A Cautionary Tale

As we prepare to talk about a Canadian Peace Institute I submit the
following cautions.

--  Larry Fisk

"Inspiring Peace or Institutionalizing Passivity?:  Cautions Surrounding CPI"

Robert Stewart has provided an excellent summary of the strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) associated with the
establishment of a Canadian Peace Institute (CPI), so much so that I will
assume his summary as a given and raise four cautionary alarms growing out
of the submissions which he has so astutely digested for us.

(1) There are universities and colleges which have begun or are in the
process of commencing enlarged peace studies programs, including graduate
programs: for example, MSVU's graduate "Peace and Social Justice MEd option,
Royal Roads' proposed Master's program in "Peacemaking and Human Security",
and talk of a graduate program at Menno Simons' College (MSC) at the
University of Winnipeg.  There may well be others.  It should be a major
caution for us to weigh the potential negative impact of a CPI at the very
time that some universities, either by faculty enthusiasm or constituency
commitment are preparing to take up the absence of programs. (the Mennonite
community at MSC and the new Canadian Mennonite University, or the foreign
policy and peacekeeping communities at Royal Roads or Pearson Peacekeeping
Training Centre) .

(2) It is essential (IMHO) that any future Canadian peace institution not
replicate the high-energy, elitist or somewhat isolated structures of
previous peace research institutions around the world, which have had only
limited success because of-the enclosure of in-house research and research
fellows; research published in erudite periodicals like the Journal of Peace
Research and Security Dialogue for the eyes largely of other learned
professionals; practiced itinerant scholars flitting from one extensive and
expensive course to another; (example the European Peace University and its
three campuses).  Do we instead need to focus our attention on the everyday
conflicts of the street, the abused or war child, the divided communities in
our own neighborhoods, and do so in a manner which emphasizes piecemeal
skills instead of courses, and experience and opportunities rather than

(3) Relatedly, the location of a CPI may have negative, or certainly no
positive, impact on other universities, peace programs or conflictual
situations.  We may have to re-envision institutionalization itself so that
rather than an institute in one part of Canada (eg. Hamilton) which has no
real effect on Halifax, Winnipeg or Kenaston, Saskatchewan, we imagine a
de-centralized, largely de-institutionalized set of non-professional,
bottom-up agencies or agents.  We may have to build the worm's eye view of
process which inconspicuously knows and enriches the soil in which it lives:
the people who live in conflict, the small organizations and informal groups
of people who struggle to overcome injustices every day. The form of
research might be "counterfoil" or designed to undo what usually goes under
that name, directed by, with results returned  to, the disadvantaged and
sufferers of violence at all levels.

(4) Most of the language which goes into the vision of an enlargement of
peace education makes of us citizens of the world engaged in peacemaking,
human rights and environmental sustainability.  The down-side to all such
admonitions for "responsible global citizenship"is that universally we
become clients of the same goods and services which reduce us to adjuncts of
a hierarchical, consumer-oriented society. We do not make our own music,
direct our own learning, create our own peacemaking, instead we watch the
same superstar, attend the same compulsory schools and enlist in the
professionally orchestrated and certified courses and workshops parachuted
into our local communities.  CPI, in short, could become a major instrument
in the acculturation of even more persons into positions of wider social
control, done surreptitiously in the name of peace and justice.

- Larry J. Fisk
Menno Simons' College, Winnipeg, MB
September 25, 2000.

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Last update:  16 Oct 2000