How can we promote peace? Let’s learn some new vocabulary, read, and talk about it.
VOCABULARY WARM UP: Tautonyms are fun to say.
Tautonyms (or reduplications) are created by repeating a word, or by repeating it with with a small change. So-so, easy-peasy, and tick-tock are tautonyms. Here are six more common ones:
wishy-washy = weak and unable to make decisions (adjective)
hippy-dippy = idealistic and impractical (adjective)
zigzag = to go back and forth (noun or verb)
namby-pamby = weak and sentimental (adjective)
hocus-pocus = deceptive and fake (noun)
nitty-gritty= the details of something (noun or adjective)
Try out using the tautonyms for yourself, by making your own sentences.
profiteering – Speculation / making money unethically from a crisis
gravy train – Source of easily obtained wealth
in league – working together towards an unethical goal
to stand to gain – to be likely to get
to impoverish – to make poor
underlying – root causes, unseen sources
to squander – to waste
monkey wrench – a tool to grip and turn objects / something that disupts
gears – mechanism or turning part of a machine
foolish – stupid, not wise
to jerk – to make a short sudden movement (to ‘jerk someone’s chain’ is to tease or mislead)
to fuel – to give energy to
mindlessly – without thought
rewards – recompense
to display – to show or demonstrate
high ground – a better strategic position (‘Moral high ground’ is to have an ethical advantage.)
pursuit – the act of working toward or chasing something (The verb is to pursue.)
co opted – taken over (The verb is to co opt.)
to further – to advance
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you will join us, and the world will be as one.” – John Lennon
How to Promote World Peace
When we hear words like ‘world peace’, we tend to think of wishy-washy people who don’t understand how the world actually works. Realists know that peace on Earth is a dream. Adults don’t bother with hippy-dippy ideas like love and harmony. When there is a conflict, a common thing to do is to balance care and respect for one side with a equal dose of hatred for the other side. Lately, it looks like support for Ukrainian people over Russian people, or Israeli people over Palestinian people. Violence is just human nature. It’s just the way it is. War is inevitable, and the best result is one where the good guys win and the bad guys lose, right?
But is endless war and global conflict actually inevitable? Who are these bad guys and why do we hate them? When do we know that we have won? Is global conflict such an enormous, complex problem, that there is nothing we can do about it? Is it silly to even try? Or can we think about war and peace in a different way, and have a positive impact on our world?
To be honest, I wasn’t very hopeful when I started working on this essay. I didn’t expect to find realistic steps we can take to make a difference. It’s been a welcome surprise to discover that I was wrong to be so skeptical. There really are things that we can do to make the world a more peaceful place!
Here are four things that I discovered that we can do to promote world peace.
1.) We can educate ourselves, and learn who the real winners and losers of war are.
When we want to understand a system, there’s a classic question we can start with. Cui bono? It’s Latin for ‘who benefits?’. When you ‘follow the money’, it doesn’t take long to learn that our own elected leaders are highly incentivized to start and perpetual wars. War profiteering has become an enormous, non-stop gravy train that zigzags through the halls of our governments.
The United States, with the largest military in the world, is plagued by the very “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower, who was the president from 1953 to 1961, warned them about in his farewell address. The military-industrial complex is “an informal alliance of the military and related government departments with defense industries that is held to influence government policy” (Merriam Webster Dictionary).
When your country’s leaders are in league with defense contractors, and they all stand to gain incredible wealth and power by promoting instability and war, it’s likely that the world will experience… you guessed it- instability and war. Not because it’s inevitable, or human nature, or ‘just the way it is’, but as a matter of corrupt public policy.
Here are a couple of good articles to check out, if you would like to read more about it:
Who loses from War? Obviously, the civilians who are caught in the cross-fire suffer the most. But, to a lesser extend, all of us do, not just in terms of our grief and helplessness in the face of injustice towards others, but also in the form of taxes. We are forced to fund the murder of innocents. Rather than paying for the maintenance of roads and bridges, our taxes fund the destruction of other people’s infrastructure. Instead of building hospitals and schools, we are paying to bomb other people’s hospitals and schools. War impoverishes communities in one country, in order to do violence to communities in another countries. Check out the National Priorities Project, to see in real time, how much money the U.S.A. is spending on war and conflict: National Priorities Project.
Is this really the best, or only way to “pursue a free, open, prosperous, and secure world“, as the American government claims? Is our security and prosperity even the goal at all, when peace would be extremely bad for business?
By educating ourselves on the underlying causes of war, we are better able to defend ourselves against it, and take action to promote peace.
“The oil in the war machine is lies. The monkey wrench we can throw into the gears is public resistance to being lied to.” (War is a Lie, David Swanson)
2.) We can master our emotions.
Non ducor, duco. (I am not led. I lead.)
Our emotions matter, but it’s foolish to be led by them blindly. When managed correctly, our feelings tell us when things are going well, and when we need to make changes in our lives. When managed poorly, they are chains that others can jerk to control and manipulate us. Learn to master your emotions as tools that you use, so that they aren’t used against you to make you a tool.
While you are engaging with content about conflict, and notice yourself experiencing strong feelings, take a step back. Observe yourself dispassionately. What images and ideas are fueling your emotions? Take a moment to disengage, and reconnect with your ‘here and now’. Know what propaganda looks like, and learn to identify the feelings it evokes in you.
Propaganda motivates us to feel strongly, and to engage mindlessly. Social media even rewards us for it. The more passion we display, the more likes and comments we get, and the higher our ranking goes. These algorithms don’t care if what we see is true or not, or if it makes us happier, more peaceful or powerful people, only that we keep scrolling and clicking. It can feel really good to feel like part of something, to be standing up together, passionately proclaiming your moral high ground against some other group of people. That feeling? It can be enjoyable, but it’s also a sign that you are being manipulated.
Check yourself. Freedom isn’t a flag waving in the wind to triumphant music. It certainly isn’t you marching along to a drumbeat that isn’t your own. Freedom is a personal responsibility not to be led by anyone but yourself. Are you free, and focused on your priorities and responsibilities?
3.) We can focus on our own values and goals.
Peace is more than a namby-pamby dream, or even just the absence of conflict. Peace is the space where happy lives are lived, great adventures are had, and discoveries are made. It’s where roads, bridges, hospitals and schools are built. It’s where we debate, disagree and argue, where we learn and work, grow, and enjoy our daily lives. Peace is a prerequisite for the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.
What matters most to you? How will you use your peace today? When we focus on our own goals, we are less easily co opted into furthering the agenda of others.
4.) We can meditate for peace.
“There is far more evidence that group meditation can turn off war like a light switch than there is evidence that aspirin reduces head ache pain.” – John Heglin
Just by focusing on peace, we make the world more peaceful. It sounds like hocus-pocus, doesn’t it?
Excellent scientific studies have shown that people meditating on peace has a direct and significant impact on their communities. When enough people are focused on peace, it brings down homicide and violent crime rates. It’s such a weird idea that the scientists were incredibly careful to do their research correctly, knowing that it would be carefully scrutinized. I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty. You can read the study for yourself. It’s worth investigating. How incredible that we have the power to create peace in the world, just by creating it within ourselves!
I learned a lot while preparing this reading for you guys. And so thank you so much, my wonderful students. I learned that endless war and violence isn’t due to human nature, but to policies, which we can change. I discovered that peace isn’t just the absence of conflict, but a powerful force and the foundation upon which we can build our lives. And I found out that each of us have the ability to make the world a better, more peaceful place.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Educate yourself about who wins and loses from war
Mallett, Kandist. “Who Benefits from War? What to keep in Mind about Military Conflicts“, TeenVogue,
Bellbeck, Michael C. and Cavanaugh, Kenneth L., “Societal Violence and Collective Consciousness: Reduction of U.S. Homicide and Urban Violence Crime Rates”
Global Peace Index 2023, The Institute for Economics and Peace, economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/GPI-2023-Web.pdf
Coleman, Peter T, Chen-Carrel, Allegra, Hans, Vincent Hans, Stueber Michael.
“Peace is More than the Absence of War, and New Research Explains How to Build It“, December 20, 2021, Scientific America, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/peace-is-more-than-wars-absence-and-new-research-explains-how-to-build-it/
Head, Tom. “How To Become an Activist.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/how-to-become-an-activist-721654.
Master Your Emotions
You can select either a video or written format:
Feldman Barrett, Lisa. “You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions — Your brain creates them“, TedTalks, https://www.ted.com
Feldman Barrett, Lisa. “Try these Two Smart Techniques to Help You Master Your Emotions“, IdeasTed.com, June, 2018, ideas.ted.com/try-these-two-smart-techniques-to-help-you-master-your-emotions/
Meditate for Peace
Dillbeck ,Michael C. and Cavanaugh, Kenneth L. “Can Group Meditation Bring World Peace? Quantum Physicist John Heglin Explains”. YouTube, October 2009, youtu.be/yVFa6Wtuxu8
Societal Violence and Collective Consciousness: Reduction of U.S. Homicide and Urban Violent Crime Rates, Sage Journals, April, 2018, journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2158244016637891