Peace In Our Time
We should do wise, caring, enlightened, clearly intentional, mutually supported, collectively aligned and functionally effective things as individuals and as groups to create and sustain Peace.
We are on some dangerous paths today.
We have very strong instincts to be tribal, hierarchical, territorial, acquisitional, and to be heroes and champions for our own groups that are creating some very bad behaviors and triggering some very dangerous conflicts in too many settings in our country today, and if we do not correct some of the paths we are on now, we could set up levels of long term divisions and inter group conflict that will make us just another multi tribal nation at war with itself.
We would not be alone in that space.
There are over 135 ethnic conflicts going on in the world today — and the people in all of those settings are doing bad things to other people and feeling entirely justified and even ennobled and affirmed by the bad things they do.
Syria is a tribal nation at war with itself. Iraq is a tribal nation at war with itself. Lebanon is a tribal nation at war with itself. Nigeria is a tribal nation at war with itself.
Somalia is a tribal nation at very bloody war with itself.
Ethiopia has tribes killing tribes who are killing tribes.
Majority groups in Russia, China, India, and Spain are all currently nations where a dominant tribe is running the countries and the dominant tribe in each of those settings is doing negative things to at least one other tribe in their turf and that damage is clearly going to continue in ugly ways in each of those settings for the foreseeable future.
The Uyghur tribal group in China is being damaged by the majority Han tribe that runs the country, and the people in the majority tribe in China believe that the Uyghurs are terrorists because the Uyghurs want some autonomy for their own ancestral tribe on what they believe is their own ancestral turf.
The Barcelonans in Spain face that same level of conflict. The majority Spanish tribe there who runs Spain is putting the Catalonian tribal members who want to have their own autonomy for their group in jail. One of the most famous antiwar works of art in the world — the Painting “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso — was actually a painful painting of an earlier episode of Catalonians wanting to be free and the majority Spanish tribe actually inventing the techniques of dropping bombs on them in purely civilian settings rather than grant freedom of autonomy to the Catalan tribe group.
They actually invented military plane bombing of civilians with that attack by the Spanish tribe on the other tribe in that lovely Catalonian city.
In Syria today, we see barrel bombs full of shrapnel being dropped on schools and hospitals to kill people who are not from the locally dominant Alawite tribe to keep their tribal control as Alawites over that territory. None of the bombs or the chemical warfare events that we see happening in Syria are being done by Alawites against other Alawites. It’s a very tribal situation.
Likewise, the ISIS horror shows that we have seen for much of the past decade in several countries has been done very much across tribal lines, and the ISIS militias have imprisoned, murdered, enslaved and even ethnically cleansed other tribal groups in their spaces when the get control over that turf.
They label that set of horrors in those countries as religious wars, but they have major tribal alignments in each of those settings, and the tribes and religions completely overlap when that conflict happens.
We see the exact same thing in Northern Ireland. Those are not theological debates in Belfast. The people killing each other there come from two very different tribes who do not intermingle, do not intermarry, and who treat any members of their tribe who aligns in any way with anyone from the other tribes as being traitors to their group and then tend to punish them fiercely because that’s what we generally try to do to traitors.
We are all very much creatures of instincts, and one of our strongest sets of instincts is to never be a traitor to our group. We instinctively hate traitors, punish traitors, and we each have very strong instinct triggered feelings that we personally never want to be a traitor to our own group.
That particular instinct makes creating Peace in America very difficult, because when we align ourselves here in our own tribes, we don’t want to be a traitor ourselves and we want to damage and punish anyone from our group who decides to do anything we believe makes them a traitor to our group.
We each feel very much that we don’t want to be a traitor — so that set of instinctive emotions and thoughts can limit what we do in our local settings to create and build Peace.
Tribal instincts have their benefit. We can create a positive sense of being Us in our tribes and being Us can feel very right and it can actually be a very good thing to be.
We are happier and have a sense of security and alignment and belonging when we are an Us.
But it’s far too often a bad thing to be Them.
We have very strong instincts to divide the world into Us and Them — and we think very differently about the people we define and perceive to be Us or Them.
We protect, support, enable, reinforce, and defend Us — and we tend to dislike, distrust, and even damage whoever we perceive to be Them.
In our larger patterns, we can too often feel no guilt in doing bad things to them.
In some settings, we enslave them.
When we do firebombs, we do the firebombs to Them. We have people in many settings in the world today — people in a significant number of those conflicted settings — who are actually strapping bombs to their own bodies and who are taking those bombs today
Into settings where they can be used to kill Them.
The number of people in those settings who firebomb their own group is tiny. People with those bombs strapped to their bodies are aimed at their Them and they tend to be regarded in their own groups as heroes and champions for killing and damaging their Them.
Win-Lose — Win-Win — Lose-Lose!
When we look at the possible sets of outcomes that we can have in inter group interactions, we know from long experience that there are three sets of possible outcomes available to us in inter group settings.
We can have a win-lose outcome, a win-win outcome, and we can have a lose-lose outcome for any interactions that have a possibility of winning as an outcome for the encounters.
Most athletic settings give us win-lose outcomes. Most wars seem to have similar patterns. Someone in those settings wins and someone in those settings loses. We actually have very strong competitive instincts — and those instincts tend to express themselves in games of various kinds when we are not in war settings and those instincts tend to trigger strong win-lose emotions, goals, and expectations for the people who relate to the teams and the events.
We tend to line up as fans to support our teams in our various athletic settings, and that fan connection and that team identity can be taken to such extremes that there are massive fences in many soccer stadiums in several countries to keep the fans of the various teams in those settings from killing or hurting each other during and after the games.
Some people fly to other countries as soccer fans to do violent things, and our instincts in that area are so strong that they feel like they are entirely appropriate in those emotions, thought processes and behaviors in far too many inter group situations and settings.
We all need to understand how that whole process works and we all should understand what we should do about it.
The very best outcomes for us to achieve in inter group situations is actually very explicit and intentional win-win outcomes.
If we can end up with both sides winning in a contested inter group setting, we can actually achieve real wins and we can do it in a way that enhances and protects the wins for everyone because they are safer and more substantial wins in a win-win setting.
We should look at those options from a purely intellectual and fundamentally strategic level that has all actually winning as our strategic goal.
Winning is a good thing.
We definitely all should want to win. Winning is good because it allows us to achieve our goals and to have positive outcomes for ourselves. When both sides win in a setting, and when each side helps the other side win in a setting, then the win is more likely to happen and it is also much safer and more secure, because in any setting where someone loses, that loser will want to change that status of being a loser in the future and that motivation by the loser to erase and reverse their loss will put your win at risk in future settings and times.
Also, the processes that you go through to create a win-win outcome generally both requires you to learn clearly about what your own win looks like and requires you to learn clearly what the other side and the other group in that setting perceives itself to want and to have as a win.
That process of creating win-win outcomes makes everyone smarter about themselves and about the other group, and when people in any setting are smarter about those kinds of issues, and factors, then the marvelous creativity of our brains can get collectively activated and we can often come up with better outcomes at multiple levels than the ones that would have happened for each group if they had been in isolation and simple contention during that same period of time.
Our wins are protected as well by that approach.
The likelihood of us losing diminishes significantly when we make that our strategy, commitment, and goal and the likelihood of having our win disappear in the future is lower if we have mutually achieved a win.
The very worst outcome for us all in a setting actually isn’t win-lose.
The very worst outcome in any setting happens where at least one of the groups is so angry and so negatively motivated that they aim the setting for a lose-lose outcome and situation.
Lose-lose happens far too often in the real world, because we have people who are so angry in inter group settings that they are sometimes willing to suffer pain themselves if they believe that the other side in the setting will suffer as well.
Sending missiles from your community into another community to hurt people there knowing that those people will then send missiles or their equivalent back into your community in response happens far too often — and we all have a sense of why that occurs and why the people who do it actually think it makes sense to do. They aim at lose-lose outcomes and the people with that set of goals and intentions too often make those outcomes happen.
On a personal scale, strapping a fire bomb onto your own body knowing that you will be blown up and burned and killed when you set the explosion off was happening more than once a day two years ago — so that way of thinking at an extreme level is clearly not hypothetical or theoretical in the world we live in now.
We Could Hurt Ourselves Badly at this Point in Time
We are at a very real level of risk right now.
We have functionally reached the point with our chemistry and with our physics that groups or people who hate can do major damage to other people or groups right now with very dangerous and destructive tools. We have the ability to engineer pandemics today that could destroy huge numbers of people and we can do things now with radioactive weapons and various kinds of poisons and chemical weaponry that can make major areas of this planet permanently uninhabitable.
We have people who hate other people badly enough to make those weapons and use them.
In our own country, we could far too easily make major cities unsafe and we could create armed enclaves in various settings that effectively are at war with everyone else — and our instincts in some of those areas are so powerful that the people making those areas unsafe will feel ennobled, empowered and totally justified In doing what they are doing because their tribe seems to benefit from that behavior and because they are so angry that those behaviors feel legitimate and appropriate and justified rather than obviously just being wrong.
We need to defuse some of that anger.
We need to get our leaders to help and we need leaders from every group to steer us back to intergroup Peace.
We need our faith leaders and our community leaders to believe that the American ideals can steer us into becoming an American Us again and to do win-win things for each other in obvious ways.
We need to help all children from all groups get the right start that gives everyone the chance to blossom and thrive.
We need to help children from every group get the kind of start that builds neurons by the billions into their brains in the first two years of life because of the epigenetic programming that every child has — and we need to do what we need to do to make that happen for children from every group.
We should personally each agree to truth.
We don’t need to define what is true, but we can each rise to the level of personally making the ethical commitment to not say anything in political or media settings that we know isn’t true when we say it.
We should want our grandchildren to grow up in a safe, values driven truth telling nation where people disagree but keep their word and agree to try to figure out win-win solutions where inter group issues are involved in what we are doing.
Tell our leaders that we want them to have those same standards.
Alpha Instincts Might Be Our Most Dangerous Instincts
The single most dangerous set of instincts we have in the world are probably the instincts that get triggered in too many settings by alpha status for people. Alpha status is extremely addictive. People in alpha positions want to hold them forever. Leaders of nations never voluntarily give up that role. Leaders of many organizations — including many faith groups — have similar reluctance to give up that role of being alpha with their group.
In most cultures, men tend to be heads of families. That role has its own rewards and expectations and has its own addictive engagements with the neurochemicals of our brain — and people inside families tend to feel strong loyalty instincts for whoever they designate to be in that role for their family — so we need to recognize those sets of behaviors when they are happening.
Wolf packs, lion prides, and chimpanzee clans have similar hierarchical roles and ambitions, and the alpha in each of those settings is often willing to fight to the death rather than surrender that position.
Alpha leaders sometimes gain support by creating conflicts that cause their own group to unite around them — and for all of those settings, a primary trigger for fighting very often is turf. Lion prides, wolf packs, and human settings all tend to have turf components and both the wolves and the lions mark their territory with chemical indications of proximity and of positional power.
Being in a group that has a group leader isn’t a bad set of behavior for people, but we should understand it, recognize it, and make it work for Peace by insisting as members of the group that the leader of each group have those values and behaviors in order to continue to have our support.
We actually can steer leaders to higher levels of behavior if we do it intentionally because leaders tend to want our support as part of their package and we can give it if they do enlightened things and if we are clear in our expectations about the directions we think they should steer.
Let’s start by agreeing that we should make our communities the right places and the safe places that we want them to be and we should make it clear to each other that we actually do want everyone to do well and succeed.
We can all win.
There isn’t a finite number of wins in the world. There are enough wins for everyone, and we should collectively steer in that direction and we should put us all on the right paths at multiple levels of our settings and our lives.
Let’s have this next year be a year where we start coming together again as a nation and as a people.
The high ground is open.
Let’s rise to it and let’s use it very effectively and very well.
Check out the things that might help below — starting with helping all of our kids.
We should live in a nation with great and continuously improving health care, excellent schools, safe cities, and a great pride in being an American Us.
Science is on our side. Let’s use it to build the right world for the right reasons and do it in the right way.
In our time.