🙂

So I came home exhausted, but also inspired, and reminded:  WE ARE WORTH SAVING!!!  The things of beauty that we have created should not perish because we blindly, lazily, or stubbornly let our capacity for stupidity and short-sightedness overwhelm our brilliance and goodness.


Sarah Palin and Why All Women are Not Progressives

April 16, 2010

Sarah Palin

by Judith Hand

In 2005, I established a website dedicated to abolishing war. Among a great many necessities, an important key element is to have empowered women as leaders and followers. Women, it is argued, are the natural allies of nonviolent conflict resolution, and leaving them on the sidelines in a campaign to entirely end the practice of war guarantees failure. Reading this or hearing me speak, insistent skeptics often throw out the challenge, “If women are allies of nonviolence, how do you explain Sarah Palin? And what’s with Ann Coulter?”

Years ago, when people were working, unsuccessfully as it turns out, to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee to women the rights guaranteed to men, people often asked me, “How do you explain Phyllis Schlafly?” Schlafly fought hard to defeat the amendment; she was the poster-girl for keeping women in their traditional places and hampered by traditional limitations (although she did not actually practice what she preached, being extremely active outside the home).

Phyllis Schlafly

Rather than skeptical, the tone of the questions at that time tended to be puzzled: how to explain women like Schlafly who dug in their heels to prevent change, even change that would give their mothers, sisters, and daughters rights equal to those granted to men. The behavior of these women seemed so counterintuitive. Shouldn’t all women want women to have equal pay for equal work, equal ability buy stocks without a husband’s okay, equal access to the money available for sports programs in schools, and so on? Why should women have to fight every possible inequality one by one, with the ever-present possibility of loosing any given right should state legislators change their minds when an amendment could make sexual equality set law in all states for all time?

Back then I had a couple of answers, based mostly on personal experience, answers I still consider valid. In the years since, I’ve explored the subjects of social conflict, war, and male/female gender differences with respect to physical aggression. This produced a much clearer understanding of this seeming puzzle of women-as-conservatives phenomenon, even when it keeps them subordinate to men or leads them to support a president who wants to wage preemptive war. My answers now are more inclusive and based on biological, anthropological, and psychological studies.

First, some perspective. There have always been women like Sarah. That is, women of aggressive, risk-taking temperament who were emotionally and intellectually aligned with the dominant ethos of their time. They were not only not motivated to overturn that ethos, say for something less aggressive, they were supporters of it. Even benefitted from it. For famous examples we have Cleopatra, who wanted to not only rule Egypt, but much of the Roman Empire.


Or Isabella of Spain, who not only supported the pillaging of the New World for its gold, but who supported the Inquisition’s really evil work.

We also have examples of legions of unknown but equally passionate women who fought progressive actions that might elevate the status of women, for example the many women in a variety of countries who fought their fellow female citizens who were seeking the power of the vote. So the phenomenon of women being conservative…that is, supporting a status quo in which men dominate and domination by physical force is seen as inevitable, this is certainly not new.

So how does an evolutionary biologist who argues that we could do something as extraordinary as abolishing war—a move hugely progressive and one that would involve massive changes in our world view that you would think would make things so much better for women and children—how does that biologist explain someone like Sarah Palin and the phenomenon of her passionate female followers? (Why men are conservatives isn’t under review in this essay).

Somewhat surprisingly, understanding the phenomenon isn’t too difficult if we look first through the lens not of psychology or even sociology, but starting with evolutionary biology. This is the science that looks at the origins of human actions with an eye as to how a given behavior or built-in emotional preference helped our ancestors to survive and reproduce. Those of our ancestors with traits that made them more successful than other individuals at survival and reproduction passed on their success-enabling traits. We are their inheritors, and our behavior today, while strongly influenced by culture, also reflects those biologically built-in traits.

So let’s look at the biology. The first big insight comes when we understand that women, as a group, prefer to invest their energies in and are more inclined toward behavior that fosters social stability than are men. Women, as a group, are also far less inclined to use physical aggression to get their way since starting fights often leads to more fighting and consequently, possible physical injury or death for women, their close associates, families, and most significantly, their children. The reasons for this biological sex difference are explored in Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. 

It is this preference for social stability and aversion to fighting within their communities, where they are raising children, that makes women deeply conservative in many ways. Suffice it to say here, the difference between women and men with respect to these traits isn’t something black and white (Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, pp. 31-32). It’s not that there isn’t overlap between women and men about just how much they prefer to avoid fighting or the extent to which they use behavior that avoids or prevents major social disruption. There is overlap, but it’s not perfect. And women are much more inclined to emotionally prefer a socially stable community, and they have a number of built-in traits that foster stability (Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, p. 136).

I would like to see more quantitative, objective studies comparing women and men on behavior that fosters social stability, like using negotiation and compromise when people must resolve social conflicts or constantly using foresight to anticipate what things might lead to fighting so as to avoid those things. We don’t have much quantitative data that I’m aware of. But we have qualitative studies showing that women are more natural negotiators, more willing to compromise. Women, as a group, are far less inclined to overturn the social order, even if doing so only requires them to vote secretly to do it. It’s because women are geared to prefer social stability that they are deeply conservative.

What this means is that women are unlikely in big numbers to support overturning the social order or changing the social culture into which they are born. They will be seriously upset if they feel the status quo is being threatened. In surprising numbers they will oppose, for example, an Equal Rights Amendment. In impressive numbers they will be frightened at the thought of changing their “capitalist” system, the one into which they were raised, to a “socialist” system that is characterized for them as state control over all aspects of their lives, a huge change.

There is another factor at work that we must take into account when figuring why women make the choices they do. There will always be a certain percentage of women with what we might describe as a more masculine temperament, willing to take risks. They come out on the far right side of a bell curve measuring risk-taking propensities. They take up mountain climbing. They start revolutions.

Bell Curves

Imagine in this set of curves that we are measuring, on the horizontal axis, the willingness to take physical risks, with total risk-aversion to the left and increasing willingness to take physical risks progressing as you move to the right to the point where danger to life is involved (it’s not important what is actually being measured…I’m using these curves as an example). On the vertical axis we plot the numbers of men (red) and women (blue) that exhibit a given level of risk-taking willingness.

We don’t have actual measures for these differences, but at least in the U.S. at this time, a number of studies show that men, represented by the red, are the more numerous and bigger physical risk-takers. But there are plenty of women who are also of that temperament, although very few or possibly no women would measure up at the extreme right end.

I know I fall more on the high end of this tendency, but certainly not at the very high end. I have no desire to climb Mt. Everest…although I have fanaticized positively at times about bungee jumping and sky diving (but never got up the nerve to do it). I love to shoot guns and take (not too dangerous) physical risks. I would have loved to fly jets! I’m pretty sure Sarah also falls on the high end. Note however, that significant numbers of women, more women than men, would be to the left on this risk-taking measure.

Suffraget Force Feeding

So here is part of the puzzle about women: some of the women who fall on the risk-taking end of things will buy into the status quo—like Cleopatra or Phyllis Schlafly or Sarah Palin. Others will be women who want to change the system to something they perceive to be better and are willing to fight to make that change happen—like the suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, or Hillary Clinton.

There are also some notable exceptions to women’s unwillingness to overturn current practice or take on a war that we need to include in the picture. This has to do with the welfare of their children or defense of the community in which they are raising those children. Women, even women low on the scale for personal risk-taking for example, will vote for preemptive war if they are convinced that doing so is absolutely necessary to avoid a physical attack on their community. They will egg the men on, which is the most common response. But if necessary, they will fight, and fight bravely (Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, pp 93-109).

Woman Soldier – Courtesy US Army

Women (in general) do not lack courage, they just prefer using nonviolent means of resolving problems if at all possible, and especially nature has equipped them to want to avoid physical risk to themselves or their families and children.

So what happens is that our warrior culture in the United States raises pretty much all of us in a warrior mentality – and if a woman is raised to admire guns and hunting and kicking ass and she is one of those women on the bell curve with a more confrontational, fighting spirit, she’ll be attracted to using violence, or at least incendiary speech, as part of an urge to protect her community.

Sarah Palin

Women like Sarah can be utterly sincere, protecting what they know and believe, protecting what makes them feel comfortable. And for them, that does NOT include change. It involves fiercely defending the status quo from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Perhaps even insisting that we return to the “time of the Founding Fathers.” For some women it involves fiercely defending the tenets of a religious belief that is the core of their worldview as they perceive their beliefs to relate to politics. Ann Coulter for example, another fiery woman, seems to fit in that category.

Women who become revolutionaries, on the other hand, who kick over the traces or take on the system, women who would be considered progressives, have a different background. In my experience such women spring up from several different soils. The pattern I noticed as a young woman was that many women I met who were stepping out to lead the movement when it was still very risky to do so typically had a supportive father who told his daughter she could do ANYTHING, BE anything she wanted to be, a father who was himself progressive. I suspect this would not include Sarah.

Oprah Winfrey

Other female revolutionaries at some point receive an education that is well outside the warrior mentality box (for example, a lot of graduates from places like Wellesley or from a religious community that fosters equality and a non-warrior way of life, such as Quakers). This also does not include Sarah. Others are brilliant minds that simply refuse to be put into the standard boxes. I think of Oprah Winfrey. This is also not Sarah.

As a final point, the great paradigm shift I champion, the abolition of war—which many people want and some are starting to embrace—will upset a lot of women because it will, for a time, create enormous social turmoil. The many changes involved are the subject of AFWW essays (

In a country like the United States which is still soaked to the bone in a warrior culture mentality, this turmoil will be especially upsetting, and not just for women. The United States is a country where people freely talk about pulling out guns to redress a grievance. A country in which there is an ethos of total independence that frequently overrides a sense of doing what is good for the community. Many women especially will find this turmoil to be uncomfortable. They will dig in their heels, fearful of the profound changes happening around them as progressives try to make changes they believe will deliver a more egalitarian and less violent future. Will “gay marriage” destroy the family? Will getting rid of nuclear weapons make our communities less safe? Will having women in combat weaken our fighting forces? The list of possible changes and the fears they prompt is a long one.

U.S. President Barack Obama

Other women, however, will be attracted at once to the prospect of what they see as a great, positive change, and will be willing to work hard and do whatever they can to support anyone moving in that direction…including the U.S. current president, Barack Obama. Their fighting spirit to protect their children and communities will kick in and they, like Sarah, will be unstoppable…but in their case, in a fight for change.

I predict that if serious progress is made in the direction of positive change to create a community of nations determined to cooperate, not only to end war but to take on other major problems facing all of us, even initially fearful women will remarkably swiftly come on board. Future social stability will depend upon cooperation, not fighting, and social stability is a prime female value.

It will be fascinating to me over the next decades to watch women choose sides.

So bottom Line: Don’t expect all women to be progressives. Expect there to be at least some, those on the right side of the risk-taking curve, who will fight hard with words or in some cases even with action to maintain the status quo or return to an ideal past—real or as they imagine it to be. There will be female Tea Partiers, and not because they like tea parties.


Corporations are People? – If so, Democracy is Doomed.

January 22, 2010

Economics and Ending War

Shift Our Economies – it’s an AFWW cornerstone.  The need to shift deals not only with shifting spending on weapons to spending on ending war projects, but shifting spending to other related critical challenges, like restoring and preserving environmental resources. We desperately need money also to deal with nuclear weapon proliferation and with the now unavoidable impacts of global climate change. 

We need money for lots of extremely important things having to do with survival. And the U.S. Supreme Court has just dealt all of these causes, and the need to preserve true democracy in the U.S. a terrible blow. Vast resources will now be spent to win elections.  The amount spent now is embarrassing. The amount that will be spent is tragic. It is also, given our other pressing needs, immoral. 

In 1887 the U.S. Supreme Court made its first ruling that corporations are people…they should have the same rights as individuals. The was the beginning of a classic “slippery slope” to yesterday’s decision. 

It’s always sad to blog after the fact. Actually, AFWW rarely does it. But yesterdays Supreme Court Decision, by five men, that says that, yes indeed, corporations are people, and they should be allowed to spend however much money on elections that they want, is the worst decision by that court in decades if you care about democracy. It is the fulfillment of the wet dreams of “money.” Love of money, greed, and instant financial interests…not our best humans traits and ones that always need to be reined in…have won the day. 

For those interested in the history of the development of corporations and their ascendency in governing, AFWW recommends the books and work of the economist, David Korten and the social historian, Riane Eisler: 

You can Check out Korten’s website for a plethora of thoughts on developing a new economy. 

Check out his books: 

When Corporations Ruled the World is excellent on the history of the development of corporations: 

David C. Korten


The Great Turning expands on the problem and begins to suggest solutions: 

David C. Korten


Agenda for a New Economy does exactly what the title suggests: 

David C. Korten


Riane Eisler’s latest book is The Real Wealth of Nations, and it addresses the need for partnership and a caring economics that is a broader view than even Korten’s:

Riane Eisler


 We could change direction.  Korten, Eisler, and other men and women of vision suggest how. The big question is whether enough of us share the vision and the will to accomplish it.  

What is certainly true is that the U.S. Supreme Court’s five men have done us, and the future, a great disservice. 


What Makes Us Happy Will Help Us End War

November 11, 2009

“A wealthy man is one who earns $100.00 a year more than his wife’s sister’s husband.”
H. L. Mencken


                            What Makes People Happy?

The following summary of what does and does not make people happy is based on the book Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard. His book incorporates years of cross-cultural studies by numerous investigators that reveal common human traits with respect to happiness.


Happiness - Richard Layard

At first thought one might expect that happiness, like love, can’t be measured. But in fact, self-reporting schemes do allow us to assess how happy people think they are. And that, after all, is what is important. How happy do people consider themselves?

For years researchers have given surveys to people from countries all over the globe, asking how happy people feel at the moment and what makes them happy in general.

For example, Harvard students were asked to choose between two possible worlds and asked which they would prefer. Here are the choices:

In the first world, you would get $50 thousand a year, while other people get $25 thousand (average).
In the second world, you get $100 thousand a year, while other people get $250 thousand (average).
The majority of students preferred the first world. The same result is found across classes and cultures.

What this simple study shows is that we feel wealthy in comparison to those around us, regardless of how much we actually make. Whether you’re happy depends on how your income compares with the norm. If you earn an average or higher income, you are likely to be happy with your financial condition. If you fall well below the average, you are more likely to rate yourself as not happy. And the measuring stick we use is people around us: not paupers, film stars, or corporation heads.

This is why economic growth does NOT improve happiness: as incomes rise, the norm by which we judge our own position also rises. The United States, for example, is the richest country in the world, but because we compare ourselves to those around us, U.S. citizens are not any more or less happy than people in less wealthy countries.

Moreover, the happiest people are those who always compare down, not up. When things are looking miserable, mothers often tell their children to consider others who are even less well off. These mothers are teaching a lesson in happiness.

For example, in the Olympics, bronze medallists rate themselves as much happier than silver medallists.

Olympic Medals

Olympic Medals - China 2009

Why? Because the bronze medallists have a medal. They are comparing themselves to all the others who have no medals at all. They likely didn’t expect to beat the top competitor. Silver medalists, on the other hand, compare themselves to the holder of the gold, feeling unhappy because they were close—but not quite up to winning the gold.

“I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Based on these studies, we might be surprised to discover some of the things that do not relate to happiness. These include:

Education (except to the extent that it affects income)

Some of the things that do make us happy include:

Family relationships—these are more important than any other single factor
Financial situation, not luxuries, but how we stack up next to those around us
Work, when meaningful, can be more important than the money
Community and friends
Personal freedom
Personal values, our inner self and attitudes and philosophy of life

To create a world in which people are so happy that they cannot be moved to make war, we will need to:

  • foster connectedness to family, community, and friends,
  • create and sustain a large middle class (see Spread Democracy) where vast numbers of people can compare themselves down to others of less wealth and at the same time, realistically hope to move up,
  •  spread liberal democracy and the sense of personal freedom it provides (see Spread Democracy), and
  • teach our young people positive attitudes of mind. Teach them how to be happy (see Foster Connectedness).

abraham-lincoln-625“People are as happy as they decide to be.”
Abraham Lincoln


The Single Most Important Idea Needed to End War

November 2, 2009

The Single Most Important Idea Needed to End War is the Belief that it is Possible

When the AFWW website was first envisioned (2003), most people were highly skeptical that humanity could ever escape the curse of war. If asked, “Do you believe it is possible for humans to create a future without war,” the overwhelming majority of people answered, No.

They said it was a wonderful concept, something they could wish for, but not realistically possible.

AFWW logo2inforwebMA11452074-0002

AFWW Logo - 9 Cornerstones

No man gives generously of his hard-won financial resources to the bottomless pit of a lost cause.

No woman works tirelessly to reach a goal her heart believes can never be reached.

No one passionately reaches out to enlist others in a campaign that’s a fool’s dream.

No politicians will wage a campaign to end wars if they judge the idea to be ridiculous. We may admire Don Quixote’s willingness and unswerving determination to dream the impossible dream, but we don’t want to be him.


WPBP - Male/Female Partnership Peace Dove

We can never build something magnificent if we don’t believe in its value and in our ability to accomplish the task. To end wars, we must believe it is possible.

The AFWW website isn’t intended to explain the biology of war: what traits make us vulnerable to this behavior and why women and men have very different responses to the use of physical aggression during conflicts, with women being the much stronger natural allies of nonviolent conflict resolution. For the biology, see the book, Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace (WPBP).  Instead, the purpose of the AFWW website is 

PeaceOnEarthCardExplore all of these essays at the website, and others as well, and you’ll have a better sense of why and how a campaign to abolish war can succeed in two generations or less from the time we resolve to do it.

When we have done our work and we have generated a critical mass of believers, nothing will be able to stop this “idea whose time has come.” Human cultures can change with amazing speed. Less than 100 years ago women of high status in China had their feet bound — the bones broken and the flesh pinched — to suit an ideal of beauty that was deeply embedded in Chinese customs. Barely 100 years ago women in New Zealand won the right to vote — we now have women at the highest levels of government in many countries around the globe. For thousands of years slavery — the owning of one human by another — was considered necessary, normal, acceptable. Great and famous people owned many slaves. In Britain the abolitionists ended the slave trade and in so doing, they delegitimized slavery, hopefully forever.

In fact, huge changes can occur in a generation or less when we really put our mind and resources to it. One of the greatest and most rapid changes ever accomplished was achieved in a wide variety of places as the Catholic Church Christianized entire cutlures, sometimes in less than a generation. 

What is the great challenge of our generation?  It is to put an end to war. In the process we put in place the rule of cooperation, collaboration, negotiation, and compromise.

And we need to be quick about it, because an avalanché of massive problems–social, political, and ecological–is descending upon us.


Liberian Women Demand and Get Peace!

October 30, 2009

by Judith Hand

Liberian Women Rock!

Liberian Women Seek Peace 3

Liberian Women's Peace Movement

Are you a skeptic, quite sure it would be impossible to abolish war?  Maybe you think there is no way for a nonviolent strategy to succeed in changing how we live for the better if it means ending war.

Skeptics tend to feel nonviolence can’t work for a variety of reasons. In a great many cases it’s because they’re unaware of successful applications. The media do not place much emphasis on nonviolent successes. A remarkable contemporary example comes out of Liberia, a small country in West Africa.

Liberia isn’t a “natural” African nation. It was formed when freed slaves from America returned to Africa at the end of the U.S. civil war. This movement didn’t last very long, but it resulted in a country with a constitution, a democracy, and a name.

Things did not go well.  Over time, Liberia degenerated into a tyrannical dictatorship, most recently under the presidency of Charles Taylor. In 1999, a “second civil war” broke out. This set off the barbaric use of rape, mutilation, and murder, something seen elsewhere in Africa as well. Some studies indicate that 90% of Liberian girls and women would experience rape in the lifetime.

After eight years of this mayhem, social activist Leymah Gbowee had a dream one night and when she awoke, she decided to call the women of her church together to pray for the end of the war.

Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee

By the end of the meeting the women had pretty much decided that something more than prayer was necessary. They decided to begin a campaign, a nonviolent campaign, in which they would seek to have an audience with Taylor, to convince him to join in peace negotiations. They would wear white T-shirts and turbans, they would stake out the road along which his caravan drove each day, and they would stake out the market. They would not give up until Taylor conceded to see them.

Then a woman stood up to say that, the fact was, she wasn’t a Christian. She was a Muslim, and she knew a lot of Muslim women who felt exactly the same way. Women of the two faiths joined together and began their “action.”

Pray Devil Back to HellIt was said of Charles Taylor, who put on a great show of piety,  that he was so evil that he could “pray the devil out of hell.” An inspiring film entitled “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” documents how things worked out, including how the women of Liberia held their men hostage until a peace agreement was signed. But that’s not the end of the story. When it came time for the next election, the women of Liberia helped elect Harvard Educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first elected women head of state on the African continent.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

At this time (2009), Johnson-Sirleaf and Liberia’s men and women struggle to build on this wonderful transformation in a land that is bitterly poor and crippled with a debilitating history of strife. But clearly, a determined and savvy application of nonviolence could cut through a nasty, brutal, violent civil war even in this day and age.


Nonviolent Techniques Are Now Poised to Transform History

October 21, 2009

If the nonviolent techniques described by Henry David Thoreau and perfected by Mohandas Gandhi could change the world, why haven’t they already done so?

Hope or Terror - by Michael Nagler

Hope or Terror - by Michael Nagler

Gandhi taught that if we want to create a future that is nonviolent at all levels…in our homes, communities, and internationally…we have to “be the change we want to see.”  Well, the logical outgrowth of that premise is that to achieve a massive cutural and social transformation to a future in which humans at last live up to their great potential to live nonviolently and humanely, we’ll have to use nonviolent means.

But history seems to suggest that they don’t work. Certainly not on a large scale.  Sure a skirmish is won nonviolently here and there.  Women in the U.S. get the vote.  Racial segregation is ended in the southern U.S.  But our warring and violent cultures seem pretty much stuck on mayhem. One step forward and two steps back, right?

“To Date, Nonviolence Movements Were Before Their Time. Now They Are Poised to Change History.”  This essay by Judith L. Hand is devoted to the subject of nonviolent movements for social transformation … why they have so far failed to transform the world … and why they are poised to do so now.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul

 We learn a bit about:

  • nonviolence pioneers like the suffragist Alice Paul, Mohandas Ghandhi himself, and the extraordinary Muslim, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, often called Badshah Khan.
  • successful nonviolent actions around the globe, noteworthy since most folks are unaware of just how very many there have been.
  • how and why human nature has so far defeated the very best human attempts to end the extraordinarily bad habit of war, something most likely caused by putting hunter-gatherer males into a brand new environment, viz. settled living
  • how a series of major historical changes, from the Reformation to the invention of the Internet has brought us to a unique window in time during which we could at last transform our violent cultures, if we choose to do the work and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve succees.
  • how we have in front of us a vista of great hope.

    Gandhi and Khan

    Gandhi and Khan

Having offered hope, however, the essay provides a warning, warning_signintroduced as follows:

“With all of this positive promise going for us, the very worst thing we can be is complacent, so buoyed by the positive that we overlook the negative, and thereby ultimately loose the struggle. Nonviolence is a powerful positive force. Equally powerful negative forces arrayed against us never sleep. They don’t take time out for vacations. They certainly don’t take time out to smell the roses. Principle among these I would list the spreading sickness of terrorism, the persistence of ignorance, the ease of sloth or indifference, the potential social and cultural breakdown as negative consequences of global climate change assail us, and the extraordinarily motivating force and deeply entrenched culture of violence and greed. We are in a race, a terrible race, and the stakes could not be higher.”

Treat yourself, educate yourself, with this interesting, informative, and hope-filled essay.


Budgeting and War

October 18, 2009

Abolishing war is a massively complex project: the simple designation – Shift Our Economies – covers and lot of ground. In fact, each of the AFWW 9 cornerstones does so. This newsletter zeros in on one of many critical things that must be on our economics “to do” list: budgeting and spending, using the United States as an example. The principles apply, however, to the budgets of all nations, and even the budgets of our individual lives.

Government Spending

Government Spending

The above pie chart lays out the U.S. Budget – discretionary and non-discretionary – for 2009. The segments from the dark blue at the top right going around clockwise to the peacock blue at the bottom left are nondiscretionary spending (social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment/welfare/other, and servicing national debt). These are allocated by law and the spending on them is not optional.

The remaining pie slices are discretionary spending – other things considered sufficiently important to allocate tax money to them.  It is in discretionary spending especially that we learn what our priorities are.

U.S. Discretionary Spending


U.S. Discretionary Spending

U.S. Discretionary Spending

What the U.S. spends on war—creating new weapons, producing them, waging wars, caring for the damaged lives of warriors afterwards—is the U.S. military budget, in red and call “Pentagon.”  It is the budget of the Defense Department (or perhaps more correctly called by its original name, the War Department).

The X stands for “emergency” war funding and other “black” projects that are not officially in the Defense budget.

What is spent on preventing wars—foreign aid, diplomacy, education, spreading democracy, nurturing ties with allies—is found in the green sliver at the bottom left and called “International Relations.” It’s the budget of the State Department. It’s the amount the people apparently feel is worth putting into avoiding wars.

Note that the small white wedge to its left is what budgeters feel it’s worth spending to end one of the big causes of war, hunger.

Any person who looks at this allocation and who knows that what you spend your money and time on is what you really care about and who knows that you cannot create a peaceful future by military means immediately knows at gut level that these proportions are totally out of whack if not insane.  They are not rational.  They are way more likely to lead to more wars. Sane people do not want wars—unless they stand to benefit greatly.

The problem is proportion, not eliminating the country’s Defense Department. Our strategy must include living in the world as it is now as we work toward positive transformation. The democracies must remain strong and orderly in a world where opponents want to destroy them. One of AFWW’s cornerstones, for this reason, is called “Provide Security and Order.”

Realistically, the world needs, and into the foreseeable future will need, armed peacekeeping and peacemaking forces. It would be better if this was done by a well-funded international body, but the United Nations so far doesn’t’ adequately fill that task. It often falls to the United States, perhaps with allies, to provide serious peacekeeping services, and these are part of the “defense” budget.

For example, U.S. military ships across the globe are critical to suppress rates of piracy….an increasing problem. Another example: many nations keep their military budgets low and can focus on other priorities (we’d like to think, worthy ones) because they have a defense treaty with the U.S.…they count on America to assist if they are invaded. This has even allowed some to voluntarily take advantage of unilateral demilitarization, most notably Costa Rica.  There is no question that someone has to pay for peacekeeping, and some of what the U.S. spends serves that worthy goal.

To repeat, the question is proportion. The current U.S. budget woefully lacks foresight or any evidence of a serious intent to prevent war. Which means, we need to be asking the question, “Just exactly who benefits greatly from the making of war.”  We need to “follow the money”—the money trail and the desire for power.

And we need to be honest and hard-nosed as we search. To abolish war, we must first understand its true causes.  A major stumbling block, or barrier, in the search for what is true, is our strong human proclivity for either mass shared fantasy or mass self-delusion. The possibilities for its expression for either good or ill cannot be overstated. One delusion shared by many is that by making war it is possible to secure and maintain peace.

Unless we take special care, we can be easily flimflammed. War supporters use the media to distract our attention to superficial or even made-up causes—trunks and leaves—so that we don’t see the sustaining roots: a lust for power, dominance, and control over other people, usually by controlling vital or desirable resources. In warring societies, that drive characterizes a small minority, nearly always men, who are willing to kill to achieve dominant status and are able to convince others to support their agenda. They are the generators of war, a tail that has been wagging the dog for millennia.

It’s time for the people, who in the end do the suffering, to spot these war mongers among us early on, and immediately deny them access to the tools of war. Once the blinders are off, it’s surprisingly easy to recognize them: they are anyone who in essence says, “In order to ‘solve this problem/keep us secure/protect liberty/give us access to the resources we desperately need to survive/spread the light of our religion/et cetera’ we must go kill those other people.” Not talk to them, or negotiate with them, or share the world’s natural wealth with them, or allow them to live as they see fit so long as it is in peace—no, we must kill them.

Our budget priorities reflect our intention.