Humans have developed many frames, or mental models, through which the world can be understood and possibly changed—for better or worse. Economics, race, gender, psychological, religious, cultural, ecological, various iterations of “science,” and other tools of description, analysis and action have been developed and refined over long periods of time. Homo sapiens have a prolific capacity for abstraction.
As my own thinking has evolved over a political lifetime of mostly antiracist focused thought and action, I have concluded that understanding the role of violence has received far too little attention. What happened first was that I became aware that my knowledge of settler colonialism and its impact on white identity and white power was woefully inadequate. Reading Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s 2014 book An Indigenous People’s History of the United States was a milestone and remains an indispensable resource. Along this path, I have written about settler colonialism in several articles including here and here.
Trying to discover more about white territorial conquest led to my becoming open to learning more about Indigenous ways of seeing the world. I am especially indebted to my colleague in the National Council of Elders (NCOE), Kathy Sanchez and other leaders of Tewa Women United for helping me find an escape hatch out of the exclusively white-way-of-thinking.
From that I began to comprehend how much five hundred years of Colonial human-on-human violence and human violence against other life forms defines our present reality. It’s not, of course, that Colonialism invented human violence. But it did embrace in profound ways.
The following is a snapshot of my understanding so far. I offer it with humility. But also with the experience of seeing its analytic and strategic benefit to the daily life and work of myself and others. In the spirit of peace, my hope is that this work in progress inspires reflection, dialogue and discussion.
This framework is not intended as antagonistic to more traditional ideas of pacifism, Satyagraha or other secular or religious philosophies of non-violence. The culture of peace also recognizes and acknowledges the paradox of the white way of excessively binary thinking in counterposing the CoP to the CoV.
Thus, looking at things as more arranged along continuums and less either/or, I also do not mean to dismiss the value of economic and other tools of analysis and action. That said, to the degree that adherents of those frames for understanding the world disregard or devalue the culture of violence, I doubt that they will get us to a place that can meet the challenge of the many existential threats that colonialism is now pressing upon us.
A brief work-in-progress comparison of the Culture of Peace (CoP) to the Culture of Violence (CoV)
The slogan no justice, no peace gets it backward. Peace is the key to justice.
Patriarchy + white supremacy + capitalism + violence*
28 generations since colonialism began
*Violence is the key variable because it is embedded within and required to enforce patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism.
A few characteristics of the Culture of Peace (CoP), (not in any particular order)
Seeks harmony among humans and with Mother Earth. Opposes violence against earth and animals, such as fracking, factory farming and hunting for sport.
Values heart, body and spirit, not just mind. Does not compartmentalize religion.
Seeks conflict reduction as opposed to its normalization as the inevitable dominant product of “human nature” (A self-fulfilling prophesy if ever there was one.)
Values sharing and the commons.
Respects and rewards kindness.
Seeks to prioritize truth and honesty.
Rejects punishment as the preferred form of ensuring socially desirable behavior.
Opposes the Second Amendment. (Note: the rest of the Constitution too, but that’s a longer discussion.)
Seeks new vocabulary to replace the dominant language affirming and normalizing all forms of violence.
Understands violence broadly as a continuum encompassing child, domestic, animal and ecological abuse, as well as warfare up to and including the use of nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons.
Understands that culture is more powerful than policy or politics.
Leans toward what’s good for the community is good for individuals.
Believes and acts as though violence, broadly defined is always the problem and never the solution. Or, put another way, there is no problem for which violence is the solution.
Supports the idea of Be the Change as a model for change. [change at a molecular level?] Recognizes that building a culture of peace within oneself enhances the ability to build the culture of peace with and among other living things.
A few characteristics of the Culture of Violence (CoV), (not in any particular order)
Supports making other people change as a model for social change. In other words, advocates coercive methods for change through the enforcement of policies and laws.
Values humans over all other life forms and seeks domination over all life forms, as well as some humans over other humans. (As in Genesis and many other expressions of human supremacy.)
Seeks to and mostly succeeds at suffocating within young people whatever inherent traits humans possess toward harmony and cooperation.
Pervasively generates and celebrates conflict for the sake of conflict, aggression for the sake of aggression and competition for the sake of competition.
Creates adversarial, as distinct from cooperative, systems of law, policy, sport, entertainment, politics and economics.
Selectively and opportunistically opposes violence some of the time. For example, condemns violence when used by certain types of protestors. Also seeks to disarm oppressed people and applies a right to self-defense to some but not others.
Depends on deceit, delusion and lies to perpetuate itself. More specifically, goes to great lengths to conceal the centrality of violence to the continued domination of the culture of violence itself.
Values mind over all else (heart, body, spirit). Attributes far greater capability for rational behavior to homo sapiens than actually exists.
Leans toward the view that individuals acting primarily for themselves will somehow benefit the community. Said differently, values individuals over community and the commons.
Excessively believes that technology will solve problems and thus over invests resources of all kinds in same.
Prioritizes spending on weaponry, incarceration, war and other forms of domination.
Values punishment, often called “accountability.”
Endorses dictatorial, individualistic and domineering forms of child rearing.
Consistently disregards the messages being given to us by pandemics, fires, weather events and other natural phenomena.
Fosters and vigorously defends secular and religious schooling curricula that promote the values of patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism and violence. (Note: We falsely create a dichotomy between spending for war and spending for education, failing to understand that the CoV education itself is designed to reproduce adherence to patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism and violence.)
Is stuck on old political left-versus-right vocabulary.
Requires hierarchical and unequal master/slave and or employer/employee systems of organizing work.
Supports and celebrates the unlimited and massively wasteful consumption of stuff. Considers metrics such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) the best measure of human achievement and progress. The canard, “it’s the economy, stupid” embodies two aspects of this view in emphasizing too much the economy over other things and in characterizing those who differ as stupid.