How World Peace Became Inevitable By 2010
by Al Siebert, Ph.D., author of The Survivor Personality(Essay submitted to Christian Science Monitor Peace 2010 contest in April, 1988.)
"Hi Uncle Bud! Happy new year! Happy 2010!"
"Hello Cheryl! Come on in. Happy new year to you, too! How are the roads?"
"Not bad. Driving in snow isn't difficult with quad-trac wheels on my car. I slid a little on the ramp down to your houseboat, but it isn't bad out."
"That's good. Here, I'll put your coat over this chair by the fire. There's hot water for tea on the stove and muffins on the table if you want some."
"Thanks. That sounds good." "Fine. Now, tell me again what your paper is about."
"Next term I'm taking a course in Social Progress. The term paper will be to describe how world peace was accomplished. I'd like to know how you think it happened."
"Certainly. Turn on your VoiceScriber and we'll start. All set?"
"You know that humans have dreamed of a peaceful world for centuries but they never succeeded before now."
"Have you ever wondered why they didn't succeed?"
"Well, when groups in the past attempted to create peace on earth, they failed for certain key reasons. First, most groups worked to reach negative goals and people rarely reach negative goals."
"What is a negative goal?"
"Working to have something not exist is trying to reach a negative goal. Most peace efforts stalled, in part, because world peace was defined as an absence of war. 'Absence of war' is a negative goal. When people work to eliminate fighting, anger, conflict, or whatever, they have negative aims."
"Let me see if I understand. I have a negative goal if I try to make something not happen-like trying to get my little brother to stop hitting me." "You've got it, Cheryl." "Good. You said there were several reasons why groups in the past have failed to achieve world peace?"
"Yes. The second reason is that most groups sing what I call the theme song of the human race."
"What is that?"
"'If only other people would change the world would be much better.' That is a true statement, of course, but not practical." "Why not?"
"Because trying to get other people to volunteer to change themselves so your world is better has a very slim chance of succeeding." "That's for sure! Was there another reason?"
"Yes. The third reason is that when people with high purpose try to get others to change they frequently do the very thing they condemn the troublemakers for doing."
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"Hold on, Uncle Bud, can you give me an example?"
"Sure. During the Christmas season one year I saw a man on a downtown corner yelling at people who walked by him. Behind him was a woman trying to pass out leaflets. When I walked by the man he glared at me and yelled angrily 'The way to world peace is to love everyone!' I felt sorry for him. His message was commendable but he was blind to his self-defeating way of communicating it."
"Was that very common?"
"Unfortunately yes. When Vietnam veterans returned home, many of them were called names, sometimes spit on, and subjected to severe emotional abuse by the 'flower children' who were advocating 'make love, not war.' Later, on an even larger scale, the peace movement was handicapped by anti-nuclear people within it who tried to stop nations from frightening each other with threats of nuclear devastation by stirring up fears of nuclear devastation. They tried to scare nations into behaving peacefully. Do you see the self-defeating pattern?"
"They used threats of nuclear disaster to try to stop nations from threatening each other with nuclear weapons?"
"Right. This is typical of humans. You may have noticed that people with positive attitudes usually have negative attitudes about people with negative attitudes. Time and again humans blindly do what they condemn others for. Their actions are self-defeating but they don't know it. Then they decide that the other people are to blame for their lack of success."
"What made the difference this time?"
"Many significant factors. This time positive goals were defined. This time individuals worked on transforming themselves. Instead of singing the theme song of the human race and trying to change others, they asked themselves questions such as 'How can I think, feel or act differently so that things get better for us all?'"
"So it was individuals transforming themselves that made the difference?"
"Partly. In addition, individuals improving their ways of interacting with others could only have a significant impact on nations because many major trends and developments, some of them in progress for centuries, suddenly converged."
"Major improvements in how parents raise their children, how teachers teach, and how managers manage their employees, for example."
"How did corporate managers contribute?"
"It wasn't just managers in private corporations, managers in public agencies were also involved. Many major breakthroughs in understanding human motivation, personal growth and development, adult learning, emotional fitness, group synergy, personal and group excellence, and leadership effectiveness came from progress in the field of human resource development. The best managers found that for their organizations to survive and run well they had to replace autocratic and benevolent ways of controlling employees with more humane methods."
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"But how did changes in management methods effect world peace?"
"It reduced emotional abuse of employees and allowed them to become stronger individuals. Employees weren't going home as psychological casualties to be patched up by their families. To help employees cope better with job pressures and change, managers underwrote much of the development costs of programs for physical, nutritional, and psychological fitness.
"Managers led the way in developing methods for making conflict productive within work groups and between work groups. They also developed methods that people in conflict could use to negotiate mutually beneficial goals. It was in these areas that managers played a role in establishing positive goals for the peace movement."
"By encouraging face-to-face conflict and expressions of angry feelings."
"World peace was accomplished by increasing conflict and anger between people and nations?"
"To a large extent. It was a paradoxical solution to a problem that managers uncovered and churches helped resolve. Managers wanting to improve communications in organizations had a problem with a certain sort of person. This person felt severely criticized by routine performance evaluations, rarely accepted praise pleasantly, would not disagree with the manager in meetings but would be sharply critical later, would not make direct requests of people, and would give syrupy smiles to people they disliked. Do you know anyone like that?"
"Such people are a pain to work or live with because their parents reared them using 'prohibitionist' methods."
"Yes. Like during the 1920s when federal laws were passed prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or consumption of alcohol. The logic was that since some people drink too much alcohol and create serious problems for their families and communities and employers, the problem would be eliminated by prohibiting all people from drinking.
"Using similar logic, many parents attempted to raise children who would not grow up to be selfish, angry, rebellious, or conceited. They prohibited their children from expressing anger, making selfish requests, talking back, or feeling proud of themselves."
"I know. The outcome, unfortunately, was an emotionally handicapped adult."
"What do you mean, emotionally handicapped?"
"They were handicapped because their feelings of self-esteem, anger, and so fourth were so badly out-of-whack, they had to be tolerated and protected by their families, employers, and friends. They had a de-synergistic effect on others. They drained energy out of people who associated with them because at the ages of 30, 40, and 50, they were still trying to act like good five-year-olds. It was a tragedy."
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"You say churches helped correct the problem?"
"Indirectly. Church congregations all over the country were creating marriage improvement workshops for their members. Husbands and wives learned how to resolve conflicts and disagreements in ways that strengthened their marriages. The churches created programs which helped parents learn how to be both loving and firm with their children. Paralleling what managers in organizations were doing, parents learned how to give anger and conflict a legitimate place in their interactions. They learned how to fight fair, how to say 'I feel ... ' instead of 'You are ... '"
"We learned that in school."
"I know. Schools are different now than they used to be. Now teachers adapt their classrooms and courses to the interests and learning styles of the students. Students are no longer clustered together by age groups and expected to all be interested in the same subject at a certain time on a certain day because the topic is scheduled into the curriculum at that time. Teachers have become learning facilitators. Because of computers, they spend less time transmitting information and more time helping students develop life competency skills."
"Like what to do when someone is upset or angry with you."
"Right. Like that. And I'm curious, what do you do when someone is upset with you?"
Thoughtful pause. "Arrange for a face-to-face meeting. Ask the person to tell me what he or she is upset about. Listen carefully so I can repeat back what they tell me. Ask questions to help get a complete understanding. If necessary, I ask the person to tell me how he or she feels instead of what is wrong with me. I keep asking, listening, and repeating back until the person says I've got it accurate. Mainly, I want to make sure they feel really well heard."
"I try to see what is legitimate about their case and let them know. I thank them for telling me about what upset them. Then we can start talking about ways to resolve the difficulty or solve the problem."
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"Good. Now do you see how individuals who worked at becoming better parents, teachers and managers contributed to world peace?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"In regard to increased conflict and anger?"
"Oh! Yes! The 'Listening Project!'"u
"Hundreds of U.S. citizens went to other countries and to terrorist groups to ask questions such as 'What is your case against the United States?' and 'What is it like for you to live on this planet with us?' Then they listened. Asked clarifying questions, repeated back ... I see! I see the connection. People who knew how to handle anger and conflict changed the way that nations interact."
"Right. And there was something else, too, in addition to individual improvement. What new technology made it possible back then for the listening teams to play such a significant role in reducing chances of war?"
"Communications satellites and Cable TV. The sessions were watched live all over the world on satellite and cable TV-just like people watch the Olympic games."
"I agree. World peace would not have happened nearly so fast without live television broadcasts of the listening sessions. Anyone with cable TV or with a satellite antenna could tune in and watch. The arms reduction and germ warfare control talks continued, of course, and were useful. The Listening Project eliminated the bottle-neck caused by the ancient method of relying on a few negotiators to represent a nation in secret meetings with negotiators from another nation. Suddenly every citizen could be involved in the action."
"I watch listening sessions sometimes. They are more interesting than old war movies or war documentaries. Right now, I like to watch the channel used by the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland."
"Live, face-to-face contact with angry people is highly involving for both participants and viewers. It is very hot action. At first the pent-up anger and criticism coming from other nations frightened many people. Many Americans condemned the listeners as terrorist sympathizers and communist sympathizers. It took emotional strength and courage to go through the process."
"It must have."
"And it worked. With anger, criticism, and unpleasant feedback being expressed face-to-face by private citizens, with all that energy going into productive conflict, war became unnecessary. No one made wars stop, they just stopped happening."
"Why didn't peace happen earlier in history? Or later?"
"The time was ripe. The conditions didn't exist before now for it to happen, but it was inevitable that world peace would happen at some point in history. It also helped to have the right generation at the right time, a generation that decided to go for it all. In the 1970s the cults gave it a good try, but they did too many self-defeating things."
"Why did this generation succeed?"
"Because with this generation we saw the emergence of a new human being on the planet, the synergistic individual. This person was a responsible nonconformist motivated by selfish altruism. This new human was comfortable being paradoxical-sensitive and tough, involved and detached, assertive and flexible, for example."
"Being schizy, you mean."
"Yes. It was a major breakthrough to discover that life's best survivors were successful schizophrenics. Their identities were based on their self-discovered abilities, not on their sex roles or titles. They had a talent for serendipity. They could convert misfortune into good luck. They appreciated unpleasant feedback as valuable information for personal growth. That's why they charged into the Listening Project with self-confidence and enthusiasm. They didn't know what would happen but knew that somehow, someway, they would interact with developments so that everyone would eventually benefit. People like this didn't exist before now. Not in large enough numbers anyway."
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"Where did they all come from so suddenly?"
"We had become a Learning Society. A socially explosive interaction effect took place. Along with improvements made by parents, teachers, managers, counselors, advances in medicine, the spread of global communications networks, and government cutbacks both forced and allowed people to discover capacities they didn't know they had."
"In what way?"
"Thousands of adults sought more learning experiences. Re-entry students went back to college. On evenings and weekends people everywhere were taking nontraditional classes and workshops. Adults discovered they could overcome traumas and deficiencies in how they were raised. It was exciting! They had a strong desire to learn how to make their bodies healthier and make all aspects of their lives go better. They were hungry for it."
"What did government cutbacks have to do with this?"
"Elected legislators were forced to cut back their spending but not before they almost bankrupted the country. Working people were saddled with excessively high taxes, high inflation, and high interest rates. Unemployed and other needy people lost their benefits or had them sharply reduced. Government workers had a serious morale problem. They were required to do more work with fewer people and lower budgets. They had to endure negative attitudes from the public, inadequate fringe benefits, wage cuts, and threats to their retirement funds."
"That doesn't sound like fun."
"It wasn't. Everyone, it seems, had to rely on their inner resources more than ever before. Fortunately there were many wellness teachers, support networks, new age healers, counselors, and holistic centers available as resources as well as traditional resources. And don't forget to give medical science credit."
"What do you mean?"
"Medical science had eliminated epidemics that used to sweep through populations."
"Such as typhoid fever, diphtheria, smallpox, polio ... ?"
"Yes, and with the development of antibiotics, infections were no longer a serious threat to life. With these killers controlled, the major causes of early death became cancer and heart attacks. People began to learn that their life styles influenced how long they would live and how enjoyable their bodies would be for them. At first there was a focus on physical fitness. That alone was not enough, however, and people learned that nutritional fitness was also very important. Then studies of people who survived cancer highlighted the importance of psychological fitness."
"For reducing stress."
"That's right. But back then most people were still blaming conditions outside themselves for their difficulties. It took awhile to convince the general public that there is no stress in the world, that stress is a reaction to stimulus inputs that the body interprets as unwanted and harmful."
"The research by Dr. Hans Selye?"
"That's right. Including his findings that we need to experience some stress to be healthy. It has been a long slow road, but learning how to live in harmony with nature's counter-balancing forces finally brought things together. As far as I am concerned this has been the best time in the entire history of the human race to be alive."
"I can tell ... speaking of roads, I better get going. I want to make sure I'm home in time for my Vid-Net tonight."
"Which one is that?"
"Pac Rim. We use the channel on the old Pacific Rim communications satellite that was dedicated to children of Vietnam veterans."
"Are there many still in the Net?"
"Not many, some grandkids. Now it's mostly a friendship network to show each other how we live and what we do. We all have portable video cameras that can remote to our PCs It's pretty interesting."
"Good. Is your coat dried out?"
"Yes, and it's nice and warm. Thanks for talking with me! Good-bye! Enjoy a peaceful 2010!"
Al Siebert studied mental health for over forty years. He is author of The Survivor Personality: Why Some People Are Stronger, Smarter, and More Skillful at Handling Life's Difficulties...and How You Can Be, Too.