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|Jan. 22, 2003. 01:04 AM
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of a gun no way to peace
The Hamilton Spectator
The human species suffers from moral dementia. We live
in a culture of violence and pursue delusions of peace.
I realized this on Christmas Eve as I listened to a
radio newscast rife with examples of humanity's
obsession with weapons and war, followed by a report on
the progress of Santa and his sleigh full of gifts for
children around the world. How do we reconcile these two
extremes? How do we, as a species, come to suffer from
such moral contradictions?
Scibelli, the Associated Press
Anti-war protesters rally against the
possible war with Iraq during a
demonstration outside Kirtland Air Force
Base in Albuquerque, N.M., last weekend.
The U.S. military budget for 2001 was more than $396
billion, an amount greater than 18 per cent of their
total federal budget. This despite the reality that when
one measures a country's level of inequality between the
rich and the poor, the United States ranks 71 out of 112
(UN Centre for Human Settlements, 2001).
Canada is the sixth largest military spender of NATO's
19 members, and 16th largest in the world. On the
inequality scale we rank 23rd. According to the Center
for Defense Information, an independent, not-for-profit
research group based in Washington, our total military
budget is over $12 billion, an amount that is $3 billion
more than the combined military spending of Cuba, Iraq,
Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
American military researchers have been exploiting
questionable loopholes in existing arms convention to
developed new non-lethal weapons. One, nicknamed
"the people zapper," fires electromagnetic
beams which heat water in the skin, much like a
microwave oven does. Scientists believe the system could
heat the skin of a human target to 130 C in two seconds.
Another weapon uses lasers to temporarily blind and stun
an enemy or cut through metal to disable vehicles. A
third type includes gases like the one that killed
terrorists and over 100 hostages in a Moscow theatre.
Conventional weapons are also undergoing creative make-overs.
New technologies known as Metal Storm include an
unmanned aerial combat vehicle that can fire a 50-metre
wide carpet of grenades for almost three kilometres with
less than five metres separation on impact. A new Metal
Storm multi-barrelled machine gun can purportedly fire
500,000 rounds a minute.
Imagine the possibilities.
There are some 35,000 nuclear weapons on our planet,
5,000 of which are on high alert. They have become so
much a part of our reality that a whole new generation
of "bunker busting tiny nukes" were featured,
not in some arms dealer's glossy publication, but in the
October 2002 edition of Popular Mechanics. These are
weapons that should be inconceivable to any truly
Only a culture of violence can produce children who will
grow up to invent such efficient, mechanized ways to
kill other people's children. We need to stop believing
and teaching our young that security comes from the
barrel of a gun. If we don't teach peace, someone else
will teach violence.
Several months ago, I attended a Peace Education in
Canada conference held at McMaster University. As a
citizen, parent and educator, I was inspired by the
people I met and the knowledge I gained. Two
presentations were especially enlightening and deserve
Professor Katherine Covell, from the Children's Rights
Centre of the University of Cape Breton, offered a
promising approach to cultivating a culture of peace.
Rights-based education teaches students about their
rights and responsibilities according to the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is delivered
in a democratic, values-based fashion with a positive
teacher role model who encourages critical thinking,
inquiry and discussion.
Empirical data show that the benefits of teaching young
people about their rights and responsibilities are
numerous. Students demonstrate greater sensitivity to
others, greater empathy and tolerance, improved
behaviour, and increased self-esteem. They express a
greater appreciation for equality, education, health
care, and their safety and protection.
Schools involved in rights-based programs report a
reduction in violence and vandalism. Their students
raise questions about government and societal
responsibilities for the poor, homeless, child abuse,
drug use and violence. Results were especially promising
with adolescents who tend to practise what they
experience, not what they are told.
A second hopeful example was from Dr. Gavriel Salomon,
co-director of the Center for Research on Peace
Education at the University of Haifa in Israel. He
described a project involving Israeli students.
(Ironically, Palestinian children were unable to
participate because of the ongoing violence.) The study
involved two groups of students; one that received no
special instruction and one that was taught a two-week
unit on Northern Ireland that included the turbulent
history and current sociopolitical situation there.
Following the course, both groups were asked to write an
essay on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis from an Israeli
perspective. All students had no difficulty writing
full-length essays. Both groups were then asked to write
a second essay on the same topic, but this time they
were to write from a Palestinian perspective. Of the
students who had learned about Northern Ireland, 95 per
cent wrote full blown essays. Of the control group who
did not learn about Northern Ireland, only 25 per cent
could put pen to paper and not one student wrote more
than eight sentences.
Imagine the possibilities.
In her address to the participants, Dr. Joanna
Santa-Barbara, a Hamilton psychiatrist and president of
Physicians for Global Survival, summarized the goal of
peace education: "We don't need to teach everyone
about everything, we just need to learn to live together
without resorting to violence."
Much of what we currently do in the name of peace is
"crisis response" and because our peace
efforts are not ingrained, not culturally rooted, our
attempts wilt and fade. It is not enough to replace
unstable wars with unstable peace.
We cannot be fooled into thinking that peace will ever
come through the use of violence. The struggle for peace
is not a political one. As one conference participant
stated, "We cannot teach peace from the left or the
right. We must teach it from the heart."
If we believe that every person is born with the
potential to live peaceably, then we believe in world
peace. We must share the optimism of the peace activist
who said, "I won't believe that peace is not
possible until we have spent as much on fostering peace
as we have spent pursuing war."
Marika Ince lives in Waterdown and is a freelance