Peace and Nonviolence:

How do we get there?

Most of us sincerely desire to be at peace with ourselves, our neighbours and the environment, but we are unable to truly be peaceful as soon as we work for that peace. Life is full of contradictions and working for peace appears to be one of them.

No sooner do we become a peace worker, or a peace activist then we become advocates for just causes. It becomes our duty to raise awareness of oppression, the cost of militarism, the arms trade, and the destruction of the environment. We become part of the adversarial culture with the us and them attitudes and all the violence associated with that.

Yet there are many examples of times and places when individuals and groups have managed to rise above this. I have long admired Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Albert Schweizer and Gandhi. Programmes as Conflict Resolution and the Alternatives to Violence Project also have much to offer and there are many more examples.

What I want to do is to look at examples of peace or nonviolence and examples of violence. It is better still to look at the culture of violence and nonviolence. I do not believe we can decide once and for all that we want to be on one side or the other. I find it more helpful to look at nonviolence as a process and violence as another process. These processes influence our behaviour through the example set by elders, family, TV shows, business people, politicians, sportsmen and peers. As a total they become our culture. As

Forgiveness, Acceptance,

Compassion, Caring

Community, Unity of Life, Openness, Unity of ends and means, Gandhi "take care of the means and the ends will take care of themselves"


Listening, Mediation, Recognition of needs

these norms of behaviour become accepted by us they start looking right and feeling right, but they can change! For example, before the Reformation, charging interest was considered to be both immoral and a crime. Money lenders were the outcasts of society. Nowadays earning money by lending money and even using other people's money to make money is considered OK, even necessary to keep capitalism flourishing. The violence of making money at the expense of others is rarely considered, if at all.

I believe that there is such a culture of violence operating in Australia and around the world. What's more we are all part of that violence even if we only do it to ourselves! First it is the poor and powerless who suffer most. It's the poor who have to move to the outer suburbs from suburbs that have been their home, sometimes for generations as rents increase and have to travel far to work or consider themselves lucky to find part time work. What's more these violent

Hate, Fear, Jealousy

Competition, Secrecy, Marginalization, Power Over

The end justifies the means

Confrontation, Conflict, (seeing only our side of the argument)

calamities are now happening more frequently to the middle class and not so poor.

A culture of violence legitimises violence, and that is why it is so dangerous. It teaches that direct violence is OK even necessary. (ref. Johan Galtung "Cultural Violence", Journal of Peace Research Vol 27 no3 l990)

The culture of violence is based on legitimised confrontation, elites, fear, secrecy, judgement of the others, consumerism, possessiveness, police protection and the need to control.