Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category


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.

Doug Fry.001

The anthropologist Douglas Fry did an analysis of the anthropological literature on many aspects of hunter-gatherer cultures, 35 of them. If you lump them all together, no particular pattern emerges when it comes to war. BUT Fry separated them into two groups, what he called simple hunter-gatherers and complex hunter-gatherers.HG Table.001

If you separate them, some interesting patterns do emerge. This table lists 8 social variables down the left column: things like food storage and population density and slavery. We can compare these traits between the simple hunter-gatherers in the central column and complex hunter-gatherers to the right. There’s a fundamental, critical resource difference between them having to do with food supply and mobility that I believe relates to the emergence of war. Compare primary foods, top left column. Simple hunter-gatherers rely on highly mobile game. Complex hunter-gatherers on marine resources or plants, with the result that food storage is rare for simple-hunter gatherers, but it’s typical for complex hunter-gatherers.

Note the effect on mobility: The complex hunter-gatherers are settled or mostly settled. They have a food source sufficiently rich and stable that they can settle down. The classic example of settled hunter-gatherers were tribes along the north-west coast of the United States that depended on massive salmon runs. This settling down changed our way of life in ways that produced many consequences. For example, effects on population size, low vs. higher population densities; the non-acceptance of competition as a desired trait vs. the encouragement of competition. Note especially that for simple hunter-gatherers the political/social system is egalitarian, not hierarchical, meaning that men and women have equal social status. Later in the essay we’ll return to the importance of male/female egalitarianism.

What’s relevant at this point is to look at WARFARE on the bottom left and note that nomadic, simple hunter-gatherers, who arguably most resemble our ancient ancestors, rarely make war. In fact, and most significantly, some of those cultures have never been recorded as making war. This is consistent with the emerging theory that our success as a species is due to our impressive capacity for cooperation — the “humans as cooperators” hypothesis — rather than competitively killing each other — the “man the warrior” hypothesis. Also, this is our first evidence, and strong evidence, that making war is NOT a genetic predisposition. Otherwise all of these people, including the simple hunter-gatherers would commonly make war.

Now you might be thinking, “Well, sure they don’t make war, because their life-styles are so simple there’s nothing, not even stored food, to fight over. All civilizations have made war, right?” Actually, there’s evidence to suggest that that assumption isn’t true. Which brings us to the Minoan culture.

CreteInTheMed.001The Minoans lived in the Bronze Age on the Mediterranean island of Crete, approximately one thousand six hundred years, BCE. Perhaps you’ve been to Crete. If so, you may well have visited what tour guides call the Palace of King Minos.

Knossos.001This is an artist’s reconstruction of that impressive architectural work. Perhaps it was a palace. Perhaps it was a temple complex. Many experts believe these were the people of the mythical, wonderful Atlantis.

I mentioned earlier that I’m also a novelist, and it was my story about the Minoans (Voice of the Goddess ) that drew me into work on war and peace. We haven’t deciphered much of their written language, but numerous lovely pieces of art and artifacts indicate that they were a sophisticated, state-level culture of the kind that some anthropologists call women-centered: that is, women were prominent and powerful. Their chief divinity was a goddess.

MinoanArt.001Their art shows they were lovers of nature. And most significantly for this essay, we have no compelling evidence that they engaged in war. This is what intrigued me. In two books (Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace and Shift) I present evidence for their lack of war, and reasons why and how they could have achieved a state-level without war. A key reason, I believe, is that women, for reproductive reasons, have a strong preference for social stability. A much stronger preference than men’s. I explore the reasons for this female preference in essays, books (see Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace and Shift), and talks. Surely a desire to avoid social turmoil and in particular, physical conflicts, would have had a powerful impact in this culture where women were influential. It was most probably expressed and reinforced through their religion.

It’s notable that over a thousand years BCE, while people on the mainland were living in crude villages, this palace or temple complex had flush toilets. The Minoans had at least one paved road which ran 5 miles to their main port. They built a water aqueduct. A strong case can be made that manufacture and trade, not war, were basic to building this sophisticated culture.


Crete is strategically placed on Mediterranean trade routes, and products of Minoan origin are found all around the Mediterranean. Frankly, debates rage over whether they made war or not, because all historical records—that is, written records—do indicate that all state-level cultures practiced war. This is one reason why some people argue that war is inevitable.

But for the Minoans, there are no artifacts depicting war, or a king, or humiliation of enemies, or slavery or human sacrifice. There are, in fact, no depictions of domination. If they reached a sophisticated, state-level without war, Minoans would be, so far, historically unique. But the written record may not tell the whole truth of our ancient past.

That’s why ongoing research is so intriguing at sites of two other ancient cultures with no deciphered written language, and so far no evidence of war, but much evidence of trading:


the Harappa in the Indus Valley between India and Pakistan, and the Caral on the west coast of Peru. If these and others, like the Minoans, built sophisticated cultures on manufacture and trade, not war, that also tells us that war is not a genetically encoded inevitability. It’s worth noting that it would also support the theory that what has made our species so successful is our astounding capacity for cooperation, not killing each other. Now at this time, the hypothesis that the rise of civilizations was first based on trade, as opposed to war, is very speculative. So to advance beyond speculation, let’s look to the world we live in.


The red dots on the map indicate the centers of distribution of over 80 cultures that anthropologists classify as nonviolent/and or/non-warring. They’re NOT utopias. They have arguments and conflicts. But using physical aggression…even things like pushing and shoving…is rare to never.

AmishToNorwegians.001You may know some of their names: Amish, Hopi, Sami/Laplanders, and Norwegians. Note especiallly the very twenty-first-century Norwegians.  Other societies that live without war are faith communities: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, Baha’i, Mennonites, and Hutterites. Non-warring religious groups live within a state-level, warring culture, but they create a way of life that avoids war. There are others less familiar all around the world. Again, these are not utopias, or perfect humans. The point here is that their existence is another example showing that making war is a very very bad—arguably evil—cultural phenomenon, but not a genetic inevitability.

So bottom line, war is overwhelmingly a result of nurture, not nature. There is some genetic component: virtually every human trait has some genetic component. Just standing upright and being able to hold anything, including a weapon, has a genetic component. Part of my work is to find out what genetic traits and environmental conditions make us vulnerable to calls for war. But this presentation isn’t about why we make war, but reasons to believe that we can end it. So, we now move forward to consider why the time we live in uniquely presents the opportunity to do so.


Remarkable events, beginning roughly 700 years ago, have given us 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. The current, virtually global meme is that war is inevitable. We need to replace that defeatist meme with a powerfully positive new one.

Now something else 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,” (scroll down to find the article) presented research looking for shared characteristics of groups who consciously created an alliance designed to prevent wars between them. 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.

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.

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.

A second key to keeping the peace is the existence of interdependence among subgroups. People from the different groups need to depend on each other. Doug Fry reported a fascinating case in which two tribes lived in very similar environments and had similar resources. Their lives were sufficiently simple that each tribe was perfectly able to make anything they needed. Both, however, made a distinctive, and highly prized, type of pottery. They recognized that a practice that tied them together and prevented fighting was exchanging goods at big meetings, including exchanges especially of the pottery. So they purposely refrained from making the distinctive pottery of the other group because they realized the importance of interdependence. Note that conscious choices and decisions are being made by all these people as they forge their alliance.

The European Union founders decided to build economic and political interdependence by incrementally integrating the national economies. The first step, in the 1950’s, was placing coal and steel—critical resources—under supranational control. That initiated an agenda of cooperation and unification they’re still working on. The British exit, if it does occcur, will have potentially alarming implications for splintering of the entire union.

A third feature essential to maintaining peace is establishment of intergroup social ties. One of the most prevalent is intermarriage. Among non-warring nomadic foragers, both men and women frequently marry outside their small band, so that everybody has kin and trade partners and friends in other groups. Bonds of kinship and friendship discourage violence between groups. The practice of intermarriage was true for the Iroquois and the 10 river tribes. In some peace systems, ceremonial marriage unions or ceremonial adoptions between groups are performed to decrease chances that conflicts will result in war.

Fourth, they create shared symbols and ceremonies. These reinforce unity, and serve as a reminder of their commitment to peace. All the 10 tribes of the Xingu peace system, for example, participate in mourning deaths of chiefs and inaugurating new ones. Fry provides a quote: “We don’t make war; we have festivals for the chiefs to which all of the villages come. We sing, dance, trade and wrestle.”

LongHouseTreeofPeace.001The “long-house” drawing symbolically represented the Iroquois Confederacy as one family. They also created a “Tree of Peace” symbol, first as a reminder of unity. The roots also symbolized their vision and hope that the peace should spread beyond the confederacy. The eagle on the tree top symbolized that they must remain vigilant to any threats to the peace; their wise and foresightful founders believed, probably rightly, that if a society takes peace for granted they will eventually lose it.

A fifth characteristic of these systems is that they foster values for peace. Fry points out that some value orientations are more conducive to peace, and that what people express and think is important if peace is to endure stresses over time. And given bitter prior hostilities between groups, they may have to make a conscious effort to foster peace-enhancing values. For example, in the 10 tribes of the Xingu peace system the role of warrior is shunned—they have a shared expression, ‘peace is moral, war is not.’ Furthermore, Fry points out that over time, shared spoken and practiced peace-promoting values become internalized and eventually, self-sustaining: it’s no longer imaginable, for example, that the United States would invade and begin killing people in Canada, or the British in France.

The Iroquois also made the peace value explicit. This is an Iroquois quote: “Thus we bury all the weapons of war out of sight, and establish the ‘Great Peace.’ Hostilities shall not be seen nor heard of any among you, but ‘Peace’ shall be preserved among the Confederated Nations.” Their alliance endured over several hundred years, until ended by the American Revolution.

The EU was founded after the disaster of WWII with the explicit goal of ending the barbarity and destruction of war, and peace related values serve as the EU’s uniting moral compass (democracy, social equality, human rights, respect for the law). This is a EU quote: “Promoting these values, as well as peace and the well-being of the Union’s people are now the main objectives of the Union.” Many aspects of EU behavior reflect this peace commitment to “all of the people’s well-being” (e.g., free health care systems, free university education, accessible child-care, and so on). When there is general well-being in a society there is less social turmoil and a vastly reduced desire to be led into a war. When any part of the population does NOT feel their well-being is fostered—as is increasingly true, for example, for some groups of Muslims in France and Belgium—anger can lead to violence within the country.

Recall that a trait of non-warring hunter-gatherers was an egalitarian social system. All members of the tribe had equal status. They lived with a sense of fairness, that we are all equal. Well, in our current vast, hierarchical, complex societies like the EU we certainly cannot go back to that condition. But the principles of equality and fairness and the need for the people’s well-being to be met are still operational for us emotionally. Developing and maintaining conditions that foster a sense of equality and fairness within countries and between them will be a necessary condition to keep a global peace system from eventually unraveling.

Finally, humans will always have conflicts, including serious ones within and between groups, over religion and economics and their vision of what the future “ought to be” and so on. If a peace system is to hold, it must create some kind of superordinate institutions to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means: negotiation, mediation, and adjudication.

For example, in the United States, conflicts are not resolved by taking up arms against each other. Frequently by going to court. And the final word comes from the Supreme Court. In essence, in complex societies, higher levels of government than just the local ones can be created to decide what is best for the whole. Regulations and laws are created to which everyone agrees to follow. This is what’s called the “social contract.” People voluntarily give up the right to total freedom to do whatever they want whenever they want it in order to live in peace, as opposed to living in some kind of Wild West where the fastest gun or biggest army imposes the will of some on others. The Iroquois Confederacy established a Council of Chiefs of all their nations. Many chiefs could attend, but only one from each nation, could vote. This was their version of a Supreme Court.


Recall that while tribes of the confederation didn’t make war with each other, they might get into wars with tribes that weren’t members of the alliance. Here it’s important and relevant to point out the role of women among the Iroquois. They were equals and had powerful voices. For example, although women couldn’t serve on the council, they could nominate, elect, and impeach their male representatives. The women could also decide between life or death for prisoners of war, they could forbid the men of their houses to go to war, and they could intervene to bring about peace. My work on male and female biology indicates that it is critical to recognize and never underplay the important influence of women within working peace systems.

Consider that in 2014, 37% of members of the EU Parliament were women. As of 2016, virtually all countries of the EU had a higher percentage of women in their national governments (e.g., Sweden 43.6%; UK 29.4%) than did, for example, the United States (19.4%) or Russia (13.6%). There is increasing interest in and ongoing research on just how tight the relationship is between empowerment of women in a society and that societies’ rates of all kinds of violence, including war. Recall that in non-warring hunter-gatherer societies women had social status equal to men’s, whereas in warring societies they did not.

So, the comparative study of peace systems in widely different cultures is a 4th reason for encouragement that we can end war because we now clearly understand that 1) peace systems exist – and have worked for long periods, and 2) we know what is required to create one and make it sustainable. Given that knowledge, we have a good idea how we need to proceed.

Now a complaint often heard is that ending war, could we do it, would take forever. Hundreds of years. Even thinking about doing it is impractical because of so many other pressing issues. Simply put, this protest isn’t true. Humans are capable of profound, rapid social changes.

For ten centuries in China the definition of feminine beauty depended upon a woman’s feet being extremely small. Ideally, no longer than 3 inches. In 1911, the new Republic of China government banned foot binding, and though it was done in secret for years, it’s now defunct. A practice of a thousand years changed in less than 100.

Australia had a mass shooting in 1996 that killed 35 and wounded 23, and 12 days later their conservative government adopted strict laws banning many weapons and highly regulating others and the context in which weapons can be owned. They then experienced a massive and rapid decline in gun deaths.

Consider the Christianization of much of South America, often in less than one generation. Sadly, not always without the use of violence. Still, though many Christian ideas were simply graphed onto the indigenous religions, many long used behaviors changed or values shifted. More modest clothing, sex before marriage became a sin, no head-hunting, religious worship inside a church, etc.

During a question session after a talk about Mongolia someone asked the speaker if it was true that Mongolians switched from a Communist political system to a secular democracy within only 1 year, and the speaker confirmed that that was in fact the case.

You yourself, with a little thought, could likely come up with many other examples of swift social change. We CAN change, and change quickly. It’s a matter of human will. Of believing it can be done, deciding to do it, and then taking the necessary action.

Now, it’s one thing for groups here or there to create a peace system, but the big question is whether we could establish a GLOBAL PEACE SYSTEM. That would be the end of war. Not the end of human violence. And we would still need to vigilantly contain anyone threatening the peace. But we can now consider some recent historical changes moving us in the direction of a global peace. And there are two very positive things to keep in mind as we do:


1. First, allow yourself to be impressed by how much has already been accomplished. If we hadn’t already created or done these things, we’d have to invent or do them now.
2. Second, feel good about what these accomplishments say about our longings, about what the majority of us really want. The media constantly deluge us with talk of terrorists, and war-mongering dictators, and threats of a middle east atomic war, and on and on. Patriarchy, and the wars associated with it, is still strong in so many places. But this is NOT what the vast majority of human citizens of earth want. It’s not who we are at our best. We do have “better angels of our nature,” and we need to embrace that.

Also note that the changes to be described are mostly TRENDS! None is perfected and they never will be because they’re human endeavors, which are never perfect. And some are detectable now for the most part only in developed nations. So as you consider them, be thinking of them as potent TRENDS for us to build on.

Kent.001The ardent peace advocate and historian, Kent Shifferd wrote From War to Peace and put its basics into a superb YouTube video called “The Evolution of a Global Peace System.” The video lists, and explains with examples, 26 shifts in global collaboration that move us toward a global peace.

Recent Changes.jpeg

We’ll not consider all 26. You can easily check them out by viewing the roughly 18 minute video. But to provide a feeling for what’s changing, I’ll highlight 9 of these global happenings. You’ll probably immediately sense how each is a step moving toward creating conditions having the potential to end war, permanently:

First, the emergence of supranational parliamentary systems tasked to keep the peace:
The United Nations, being chief among them. Other examples:
The European Union (EU),
The Organization of American States (OAS),
The African Union (AU)
And others.
These all monitor regional disputes and engage in peace-building.

The creation of International Law and Treaties that deal with instruments of war such as land mines and nuclear weapons, and set rules of engagement: Geneva Convention, Kellogg-Briand Treaty, Outer Space Treaty, Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, International Treaty to Ban Landmines. Most recently the Iranian Agreement on Development of Nuclear Weapons

The rise in International Justice in such bodies as
The International Court of Justice in The Hague, the International Criminal Court, Regional courts in Europe and Latin America.

Yearly there are hundreds of global conferences aimed at creating a peaceful and just world. Here are some notable examples: Earth Summit Rio (1992), International Indigenous Commission, UN Conferences on Sustainable Living, UN Conference on Women Beijing (1995), Rotary World Peace Conferences, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom The Hague (2015), World Council of Religious Leaders. Etc., etc. etc.

We have experienced the rise of Thousands of Non-governmental Organizations Having a Global Outlook. They have environmental, humanitarian, peacemaking and peacekeeping objectives – they reflect an emerging global citizenship – one people, one planet, one peace. Examples: Habitat for Humanity, Heifer Foundation, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Zero, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, Clinton Global Initiative, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Project Concern International.  These organizations act without regard to race, religion, nationality, and so on. They are the kinds of organizations anyone can join or support financially if they want to be actively involved in working toward a global future without war

Globally, thousands of institutions provide courses, majors, minors, higher degrees and practical training in non-violent conflict resolution. Examples in San Diego, California, alone: Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, San Diego City College Peace Studies Certificate and Associate Degree, Alliant University Institute for Violence, Abuse, and Trauma, San Diego State University program in International Security and Conflict Resolution, Tariq Khamisa Foundation, San Diego Peace Resource Center.  Such organizations and projects are found in cities and communities on virtually every continent. The hunger to end war, and willingness to do what’s necessary for success, is strong and rapidly growing. It’s waiting to be harnessed in a shared effort to end war.

The growing trend toward decline in the prestige of war. War used to be considered a noble and glorious enterprise. Unfortunately, a great many movies arrange to still make it out to be. But in the real world there is a growing sense that war is a destructive and barbaric trap to be avoided…if for no other reason that, except for the war industry, it’s now seen as bad for business. And highly important, there is more knowledge among soldiers and citizens about networks of war profiteering – just who benefits from wars? We can look forward to a time when men, and women, who are trained as defenders and peacekeepers — the police of our global peace system — will be as honored as warriors who in earlier times were trained to invade and kill.

Sustainability movements work toward reducing consumptive excesses that create shortages, poverty, pollution and all kinds of environmental injustice. All of these lead to social unrest, a common fuel for war; making the environment sustainable is key to maintaining any global peace. Now, many groups are working on this, and, if all goes well, the shared threats created by global climate change could cause the entire global population to begin to pull together. Across the globe we may decide that resources devoted to war and cleaning up after war can be put to much more urgent, civilization-saving uses.

The trend toward peace oriented religion is particularly hopeful – some religious leaders have turned away from using their religion to justify war and instead use religion to foster peace and a sense of human oneness. Listed here are some notable examples: World Council of Religious Leaders, Christiantiy of Thomas Merton, Jim Wallace of Sojourners, Pax Christi, Buddhism of Dalai Lama, Judaism of Jewish Peace Fellowship, Jewish Voice for Peace, Islamism of Muslim Peace Fellowship, Muslim Voice for Peace. And most recently, that the Catholic Church has begun to consider whether the “just war” concept has become obsolete. Warmongers use religion to foment the will to kill other people. A trend toward rejection of war by religious leaders is potentially an enormously powerful, positive shift.WorldGlobe.001Finally, our ability now to look down at earth from outer space, with no borders visible, enhances our sense of oneness, that we are all citizens sharing this extraordinary blue and white living globe, our only home in the vastness of the universe. That God-like perspective serves to decrease xenophobia, a trait that unfortunately fosters tendencies toward war.

In short, the entire list of 26 trends puts our current status into realistic perspective – we’re not starting from ground zero. We need to see clearly how much we have already done that is part of creating an enduring global peace.

So here are four closing thoughts. First, I hope you’ve been persuaded to see:

1) that war is not “in our genes” – it is a cultural phenomenon and culture can change.

2) that we’re poised in a unique time in history that makes ending war possible, if we set up a global peace system that can endure.

3) that the global community, if sufficiently motivated, could set up a global system remarkably quickly in historical terms, and

4) that as much as we have growing forces working to create a future of perpetual war—a few of us can make a lot of money with perpetual war—there are also forces at work that reflect a striving to free ourselves from war so we leave to the children of the future a world of great positive potential. A critical mass of global citizens willing to be mobilized to focus on actually ending war already exists.

So we come back to the beginning of the essay. Unless we believe achieving a goal is possible, we can never achieve it. And a very real potential for ending war does now exist. Our species has the ability to create something like a Star Trek Future….if we want it badly enough and act in time.

So now, what of all of this relates to each of us? What if anything, for example, can you do?  organizatons.001There is so much! First, if you aren’t doing so already, you can lend your efforts to work on some essential component of creating a war-free future. It’s easy to get involved. Ask friends who are involved what they are doing. Or check out “Peace Organizations” on the Internet at Wikipedia: it lists hundreds. You can take your pick of whatever aspect of the campaign engages your passion, and dig in.

womengirls.001You can encourage the entry of more women, especially the younger women, into leadership roles at all levels in our communities, from the grassroots up. In our own country. In world government. In science, education, law. In all aspects of human endeavor. Tell them they have power, and they should use it. Having more women involved will make a huge difference in the direction the global community will move.

Support and spread appreciation for global efforts and institutions, like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. The UN for example has problems, it does need reforming, but by caring reformers who understand its profound importance.

Support efforts that will enhance, not destroy, the middle class in a country…creating and maintaining a middle class is one of the most powerful equalizing tools available to us.

What about elections? Never vote for a warmonger – learn how to recognize one: he is a would-be leader who thinks too quickly of using military force. Someone who says that on day one they will “go over there and kick ass,” or suggests that the solution is to “carpet bomb them,” or suggests that “I am the one who will save our women and children or our way of life by destroying those evil others.” Such individuals are dangerous to peace.

conversations.001And maybe most important, don’t let people in conversations get away with saying that ending war is impossible. In fact, insert into conversations that it’s possible and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, whether they know it or not, are already working on it. Make clear that the media aren’t telling us the whole story about what’s happening in the world, and that there is a positive side. You can be a participant in spreading this powerful, history-transforming meme. If you get involved, you can have the satisfaction of being part of what is one of the greatest causes in human history.


If you have children or grandchildren, you can tell them that you’re working on fixing the future for the better for them and their children. A version of a saying from the French writer and poet Victor Hugo is perhaps overused. But it’s also a spot-on relevant closing for this essay:

Nothing is stronger, even than armies, than an idea whose time has come.

This is one such idea: Ending war is achievable.

This essay is also available for viewing as a video on YouTube:


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.