"Is something wrong with this picture?" 

Dear Readers,
I received a message from a visitor to my web site that I thought you might
be interested in (see below) basically asking a question that we have all
probably asked ourselves, "Is something wrong with this picture?"  My
response follows.  I would be interested in your comments. 

Regards,
Bob Stewart
============================================
----Original Message-----
I read about your "working group on a culture
of peace." (reference http://www.peace.ca/copp.htm#objectives )

I am concerned that people might be promoting
peace by working at the wrong level.

I wonder if a more effective way to approach
the problem is to study and overcome the root
causes of warfare and hatred.

From our studies of conflict in Northern
Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan, Cyprus,
Sudan, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Tibet, India,
Phillipines, Indonesia, Nigeria, it is
obvious that the root cause is often
religious intolerance. Rwanda seems to have
been more of a tribal/cultural/ethnic
conflict. But the other "hot spots" seem to
have a firm foundation of religious
intolerance.

It seems to us that if there were a major
promotion of religious tolerance --
particularly between Christians and
Mulsims -- that the world would make a major
step towards peace.

Our web site is rated by Hitbox.com as the
largest religious web site on the Internet.
If you ask an Internet search engine for
listings of web sites dealing with religious
tolerance, our site will typically be found
in five of the top ten citations. Our four
person, multi-faith group is currently
pouring the equivalent of two full time
employees into the maintenance and expansion
of this web site. But for the first four
years of our existence, we accumulated
financial losses. This year, we have started
to make a "profit" and will probably be able
to change the status of our employees from
volunteers to paid staff, earning perhaps
$1.00 an hour; a very small fraction of
minimum wage.

Is something wrong with this picture.
Shouldn't the world be able to afford to pay
more than $1.00 an hour to four dedicated
employees who are working on the main cause
of conflict?

Sorry for the outburst. Just feeling bitter
this morning.

Regards

Bruce Robinson
Coordinator
http://www.religioustolerance.org


Dear Bruce,
Thank you for your message.  I agree with you in many respects:

Intolerance is one of the (if not THE) major root causes of conflict and
violence.  Of course, there are other major root causes of violence
depending upon what level you are looking at, such as U.S. foreign policy,
power dominance, paranoia, coveting of resources such as oil and diamonds
(and food and water, etc.), transnational corporations seeking profit, the
arms industry, existence of nuclear and biological weapons, competition,
lack of peace education in schools (and after), religious/cultural and
political ideologies, the media, alcohol and drugs, family dysfunction, male
machismo, difference and indifference, etc.  Many of these come back and
manifest themselves in intolerance.  Achieving peace is a problem of
convergence of many issues of dilemma, not just one (unless that one thing
is "I want it my way").

It is a paradox that something as important as peace (what could be more
important?) is valued so little in our society.  Or should I say that other,
more tangible things/rewards, are valued more (like getting it my way)?
Achieving peace requires a lot of work, resources, understanding and
patience - and the payoff seems relatively intangible: a state of peace
(nothingness?, certainly not getting it my way but compromising instead).
On the other hand, if I use my power then I can get what I want (instant
gratification) from others a lot easier and without compromise (often its
money, but it can also be self-esteem, sex and other forms of domination).
It is even easier to get with a gun (as long as my gun is better than the
other guy's and the risk is acceptable).

If we as a society valued peace, then we would have a federal Department of
Peace with a mandate to provide direction and capacity to achieve peace (not
to be confused with Utopia; refer here for a  proposal on a Dept. of Peace). 
We would have peace education formally in
our school curriculums.  We would have a pre-eminent Centre for Peace
Education in our countries.  It would be part of the election platform.  The
cost of violence would be prominently reported and monitored, along side our
investment in peace and non-violence and results achieved.  Governments,
corporations and other large organizations would have regulated Codes of
Conduct and Ethics that support a Culture of Peace.  Activities of
corporations/organizations and the media that promote violence would be
taxed to raise resources to invest in prevention programs.  Our countries
would be working in good faith for effective United Nations reform.  Peace
heroes would be honoured.

Are we promoting peace by working at the wrong level?  Generally, I do not
think there is a wrong level - every contribution that anyone makes towards
peace is right.  There are different ways that a person or organization can
make a contribution, and some are more effective than others.  What we need
to do is to get everyone making their contribution, however small, according
to their abilities.  There needs to be a top down and a bottom up approach
(and side to side).  First, let us agree that peace is achievable (the
Carnegie Commission concluded "it is not that we do not know what to do - it
is that we do not act").  It would obviously be easier if the top (i.e. our
government leaders) would get their act together and provide the leadership
necessary to achieve peace in our countries and world.  Until that epiphany
happens, we must rely upon a groundswell from the bottom up.  The Internet
gives us the most important tool for making that a reality (including a
network where people of like-mind, like us, can get support from one
another).  The UNESCO Culture of Peace Program gives us a credible process
to activate the masses.

It is not going to be easy.  It is frustrating to have this knowledge
without the power to make it happen faster.  But we must have the optimism
that speaking this 'Truth to Power' will make a big difference.  I believe a
lot of good things are happening.  The great majority of people have
positive feelings towards peace, and it is truly a minority that are really
screwing things up for the rest of us (for example, in Colombia less than 1%
of the people have guns but they are making life dangerous and miserable for
the other 99%).  I believe the awareness rate around the world is increasing
exponentially (thanks in great part to the Internet).  I believe the masses
are getting wiser to how our governments and other organizations are not
fulfilling their relationship responsibilities, and are not going to let
them get away with it much longer.   However, time is of the essence (i.e.
nuclear weapons + depleted natural resources = systems crash within the next
generation if something is not done).  Hopefully, this will motivate the
necessary change.

I am sure that your work is making an important contribution to building a
Culture of Peace.  Thank you for this.  We are part of the largest
organization in the world - the peace community.  As it inevitably becomes
more unified and pulling in the same direction, I am optimistic that world
peace will go from being a vision to a reality.
Regards,
Bob Stewart
http://www.peace.ca

see also http://www.peace.ca/formula.htm and
http://www.peace.ca/appendixb.htm and http://www.peace.ca/copp.htm