September 12, 2002, Episode Eighteen: War and Peace

With recent events, war and peace remain foremost in many of our minds.  Often westerners forget that violence and oppression is common in much of the world, and we forget the privilege we have of a relatively peaceful existence.  Yet our apathy may be our undoing.  Certainly our indifference allows our leaders to move towards violence and oppressionAlan Clements is one westerner who has seen violence and now works for peace.  We talked with him this past week about spirituality and activism.

An age-old question in sociology is how much of human behaviour is explained by biology and how much is explained by socialization.  This debate will most likely never be resolved because of the complexity of being human.  Clements's ideas stimulated some of our own as we contemplated why violence persists in spite of ideals such as love, freedom and justice.  It was a big topic, but this week we discussed war and peace. 



Sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote in his ominously titled 1958 book, The Causes of World War Three:

Quote, The issues of war and peace cannot be melted down into a na´ve psychology of "peace through better understanding among peoples." It is not the aggression of people in general but their mass indifference that is the point of their true political psychological relevance to the thrust toward war. It is neither the "psychology of peoples" nor raw "human nature" that is relevant; it is the moral insensibility of people who are selected, molded, and honoured in the mass society, close quote.

Violence, war and oppression remain rampant in the 21st century. Five Hundred years after Europe's renaissance, western civilization seems further away from the values of peace, tolerance, freedom and justice than ever. Is it human nature to be violent or are people socialized to hate, fear and hostility? Is it also in our nature to love, to be free, to do justice? Where are the peacemakers in this age of escalating violence?

Alan Clements is an American-born former Buddhist monk who spent a substantial chunk of the mid-1990's in Myanmar, then called Burma, working on the book The Voice of Hope with Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Soo Kyi. The book permits Westerners to hear of her experiences as a nonviolent resistor to the totalitarian regime in that country.

Alan brought his one-man show, "Spiritually Incorrect" to Victoria on Saturday, September 7th. We spoke with him by telephone on Thursday, September 5th, to find out a little more about the life of this activist who emphasizes the spiritual approach to social change.

While no longer a strict Buddhist, Clements treats his work with an approach rooted in Eastern philosophy and religion, the two being considered the same in that tradition. He looks at human identity as a process of becoming rather than being, and he abhors forces that work against that development. He stimulated our thoughts this week about War and Peace.

copyright by Pattie Thomas and Carl Wilkerson 2002


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