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Book Review

Strategies for Peace

Bruce L. Cook and Maria Cristina Azcona, Editors

Strategies for Peace book cover
This anthology covers numerous approaches to world peace, from arts and letters to spirituality, social constructs, education, global governance, and medicine. The book begins and ends, however, with leadership. I absolutely agree that a leader, whether of a family or a nation, sets the tone for all other aspects of peace. As this reader proceeds from the individual to the whole world, I must admit that my faith in the possibilities for peace diminishes. I will comment candidly on the topics in the order in which they appear.

Education. Ms. Azcona says that, “Education endures all life, and its objective is the personalization and progressive humanization of the human being.” Ah, that it were achievable universally! If only American public schools and universities had such an objective. On an individual basis, education can and does meet this objective for the lucky ones. It takes a will. Aristotle says that the desire to know is inherent in man’s nature. I love the example of Frederick Douglass, born a slave, forbidden to read, who persevered to become a beautiful writer. Today Americans spend a fortune on public education, and the results are abysmal. I wonder about Douglass’s early family life. Perhaps his mother or grandmother kept that desire to know alive – perhaps with folktales. His powerful words had an influence on the abolition movement. See YouTube: James Earl Jones as Frederick Douglass.

Natural Selection. It is encouraging to note Dr. David Sloan Wilson’s assurance that, “Selections in nature select not for processes and structures that serve self-interest groups, but those that serve the wellbeing of the whole.” By this logic, Madonna and Kim Kardashian should not reproduce.

Multiculturalism/globalization. This I fear. Attempts to achieve global government, such as the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the European Union, have failed miserably. Take the UN, for example. Unfortunately, members and leaders are often corrupt, greedy, and power-hungry. We cannot trust a world body to make decisions that are in the best interest of all nations equally. I acknowledge the unifying points identified by interfaith leaders: mystic experience, teachings in common, shared ethics, and social justice. But I do not anticipate a melding of worldly and otherworldly concerns among all peoples. As an example, the “climate change” controversy is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the world stage. Worldwide distribution of wealth is forced charity. The rich countries have a “responsibility” to give money to the poor countries? Please see Bjorn Lindborg’s movie, Cool It.

Harmony. I heartily appreciate Sri Ramakrishna’s emphasis on harmony of religions, “a fellowship . . . based on a common goal, communion with God . . . to be realized by deepening our individual God-consciousness.” Such communion can only be achieved one soul at a time, through free will, not by force. There is a de-emphasis on the physical in the religious approach. Pope John Paul II urges a dialogue based on “the universal moral law written upon the human heart.” Again, that’s one human heart at a time.

Inherent Dignity. Glen T. Martin points to the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, affirming that, “recognition of the inherent dignity of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” On an individual basis, his sentiment is noble, especially after World War II and the Holocaust. Germany has inserted similar language into its Constitution. Unfortunately, their decision to open their borders and blindly invite those who do not share their values has been a disaster. The notion of a “world constitution,” imposing its authority on citizens of sovereign nations, is downright scary.

Family Relations. Ms. Azcona addresses the complexities of family life, including conflict resolution. Conflict is inevitable – and probably necessary for intellectual and psychological growth. I like the writer’s focus on humor as a balm to sooth some rough spots in family relations. As the primary social unit in a person’s life, the family must have strong, peaceful relations among its members. Not everyone is blessed with a happy home life, though. I’m reminded of the Biblical adage, “The sins of the father shall be visited upon the children unto the fourth generation.” Consider the unfortunate Ferguson MO teen, Michael Brown. Did that poor kid have a chance? Did he even know he was a child of God?

Inner and Outer Peace. Poor Michael Brown didn’t live long enough to overcome his learned hatred and fear of “others.” He never heard of the human genome project, which proves that “we are 99.9% alike with only 1 tenth of 1 percent that makes us different.” Is it a pipe dream to expect “respectful communities, common ethics, sustainable practices, peace, and economic opportunities”? Well, we are a long way from realizing that dream.

Self-Actualization. On an individual basis, a person can strive throughout one’s life to become a “self-actualized” human being. But along Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy, too many are stuck on level 1 (survival) or motivated by concerns of self-worth. Do schools teach the masses to aim for intellectual and moral excellence? We do the best we can within our own small circle. Dr. Nina Meyerhof does offer some exercises to help students discover that “divine spark.” The path is worth considering, but there’s this thing called free will.

Spiritual Nature. Celia Altschuler insists that “Humans . . . must not deny their spiritual nature.” Amen to that. She believes that art, whether plastic art, music, poetry, or other, is among the ways to express our spiritual nature. The importance of art in public education cannot be overestimated. But, is it even permitted in the public schools or universities to say that we are spiritual beings?

Medical Action. The cooperation of medical professionals in areas of world conflict, especially in the Middle East, is an encouraging prospect for trust-building. Whether sharing information on curing cancer, or staffing combat zones, doctors are making a difference. An example is Rev. Franklin Graham, who has built a hospital for treating victims in the war-torn region of Mosul, Iraq.

“Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.” One soul at a time. Namaste.

Carol McPeak Brinjak

Praying Hands

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