This Is America

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We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Education, grounded in such a comprehensive scientific understanding, has the power to
change the current explosive situation in the world, and to help humanity address
pressing issues of justice in a fast shrinking world without violence, with wisdom and
through collective consultation.
While most young people negotiating identity today are seeking to overcome the narrow
tribal identities that their respective groups offer them, and feel disillusioned with the
prejudicial and socially unjust nature of their societies, relatively few have viable models
of what it means to embrace a larger humanity, and to identify oneself as a citizen of the
world human family.

21st century suggests that essential to a viable education for the future  is incorporating the principle of the oneness of humankind across school curricula. Such an approach would help young people during the crisis of adolescence to negotiate their unique individual psycho-social identities in the reassuring context of a larger understanding of being primarily members of the human family, and sharing with others the same basic strivings.

We are members of a human race that possesses the knowledge required to feed itself and
to provide education and a life of relative health, comfort, and cooperation for all in the
context of a globally peaceful and ecologically sustainable planet. Yet, we are still
polarized and compartmentalized, torn by racial, ethnic, and class hostilities, religious
and sectarian antagonism, and competing special-interest groups and ideologies and
steeped in politics as usual, lacking the collective will to extricate ourselves from this
quagmire
“many of the mechanisms of adjustment which once made for evolutionary
adaptation, tribal integration, national and class coherence, are at loose ends with a
world of universally expanding identities. Education for an ego identity which receives
strength from changing historical conditions demands a conscious acceptance of compartmentalized, torn by racial, ethnic, and class hostilities, religious and sectarian antagonism anywhere with a new fund of meaningful continuity”
no human being (of any race) can be less closely related to any other human
than approximately fiftieth cousin, and most of us (no matter what color our neighbors)
are a lot closer. Indeed this low magnitude for the lineal compass of mankind is accepted
by the leading geneticists; and it means simply that the family trees of all of us,
of whatsoever origin or trait, must meet and merge into one genetic tree of all humanity
by the time they have soared into our ancestries for about fifty generations”
“Man, today, is a victim of his own political, cultural, social, economic,
ideological, and psychosocial constraints and his extreme prejudice, although he has at
the same time become the sole representative of life in that progressive aspect and its sole
trustee of any progress in science, the technology of the future. But he must release
himself from this bondage”
Enemy images have always been rooted in the human need to define a sense of identity
with reference to a particular group or tribe. Those that we perceive as different from our
tribe, can easily be seen as threatening. Under such circumstances, the natural human
need to belong transforms into the phenomenon of tribalism – a reactive hardening of
boundaries, which “insulates and defends ‘me and mine’ against what appears to be an
overwhelmingly complex and threatening world” .  This exclusiveness
and hostility of “us” toward “them” encourages people to retreat into fortified enclaves
has led to much suffering in human history.
With the evolving social organization of life on the planet, boundaries of belonging have
steadily expanded from family and clan, to tribe and nation. As humans struggle to
negotiatetheswiftly-shifting boundaries and expanding global commons of life in the

21 st century, individual identity formation is still construed according to primarily
national, ethnic and socio-economic distinctions, which characterized the 20th centuty.
These limited identities have produced much strife in the 20th century; however, people
do not yet have larger frames of reference to assist them with more inclusive identity
groupings in our global age.
As Erik Erikson observed almost fifty years ago, individual ego development in the
lifespan is shaped by “compelling social prototypes of good and evil”, by “images
[which] reflect the elusive nature of historical change”, are shared by people who share
“an ethnic area, a historical era, or an economic pursuit”, and “assume decisive
concreteness” in the individual’s life. These images, which Erikson sees as based
on the way a particular group organizes geographic and socio-historical experience, and
economic goals and means, offer “a limited number of socially meaningful models” for
the formation of identity.
Despite the fact that we are steadily moving toward a global community, there is still a
conspicuous absence of new and more meaningful models of identity formation in our
global age. Hence, the explosive encounters of cultures and worldviews, and the
difficulties with tolerance as a result of the often overwhelming experience of multiplicity
and uncontrollable change. The tragedy of September 11 and the subsequent intensified
polarization between the ideologies of East and West, as well as the growing chasm that
divides the Global North from the Global South, are examples of the difficulty the world
is experiencing in transcending fragmented and partial worldviews, and integrating them
into a larger collective sense of belonging.
The challenge to those of us who set a very high priority on moving
towards peace is to induce more of our colleagues and our fellow
citizens to agree with us—and to bring our skills and resources to bear
on government without the support of a national consensus.

 

Enemy images are an essential part of the culture of war that has dominated human
societies since the beginning of recorded history.  Enemy images are used to justify the
violence of war and oppression.  They are used to justify the secrecy and hierarchical
authority that characterize the culture of war.  Not only are enemy images used to justify
war against other nations, but they are also used to justify oppression of people within
countries.

Peacemakers often work on reducing weaponry, an essential step toward security.

But building a lasting peace requires that we change not only our weapons but
also our ways of thinking. Just as we need to dismantle weapons, so too do we
need to moderate the enemy images that limit our thinking about security that
fuels tension and war. One of the best ways of moderating enemy images is
through education that analyzes the psychology of enemy images, that engages us
in experiential learning about our own hidden biases and assumptions about our
enemies, and that increases our awareness of and resistance to the harmful effects
of enemy images.
As we enter the 21st Century, nonviolence has yet to reach its full potential.  Both Gandhi
and King were assassinated.  In India independence was marred by a bloodbath between
Hindus and Muslims and the splitting off of Pakistan.  The movement begun by King has
yet to reach its goals of racial equality in America.  Enemy images continue to be used by
those seeking dominance in the world today, including the anti-Islamic language of
American militarism and the anti-American language of Islamist sects.
We have a long way to go to achieve social justice through nonviolence and to replace
enemy images by the tactic of “weaning opponents from error by patience and
sympathy.”
 Nonviolence is central to the movement from the culture of war to the culture of peace.
It has become clear to more and more people around the world that war and the politics
of violence must be replaced.  Nonviolence as a viable alternative to the culture of war
was developed by Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for justice in South Africa and then in
the campaign for independence from British colonialism in India.  Gandhi based
nonviolence on the principle that we must have no enemies, only opponents whom we
must try to “wean from error by patience and sympathy.” He proved that the refusal to
have enemies can be a powerful tactic in struggles for social change.
As Gandhi explained it, we must distinguish between a man and his deed.  “Whereas a
good deed should call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of
the deed, whether good or wicked, always deserves respect or pity as the case may be.
Hate the sin and not the sinner.  …it is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to
resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. For we are all
tarred with the same brush, and are children of one and the same Creator…”
Martin Luther King, Jr. was inspired by Gandhi to employ nonviolence in the American
Civil Rights Struggle, and his description of non-violence is perhaps the clearest ever
made.  He, too, emphasizes that we must have no enemies, but only opponents whom we
seek to convert to the truth:
 “First, it must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for

cowards.  It does resist.  If one uses this method because he is afraid or merely because he
lacks the instruments of violence, he is not truly nonviolent.  This is why Gandhi often
said that if cowardice is the only alternative to violence, it is better to fight. …while the
nonviolent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his
opponent, his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his
opponent that he is wrong.  The method is passive physically, but strongly active
spiritually.  It is not passive non-resistance to evil, it is active nonviolent resistance to
evil.

“A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to

defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The

nonviolent resister must often express his protest through non-cooperation or boycotts,

but he realizes that these are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a

sense of moral shame in the opponent … The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of

the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

“A third characteristic of this method is that the attack is directed against forces of

evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil … We are out to defeat

injustice and not white persons who may be unjust.

 “A fourth point that characterizes nonviolent resistance is a willingness to accept
suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back.
“A fifth point concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external
physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only
refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence
stands the principle of love …
“A sixth basic fact about nonviolent resistance is that it is based on the conviction
that the universe is on the side of justice. Consequently, the believer in nonviolence has
deep faith in the future. This faith is another reason why the nonviolent resister can
accept suffering without retaliation. For he knows that in his struggle for justice he has
cosmic companionship …”
Psychologists have studied several aspects of the process of attributing motives for the
actions of others. One that deserves particular attention in the context of international
relations is the role of ignorance. It is difficult for people to take into account the
situational pressures experienced by a nation in a particular situation if they are unaware
of all the actions of the nation in the situation or of the reasons put forward by the nation
for its actions. It is difficult for people to view an apparently hostile action performed by
a nation as being motivated by defensive considerations if they are unaware of previous
situations that the nation might have been involved in that may influence the responses of
that nation. It is difficult for people to overcome their enemy images and be open to
peace gestures by a nation if they are unaware of earlier gestures of peace made by the
nation or of earlier situations in which the nation worked cooperatively with their own
nation.
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