I was recently asked to write an article on what a culture of peace means to me for UNITY, a Chinese publication. Below was my reflection.
When I dream about a culture of peace I immediately reflect on a black and white image of people marching down a street with signs in their hand. I also think about 7.5 billion individuals adhering to the principle of non-violence and living in a world as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Gandhi and King would ask us to be blind to differences and see ourselves in each human being we meet. Living in a world where everyday each human strives to live up to those expectations is my personal vision of a culture of peace. I instinctually understand having a culture of peace means different things to different people: it’s generational, it varies by age, geographical location, family history, cultural history, and one’s own personal set of experiences.
To have a culture of peace, that in itself implies a collaborative effort. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, as a noun, culture is defined as a way of thinking, behaving and working that exists in a place or organization. As a verb, culture is described as the maintenance of (cells, bacteria, tissue) in conditions suitable for growth and/or to grow something in controlled conditions. What is needed is the collective establishment of conditions for cultural growth to occur as defined by all parties involved – whether it is in a family, a society, organization, or country.
Above all, patience is needed. As all humans are different in their each individual growth process, similarly, so are societies and communities different in their growth and evolution. We cannot expect a man or woman to suddenly change or evolve, nor can we commit that expectation to a society.
As the eternal optimist, I think there continues to be much progress in this area, however, I think a culture of peace can be much further developed through education of differences, love, tolerance and compassion. Similar to Dr. King and Gandhi, people have to be motivated by something beyond themselves to move forward. For me, having a culture of peace is a continued awakening of human beings to a higher level of consciousness, and that there is a continual awakening with each successive generation.
A culture of peace, doesn’t mean something as utopian as the end of crime or hatred. It does mean that with each new generation there is a collective intelligence that is used to help our children to think and act differently to fear and power so we see progress with war, crime against women, the use of our natural resources, capital punishment and even how people treat themselves.
More importantly, a culture of peace embodies within each generation an increased sense of humanism to find more innovative ways to handle conflict and that people, collectively, are indeed committed to strive to live up to their own expectations of non-violence.