AFWW Newletter #9 - Proof That Humans Can Live Without War 17 July 2008

Quotable Quote
"A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes."
- Mohandas Gandhi

A Good Movie
Iron Jawed Angels. - a superb HBO special film showcasing the struggle of U. S. suffragists in the early 1900s. For an example and model of how we can mount a campaign to bring an end to war, we need look no further than the suffragists who fought a 71-year campaign to secure for U. S. women a constitutional amendment guaranteeing their right to the vote (from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 until passage of Equal Rights Amendment ratified in 1920).

A Future Without War
Believe in it.
Envision it.
Work for it.
And we will achieve it.

Abolishing War
"Activist women-the suffragists-of the late 1800s and early 1900s and the men who supported them-struggled to give women the vote. Activist women of the mid-1900s and the men who supported them struggled to give women equal legal protections and access to jobs and educational opportunities. And what of the next great women's movement? Is the job finished, nothing left to do? For this generation of activist women and the men who support them, the task and challenge can be to abolish war."
   - Judith Hand
     La Jolla Rotary, June 2008

If we don't embrace the goal of ending war, we certainly can't achieve that objective. And if we don't abolish war, we certainly can't create a future of peace: Wars and World Peace are diametrically opposed. Critical to embracing the goal is to believe abolishing war is possible.

Unfortunately, if asked, the vast majority of U.S. citizens don't think it is. This gloomy view likely characterizes thinking of people around the globe. Therein lies our biggest barrier to progress, because the things we believe are true tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Christopher Reeves
"So many of our dreams seem impossible,
then improbable, then inevitable."
- Christopher Reeves

This newsletter shares information refuting this debilitating assumption. It also provides a link to an essay addressing the frequent lament that no one else has ever been able to abolish war. Why should our time be any different? Well, our time, and opportunities, are radically different in ways that open a wide window for success.

We need hope to nourish our efforts. We need ammunition to convince others that not all humans live with the violence and the waste of war, that war isn't an inevitability-something "in our genes,"-but rather a consequence of something wrong about the way we live. You'll find both hope and ammunition in this newsletter.



We Humans Have NOT Always Been Engaged in Wars
In his book The Human Potential for Peace (2006), anthropologist Douglas Fry began debunking the belief that war is inescapable. In its pages he offers an exhaustive review of many cultures, including very insightful comparisons of nomadic hunter-gatherers and settled hunter-gatherers. In his latest, somewhat less technical book, Beyond War, he continues his exploration in an accessible, finely researched, occasionally humorous manner.

Beyond War is a must read for anyone who wants to break down skepticism about abolishing war. Fry reviews and rebuts the work of writers who have argued that man is warlike and always has been and, because it's "in our genes," always will be (Lawrence Keeley, Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, and others).

He then looks across many cultures to explore cases where war is absent and cases where the society is best characterized as without violence or having extremely low levels of it. He explores the reasons why these cultures-some familiar but many of them little-known-are so different from the violence-prone dominator cultures with which we're familiar.

AFWW provides a detailed review of Fry's important contribution, written for the bulletin of the International Society for Human Ethology (ISHE).

Twenty-Five Peaceful Societies
Another must-explore for anyone wanting to know if it's possible to live nonviolently and without war is the website Peaceful Societies.org.. Here you'll find fascinating profiles of twenty-five peaceful societies, from the Amish to the Nubians to the Zapotec of La Paz. You'll find references to books about peaceful societies, articles on current events affecting them, and links to related websites.

As the website stresses, these are NOT UTOPIAS. The people living in them are not perfect. They are human beings with all of our innate assets and liabilities. What knowing about them does make clear, in the stunning variety of their ways of living, is that plenty of humans have lived without violence and war.

Map of Nonviolent Cultures
A picture can be worth a thousand words. AFWW has created a world map on which are plotted the centers of distribution of over sixty peaceful societies. Each dot represents one culture. The data used comes from The Human Potential for Peace (2006) by Douglas Fry. Fry assembled a list of seventy-one societies anthropologists classify as non-violent and non-warring (Box 7.1, p. 92).

Many, in fact nearly all, of these cultures live in isolated places protected, at least until recent times, from the dominator, warring cultures that have spread across the globe. Readers of this newsletter might recognize a few names: e.g., Hopi of North America, Amish, Nubians, Laplanders (Semaii), and the Norwegians. Take a look at the picture of the distribution. You might want to download it as a visual reminder to share with others.

Why Our Time Is Different
From time to time throughout history, individuals and groups have made a valiant effort to movie history in a less violent, more peaceful and peace-loving direction. Jesus of Nazareth, for example, gave us a philosophy of love and nonviolence. Perhaps the most well known group of people today who most closely practice his philosophy with respect to violence in the United States and elsewhere are Quakers. Sadly it hasn't taken hold in our societies at large.

The Romans, in giving us the example of living by and resolving conflicts by the rule of law rather than by brute force or violence within their communities, also had a great idea, much of which we still use. By limiting power, they also wanted to rein in the ability of a king or dictator to take them to war. The founders of their republic had a vision of a less violent, more egalitarian life, and cultures around them greatly admired the Roman way. But with time the Romans slipped back into the old dominator model of tyranny, and their laws never enabled them to avoid wars with the people around them.

In our time we've had our peace leaders, such as Mohandas Gandhi and the current Dali Lama, with thus far mixed results and certainly not any success in abolishing war. And then there were attempts by governments to rein in wars via the League of Nations and the United Nations. Their level of success speaks for itself. (The book Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace by Judith Hand explores the bottom line, biological reason for failure of these many previous attempts.).

So it's not that we haven't tried. But all have failed, and any moderately educated person knows it and is thus fully justified in profound skepticism about any notion of abolishing war.

To overcome skepticism, we must explain why our time is different. AFWW provides an essay entitled "How Far We Have Already Come". Six key factors, going back roughly 700 years in Western cultures, have brought us to a place where, for the first time in millennia, we have a solid chance to achieve what others before us could not. These six factors are:

  1. the Renaissance and Reformation,
  2. the introduction of the modern Scientific Method.
  3. the reintroduction of Democracy via the English, French, and American Revolutions,
  4. giving women the Vote,
  5. giving women reliable access to Birth Control, and
  6. the development of the World Wide Web (IN)

For details on how these six factors make our time unique and ready to end war if we choose, see the essay "How Far We Have Already Come".

Our moment in history is HUGELY DIFFERENT! We can abolish war if we're willing to do the work and make the sacrifices. But time and human nature guarantee that this window won't remain open forever-or even for very long.


With warm wishes and hope.
- Judith
Contact Info
A Future Without War
Dr. Judith Hand
P.O. Box 270074, San Diego, CA 92198
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