[RoadtoPeace:] "Seeks reasons for terrorism in various aspects of religion, economics, history and psychology, stressing the complexity of the issue. The way out appears to be seen in equalizing opportunities, remedying historical injustices, and advancing independent thinking."
As you surely already know, making a difference in the world of violence involves more than applying a Band Aid here and there. Deep and significant cultural changes are needed world-wide. For this reason, RoadtoPeace is, and will be for a long time, a work in progress. Our primary purpose is to determine what might be done, what is most likely to work for the most people. We are now far enough along to codify some primary issues for dialogue with the expectation that cross-cultural dialogues having the purpose of moving from confrontations to celebrating our differences is a reasonable goal. Certainly, Iraq and Afghanistan must be put behind us. The world must swing the pendulum back toward togetherness instead of confrontation that only breeds distrust on all sides.
Means for bringing peace on earth are usually simple enough between individuals. Problems arise when their leaders, lusting for ever more power, employ divisive propaganda. A voice out of the past provides example:
"Why, of course the people don't want war... but, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliamentary or a communist dictatorship... voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger." - Hermann Goering, Nazi Commander, April 18, 1946
This is not to say that many today are consciously thinking in Hitlerian terms. So why are we acting like it? Could it be that such behavior is in our genes? The observations of Adorno , Milgram, Zimbardo, Altemeyer, and Dean support just that interpretation. Zimbardo adds mountains of data from his Stanford Prison Exoperiment that foretold Abu Ghraib with astonishing clarity. He implicates systemic factors in American culture as the main reason ordinary people turn bad, overnight--as droves also did in fact in Rwanda. Most of these systemic factors arise ultimately from our nature - nurture construct. See Natural History for how that came to be.
It is the Authoritarian Personality at root. Authoritarianism is both aggressively dominant and submissive psychologically, hierachy reigns in other words. Because of these two co-existing features, people readily fall in line under dictators. Milgram showed that well over half of his subjects (Americans from New Haven) were inclined to be authoritarian in various degrees. About one in 20 was so extreme as to be classified a sociopath without conscience! See Martha Stout for more on sociopathology.
Adorno was first to publicize this feature, Milgram demostrated that it was not limited to Hitler and the German populace, Zimbardo showed how profound it could be--Abu Ghraib conditions spontaneously arose in six days (at Stanford University in a psychology department experiment) under mock jail conditions. Altemeyer systematically showed how authoritarianism generally infects politics in North America and elsewhere. John Dean dramatically capped off this march of behavior by demonstrating how a clique of authoritarians ( Neocons) co-opted the proud party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt with disastrous consequences. If these tandem disclosures over a half century are not a wake-up call in their scientific consistency and danger for humankind, we have never seen one.
How this authoritarian personality arises in the first place is an interesting study. Our present position is that evolution favored both aggression and togetherness in our genomic behavior. Each genotype would comprise multiple genes, as many other features do. Acting together, they would evolve a balance between the two traits where, it turns out, aggression is four or five times as common in its expression as togetherness.
Social evolution has introduced a conscience, a conscience built into our genes, where individuals care about other individuals and are capable of empathy. Conscience fosters cooperation and peacefulness. But about one in 25 of us seem to have no conscience at all. When such a person is also charismatic, smart and ambitious, we have the makings of a dictator. Think about that for a moment. There are today, some 1.2 million sociopaths walking the streets of America. Many of them serve useful purposes of course. Many more leave battered spouses and children in their wake to perpetuate their kind. A few rise to high professional positions. In politics, they can co-opt the soul of a nation as Hitler did. They can also co-opt a corporation, political party, sports team, or religious movement. These are the dangerous few that rewrite history. And we know of no case where such rewriting was for the better.
It takes an open, receptive mind to "see through" and effectively counter sociopathic (authoritarian) propaganda. And this is doubly true of the media, whether the propaganda they report spews from the right or left of the political spectrum. The media too often simply report their own slant with closed minds. Or, worse, they blindly go along with others like a herd of sheep.
To counter bias and progaganda, each person needs a mind capable of thinking for him/her self and taking action accordingly. This requires nurturing early on toward that end. Our hope is to motivate such thinking.
On the face of it, religion holds all the keys for peaceful living. But monotheism is as much the problem as it is the cure. This is not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with living a life of faith. Rather it is because each monotheism time and again has been hijacked by extremists. When that happens, each hijacking has its own flavor, and each monotheism is at a different point in its evolution. The fact remains however, that since the days of Abraham, monotheism has not brought peace upon earth despite its good intentions and peaceful teachings. Sociopaths have given it a bad history.
A sincere and good Catholic friend of this site, when asked how he would bring peace, immediately replied: "I would do it with a firm belief in Christ and Christian principles." -- and that was that. When another friend asked why that has not already worked, given that Christianity has had two millennia to bring peace, our first friend did a double take. He immediately began a true dialogue about the fight over whose god is God and more. Our friend's response is rare indeed. Firmly fixed ideas (authoritarian) are much more common.
Extremism is an obvious but superficial root cause. What underlies extremism is more complex, much more. The potential comes from our "jungle / savanna heritage," from our genes in other words. And radicalizing triggers are present in most societies, the monotheisms especially, where individuals or even entire societies are humiliated or alienated to the point of desperation by individuals or societies in power.
When a society has been backed into a corner, or believes that it has been--for whatever reason, organized terror is a common result, war is another. Authoritarian behavior is sociopathic in its origins and effects. The problem is as complex as it is pervasive. And it is the primary danger of our times.
We invite all world citizens to join us in researching the causes of violence, pool ideas, and act individually and in concert toward peace on earth.
This web site has been redesigned with a view toward eventually enabling real-time oral translations so people of different cultures may converse feely on the question of how to bring peace to all world citizens. That will happen when the technology arrives to do so effectively and the world-wide political environment changes from one of fighting over differences to celebrating them.
Site Design Criteria
- Functionality: Speed, clarity, minimal gadgets
- Navigation: Conforms to leading edge
- Content: Factual, broad, novel, and unbiased as possible
- Approach: Reasonable, logical, inclusive
- Aesthetics: Pleasant, color coordinated
- Readability: By visually handicapped
We welcome feedback as this site is under continuous review. It is dynamic in that content changes in response to the terror situation, historical perspective, ongoing research, and visitor comments.
We do not knowingly link to sites so heavy in advertising that they are likely to be biased in an extreme degree. It does not suit our purpose. If you run across such a link from our pages, please let us know; we will remove them. Just drop a note to the publisher: email@example.com. Thanks in advance.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Saturday, March 01, 2008.