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Updated 25 June 2007

Finding our way in perilous times must begin with tough questions, end with equally hard-nosed answers. Ashutosh Varshney, Associate Professor at University of Michigan single-handedly made a wonderful start.

His singular finding was:

Ethnic integration in all facets of society is the key to harmony.

Sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists addressing the following questions in like manner would provide "tons" of information:


  • Why is Tokyo the most-peaceful, large metro-area on earth? And why is Tokyo so many multiples more peaceful than Washington DC, Baltimore or Detroit?
  • Why is America more violent than Norway or Portugal?
  • Why does China have the oldest, least expansionist society on earth?
  • What are the effects of population pressures on violence?
  • Why do Nordic countries have high suicide rates with respect to many other counties?

  • Domestically:

  • Why are Honolulu and El Paso tens of times more peaceful than Washington DC, Baltimore, or Detroit?
  • Why do sparsely populated areas in the US have high suicide rates?
  • Why exactly does monotheism correlate so strongly with war, terror and poor education?
  • How can we avoid "crimes of obedience" that saturate societies? See Lucifer Effect and Milgam for more on this one.
  • How can we integrate and implement findings from new research?

  • Questions on species origins:

  • Where do our genes for dominance, herding and fierceness reside on the human genome?
  • Do the above genes cluster significantly for the authoritarian phenotype (in terms of behavior)?

  • On the "political" front:

  • Are blindness and disregard for the future intrinsic or extrinsic parts of the human condition?
  • Why do we elect politicians who exhibit these traits in the extreme? (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and New Orleans are type examples.)
  • Can we open our minds, excise the dogmas, myths, and practice celebrating our differences instead of fighting over them?

Is it not time that we begin looking in the mirror for our human blemishes that can be fixed--and then fixing them? "Propaganda" for any of the above is not viable. Neither is ignoring them. Anyone up for hiding his head in the sand?

Seriously, how can we move forward individually and/or in concert?

First, we must understand the root problem. For starters our research can be summarized by:

  • Terror arises from our genes (jungle heritage). This feature is at odds with peaceful living. But it can be solved, witness Tokyo and Portugal for just two examples.
  • On the individual scale, it is the sociopathic personality hijacking movements, religions, governments run by otherwise compliant authoritarian personalities. See Milgram, Zimbardo, Dean and Stout for details on how that works.

Having recognized that dynamic, certain avenues seem evident:

  • Integrate all levels of governance, local, national and international.
  • Create environments to prevent Alienation and Humiliation of individuals or groups.
  • Require public schooling to include teaching natural history, mythos, logos, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and history in coordinated fashion. Allow home schooling while requiring all youth to pass competence examinations in the above subjects as appropriate for their grade level.

To be sure, large portions of humankind live free of terror already. Buddhism is exemplary of a peaceful philosophy that is tolerant of and permits religious beliefs. It meets the above standards.

Monotheism and Plutocracy do not meet the above standards and moreover are implicated in violence by strong statistics.

William Pfaff, in 1993, made an interesting observation. In his seminal discussion of nationalism, The Wrath of Nations, he took the view that while nationalism is an idea whose time has come, it is by no means the end of human political development. While nationalism effectively replaced tribal, feudal, and theocratic institutions of governance, it is still at war with itself, pitting nation against nation. Something better has to evolve. It has to if humanity is to survive this millennium. He concluded that while civilization has progressed, " as such does not grow better....He progresses only by recognizing his nature, his misery together with his sublime possibility. A politics has to be built on that."

There are undoubtedly many missing pieces beyond these. The quest goes on.