Archive for the ‘The Nine Cornerstones’ Category

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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. 

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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.

genderdove2

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.

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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.

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“Capitalism: A Love Story” – An AFWW Review

October 17, 2009

by  Judith L. Hand

A Film Written, Produced, and Directed by Michael Moore

capitalism_a_love_storyCutting to the bottom line immediately, AFWW urges that every citizen of the USA who loves the country and believes it still has the capacity to reclaim its democratic roots and liberating ideals needs to consider it a responsibility to see Michael Moore’s new film, “Capitalism: A Love Story“—maybe more than once, to ensure full understanding.

One of AFWW’s nine cornerstones emphasizes that any campaign to end war must include the spreading of fully mature[i], liberal democracies and their preservation from degeneration.

AFWW Logo - 9 Cornerstones

AFWW Logo - 9 Cornerstones

Liberal democracies[ii] are the best means humans living at high densities have invented thus far to prevent leaders of any stripe from launching a war. An essay on the AFWW website explores why this is so, as does the book, Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace.

Democracy alone, however, can’t prevent the success of war-mongering, as citizens of the United States who were persuaded to invade Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction know all too well. Nevertheless, leaders who must answer to the people in order to stay in power are better restrained in a healthy, liberal democracy.

Having said that, it must also be said that it’s unfortunate that the documentary film maker resorted, in order to make his case, to redefining capitalism. Moore’s essential message is that “capitalism” is evil. Not flawed, but evil. An evil that doesn’t need to be tweaked, but totally eliminated.  

Now the sad mess Moore so compellingly portrays is evil, if evil is defined as a system that slowly bleeds and crushes the masses in order to fatten the elite.  If evil if defined as corruption of legislators so that they legislate in ways that enrich the elite at the expense of the common good. 

Adam Smith

Adam Smith

Yes, THAT “capitalism” is evil. But what has evolved in the USA in the over 230 years since Adam Smith wrote about free markets is NOT capitalism.

Moore at one brief point essentially concedes this when he names our system a plutonomy – basically a system in which 99% of the people work to provide vast riches to 1% of the people.

When a proponent, in order to make his or her point, redefines a familiar word, one with a widely recognized meaning, the result tends to be confusion, not enlightenment. Capitalism, as described by Adam Smith and as originally embraced by the USA and as general understood by most folks, is in fact a great creator of wealth for the many and an incentive engine for creativity.[iii] Capitalism as originally conceived and properly regulated isn’t evil.  Ask the many women around the world who have been granted microloans just how helpful a little capital can be. Or how vital it is to be able to own your own land (something forbidden to women in many countries). Moore would have been more accurate had he not faulted “capitalism” as the evil but the plutonomy that over time has replaced it.

Had Moore taken that tack, it would have been true and would more importantly have illustrated the phenomenon to which AFWW refers repeatedly: over time, any system of governing or economics that is run by males only will ultimately reflect characteristic human male urges for dominance, for the gathering of power into the hands of a few at the top. And the longer any male-only system persists, the deeper it sinks into the inequality that we all sense is inherently repugnant to our shared sense of fairness as human beings.

What Moore urges at the end, with a stirring call to action, is that what Americans who are mad-as-hell-and-aren’t-going-to-take-this-any-more should do is to embrace “democracy.” Not democracy as the process of deciding political leaders, but democracy in the workplace. people working_on_a_committee_As used in the film, democracy represents conditions in which “the people” reclaim power and have a share in the ownership of the businesses they work in, businesses in which CEO’s and workers have a shared stake in the rewards of success…and the perils of failure.

Moore’s depiction of the slow death of unions, which were a means to give people a voice in their workplaces, is masterful. His depiction of the accretion of power by Wall Street is clear and compelling.  In this film, Moore seeks to reach hearts and minds with insight into the disaster that has happened to capitalism, and the dangers that this disastrous consolidation of power into the hands of the few poses for our democracy.

It’s clear how this should be important to U.S. citizens who love the USA’s founding ideals: that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people so that they can pursue happiness.  We-The-People But how does all of this concern AFWW? How does this massive concentration of power in the hands of the few relate to AFWW’s mission to lay out a convincing case for the abolition of war? 

One of AFWW’s nine pillars, or cornerstones, of a strategy to create a warfare transition is that we must “Spread Liberal Democracy.”  As already stated, democracy, when fully mature, is the single best means we have yet devised for curbing the ambitions of over-weaning war-mongers.[iv] Leaders determined to make war can override the will or good sense of the people, especially if those leaders control the flow of information, but in a democracy it is more difficult to gain and keep public support for a war.  Most people, it turns out, don’t like to send their sons (and now daughters) off to fight and die elsewhere, so if given the choice to use other means to resolve conflicts, the people will choose other means.

The significance for AFWW is that if our democracies do not survive and fully mature, if democratic rule does not spread globally—if ultimately the democracies fall by terrorist means, by social disintegration due to the ravages of climate change, by devolution into tyrannies, or by any unforeseen cause—one of the necessary pillars of abolishing war will collapse and our cause will fail.  Rome fell. We dare not be complacent.

Can this great nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people” reclaim that youthful and profound heritage, or will it continue to slip down the infamous “slippery slope” to imperialism and ultimately tyranny?

“Capitalism: A Love Story” provides all of “the people” with a compelling and urgent wake-up call to action.

 

 [i]  A “fully mature” democracy: one in which men and women are represented in roughly equal numbers in governing bodies and where all subsets of the population have a share in representation that is roughly proportional to their numbers. Length of existence is not the deciding factor for maturity.

 [ii] “Liberal democracy”: voting alone will not produce a democracy able to restrain hyper-alpha males. People can freely elect illiberal, authoritarian leaders (Hitler’s Germany, Russia of 2000-2008). A liberal democracy must include many features, among them the rule of law protected by a constitution, independent and impartial courts, separation of state from religions, equality for all under the law, freedom of speech, and protection of property rights.

 [iii] Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital good, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

 [iv] As of 2001, no democracies were yet fully mature;  Sweden, with 42.7% of the representatives in their parliament being women and women in substantial numbers in other governing bodies, was perhaps coming closest (see data from the International Parliamentary Union:  http://www.ipu.org/english/Whatipu.htm) or go to the website of the Inter-parliamentary Union and follow the links for Women in Parliaments: http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/world.htm.  The overwhelming majority of the world’ democracies remained light-years from full parity in governing.

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Essential Human Goodness

April 11, 2007

Normal humans are neither born ethical blank slates, nor brutes at heart. As the fine book, Primates and Philosophers, and others by the noted primatologist, Frans de Waal, details, antecedents of a sense of fairness and morality are present in pre-human ancestors. These ethical senses are something we have inherited from our deep, biological past. The author also explains how the operation of such senses is associated with our ability to empathize … to be able to sense what other individuals with whom we are interacting are probably feeling. Studies of sociopaths—individuals lacking empathy—reveal that their actions are not guided by senses of fairness or morality but by self-interest and utility.

It was this “innate sense of goodness and morality” to which Gandhi referred when he developed the use of satyagraha. Satyagraha is a nonviolent means to draw out the best in others premised on Gandhi’s conviction that people are basically good.

Other recent research in how the human mind works, and how the brains of humans who show empathy or who lack it work, has uncovered the existence of “mirror neurons.” In essence, when a normal human sees another human do something, their own brain neurons fire similarly … apparently allowing the seer to experience, at least in part, what the doer is feeling. We can truly share the joy and pain of others in some degree because of these “mirror neurons.” And by living joyfully and lovingly, we foster these feelings in others around us. These neurophysiological discoveries bolster our understanding of the physical basis upon which human goodness is built.

A recent theoretical article in the prestigious journal “Science” is enlightening and heartening in its reference to the universal importance of cooperation as opposed to cut-throat competition. It is entitled “Five Rules for the Evolution of Cooperation.” The author, Martin Nowak, works in the Departments of Mathematics and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Cooperation, he explains, is needed for evolution to construct new, more complex, level of organizations. “Genomes, cells, multicellular organisms, social insects, and human society are all based on cooperation … Cooperation is the secret behind the open-endedness of the evolutionary process. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of evolution is its ability to generate cooperation in a competitive world.”

To many, this view of cooperation as the general pattern in nature rather than violence might come as a surprise. “Isn’t evolution supposed to be all about a struggle for survival? Nature, red in tooth and claw?” But Darwin himself sensed, and wrote, that the altruism and cooperation we see in humans may well have developed because tribes of humans in which individuals cooperated with their tribe mates might have been more successful in the struggle for survival than tribes in which the human members were NOT good cooperators. Traits such as the ability to be empathetic, to have a sense of fairness and justice, are genetically based, and if tribes having members with these traits were better at cooperating and hence better at survival, these traits and the trait of cooperation would be passed on.

In his book, Beyond War, anthropologist Douglas Fry looks across time and across many cultures and thoroughly debunks the myth that humans are essentially violent and aggressive. He provides concrete examples of the human propensity to find nonviolent solutions to our conflicts and to work together to maintain social harmony when possible. In Michael Shermer’s book The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule, the publisher of Skeptic magazine and Scientific American columnist makes a case that human morality evolved as first an individual and then a species-wide mechanism for survival.

On this reality of essentially cooperative and empathetic human good nature—something once explored by philosophers and mystics and now being explored by primatologists, evolutionary biologists, and mathematicians—we can hang our hopes to create a future without war. Inventing these essentials or even teaching them from scratch to children or adults is not required to create a warless future.

What will be required of us, though, is to nurture these traits and create social conditions in which they flourish so the selfish drives that are also a part of our complex nature are subordinated. My books and website, written from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist—Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, and A Future Without War—outline key social conditions we inadvertently created several millennia ago, roughly at the time of the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer life to settled communities. I discuss how these changes resulted in our present state of seemingly endless cycles of war, and what conditions must be changed to move us rapidly beyond war, to create what can be called a warfare transition.

Making this change is possible because the overwhelming majority of humanity shares a fundamental sense of goodness, and longs to live by it.

References:

DeWaal, Frans. 2006. Primates and Philosophers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Fry, Douglas P. 2007. Beyond War. NY:Oxford University Press.

Hand, J. L. 2003. Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. San Diego, CA: Questpath Publishing
2006. A Future Without War. San Diego, CA: Questpath Publishing.

Nowak, Martin A. 2006. “Five rules for the evolution of cooperation.” Science 314:1560-1563)

Shermer, Michael. 2004. The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule. Times Books