Talking about Peace

Peace Experiments
A six-week curriculum by Dan Harper; developmental assistance by Peace Experiments teachers from 1995 to the present. v. 1.0.
Reflections on this page are copyright (c) 2014 by the authors; used by permission

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May 18, 2014 — “Talking about Peace”

In this intergenerational worship service, members of the Senior High Youth Group presented their thoughts on how to make a peaceful world.

Worship Leaders: members of the Senior High Youth Group:
Amelia Shaw
Olivia Nayler
Samuel Erickson
Aliana Miller
August Ramberg-Gomez

 

Reflection: World Peace
by Amelia Shaw

In the time I’ve been alive, there’s never been world peace. As far as I can remember, we’ve always been at war with either Iraq or Afghanistan — and sometimes both. I tried to look up a time when there was no war, but I couldn’t find it. I’ve always been able to find an answer on the Internet, but this time I could not.

When I was given this topic, I had no idea what I was going to write about, since I’ve never seen what world peace would look like. I think the answer may be more about cooperation than anything else. It’s about getting along, but having opposing views, which takes listening and understanding. It also takes tolerance, which is something the human race needs to strive to do better at.

There are two things that could really help us with world peace.

We need to help bring poorer countries up to a better standard. Education is a key to helping poorer countries. We have to find a way so that all kids can get an education.

I also think corruption is part of the problem. Too many people want to gain and keep control, and they will use corruption and threats to keep power. If you’ve read “The Hunger Games,” you can see how people want control over what the government does in their daily lives, and the outcome is not good. We’re not “The Hunger Games,” but the lesson is similar.

In my life, terrorism in the name of what’s “right” and intolerance of what other people believe are the cause of a lot of these problems. Our own words here at UUCP say, “Respecting the worth and dignity of each individual, and treasuring what we learn from each person’s unique experience, we welcome a diversity of ages, sexual orientations, races, gender identities, classes, abilities, theologies and religious heritages.” Not enough people do that in the world.

There’s hope, and we see it with the new Pope. Pope Francis says we are all God’s children. I may not believe that we all came from God, but we are all children of the world — whether we are young in body or mind. We just need more cooperation, and maybe we will see world peace — MAYBE.

 

Reflection
by Olivia Nayler

Everywhere we look we are surrounded by violence. It’s in our movies, TV shows, video games, and books. It’s in religious texts and myths. Our history, ancient and recent, is full of wars and genocide. Today we all say we want peace. We want the wars, the killing, the violence, and the hate to come to an end.

The prevalence of violence is disturbing. Many people are not hesitant to lay blame on the graphic descriptions of brutality so common in the media. Violence in the media, particularly in interactive forms of media like video games have been linked to higher aggression. Exposure to violence desensitizes people to how horrible it actually is. However, millions of people play violent games, watch violent movies, and read violent books, and most of these people do not go around killing and destroying.

Aside from the concern that violence in the media is making our society more violent, we must step back and wonder why people buy these games in the first place. Why do people flock to see gore and death in the movies? Why are there so many stories about war? Perhaps the violence in the media is a product of our violent society. People are clearly attracted to violence even in a society that asks for peace. Violence seems to be a natural instinct.

Animals fight over food, over territory, and over other animals. Humans are animals and we fight like animals. If animals didn’t fight they would die. Violence is a primitive necessity. Evolutionarily speaking, we need to want to fight if our species is to survive. If this is true, can we truly achieve peace? Peace within ourselves? Peace in our society? Is our media making us violent or is our media violent because of a primitive animalistic need for violence and war?

There are seven whole Harry Potter books about war and suffering. One chapter at the end briefly mentions the peaceful society that was created. So many stories revolve around the idea that before peace comes war. But we focus on the interesting part of the story. We focus on the war. Why aren’t there movies and video games and novels filled with peace? Because peace is boring. The job of a writer is to make their characters suffer. No one writes stories about people having a good day. Peace is the ultimate goal and all we talk about is the violence we deem necessary to get there.

 

Reflection
by Samuel Erickson

Late last year I stood in this exact same spot telling you why I am a pacifist. But simply being a pacifist is not enough to make change, no, non-violence and pacifism must be wide spread in order to exact great change.

First, why do we want to spread pacifism, why is the beneficial? The easy answer is to say, well, with more pacifists we have fewer people committed to war, and thus fewer wars, fewer people who will use violence, and thus we have less violence. This may be true, but it misses how one actually goes about spreading pacifism.

Pacifism, at its root, is simply a very strong commitment to empathy towards all, and to thinking with that empathy before you act.

Education in this respect is then simply modeling and encouraging such behavior in thought and action. There are no facts to be memorized only thorough communication leads towards empathy, towards understanding.

Where does violence come from?

At some point it comes from a lack of empathy that has made some person desperate. That could be a person starving with no one to help them to feed, or shelter, or care for themselves or their family. All these states of being are to created through violence, and thus we must say that violence begets violence. Without working against the source of violence, violence will continue.

Desperation once created by violence need be addressed at the same time the violence itself is addressed. This is why aid to the poor and homeless is necessary, this is why something like universal health care is important.

To stop violence it is necessary to confront it, not to hide from it. When teaching pacifism it is key to understand violence as well not to simply condemn it. so we can try to see its source and work to eliminate said source.

To be clear, I am not saying it is of greatest importance to be involved in peace efforts world wide, to eliminate violence and dictatorial governments the planet over.

Such things are good, but more important is for individuals to do their best at the difficult task of removing violence and putting more compassion into their daily lives there by effecting those around them positively. Peace need not be grand to exact meaningful change for each one of us.

 

Reflection
by Aliana Miller

Peace, as a complete lack of conflict, as an agreement never to fight or feel angry or have competition with others, is nearly impossible as far as I can tell. The fact that humans feel negative emotions automatically creates conflict, within themselves, or with others. To imagine all of this could cease to exist is not a productive route.

Peace, in my opinion, would not be a lack of conflict, but an agreement to work through conflict, to try to do things in a peaceful, constructive way rather than fighting. While this also has its flaws, something along these lines is my idea of peace, and what people may hope to achieve- and may be achieved, between individual humans.

To have this kind of peace among people, families, friends- that is something we are taught and reminded of daily, as a basic rule. It still is not present, completely, among most people, despite this. It’s just too much work. To try to do things this way, while close to the ideal, is just not what people want to put effort into, when they have bigger things in their daily lives to consider. And for it to really work, to achieve peace, everyone needs to agree to it.

While I do see this peace happening among smaller groups, I sincerely doubt that gigantic change will take place among all of humanity that allows them to be peaceful- leading to the extreme unlikeliness of peace among nations. Nations are controlled by large groups of people who are paid to consider things rationally, but when not everyone has the same views, conflict erupts.

Peace among nations requires that everyone does the right thing- as according to every other nation, and the multitude of views provided by the drastically different opinions of its people. While nations can definitely talk through issues, and try to avoid conflict, the lack of peace among nations is on a completely different scale than the peace among humans. Nations, controlled by these completely different opinions, would need the first level of peace among humans to accomplish their peace. One person, in any of these nations, could jeopardize everything that might have been accomplished, by pushing a button. One opinion, one button, could create another war, ruin everything, while it would take everyone to keep the peace.

For peace, it would be necessary to destroy any instrument of war, any possibility that we could ever have conflict again, any thought beyond constantly trying to fix things the hard way, if the peace is to be between nations. And I know, especially in our own, that there are far too many people for whom that would never be close to an agreeable policy.

I do not think that peace among nations is something we can do right now. I believe we could try to go a step at a time, and fix some of the symptoms, eventually getting to the real problem. But what I think we can do is what we are trying to do right now- to take it one step at a time, and keep the peace among communities, and perhaps one day the message will spread. I hope it does.

 

Reflection: Inner Peace
by August Ramberg-Gomez

When I was faced with the daunting prospect of writing about peace, what immediately came to mind is that the first step to meaningful peace anywhere is to be at peace with oneself. I believe that peace is not a lack of conflict, for there will always be conflict. Rather, peace is a way to work through conflict with empathy and respect rather than with fists, terrorism and drone strikes.

For the past five years I have been playing water polo. Two years ago, I started playing for a young man and spectacular leader named Wes. The first thing he taught me was to lead by example. What I have taken his words to mean is that I need to focus on myself and fix my own shortcomings before attempting to fix the shortcomings of others. In doing this I am able to encourage others to also be the best that they can be. I believe that a lack of leading by example is what is holding the world back from lasting peace. Until every city has peace, no state can have peace, and until every state has peace, no country can have peace, and as long as no country has peace, the world will not be at peace.

Palo Alto is a bit ahead of the game in terms of leading by example, people here are building new homes or fixing their homes so that they are more energy efficient, biking to and from work and being mindful of how much water they use. Many of us are are doing the best we can here in Palo Alto, and we hope that others will soon catch on. This is what I mean by leading by example. The U.S. government, on the other hand, does a less than exemplary job of leading by example. It tries to stop corruption, hunger and violence in other countries when our own country is plagued with the same problems. While poverty, violence, and hunger may be inevitable, our leaders should fix the problems we have at home before attempting to fix these problems in other countries.

I believe that leading by example is the key to lasting and meaningful peace. This kind of peace starts with the individual. It starts with being the best that you can possibly be and through your actions encouraging others to do the same. We are the foundation of peace. Every person on this beautiful planet we call home makes a difference. From Palo Alto to Nepal, everyone makes a difference. Whether that difference is positive or negative is in each person’s hands. All of us gathered here today have the opportunity to make a positive change in the world with our one precious life. If everyday, each of us does our best to be as respectful and compassionate as we can be, we will succeed in making our home on earth a more peaceful place.

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