Publishing The 100th Monkey

A Soviet peace worker's story of finding the power to act

One of the articles in USSR/USA (IC#15)
Originally published in Winter 1987 on page 32
Copyright (c)1987, 1997 by Context Institute

Vladimir Shestakov is actively involved in creating a humane, sustainable future. He is an ecologist by profession. A mutual friend had asked him to write an article for this issue, which I was supposed to pick up during one of my trips. During my day in Leningrad, I frantically tried to reach him by phone, without success. As evening came, I decided it was hopeless and decided to go with another friend to meet a "Volodya." During the course of the evening, I suddenly realized that "Volodya" (his Russian nickname) was Vladimir.

But this was just the start of the evening’s surprises. Our mutual friend had been vague about which American magazine the article was for. When I mentioned that I was working on an issue of IN CONTEXT magazine regarding U.S. – Soviet citizen diplomacy, Volodya leaped up, pulled out his nearly completed article, and, going to his bookcase, pulled out the dog-eared first issue of IN CONTEXT. "This is my favorite magazine," he said. "Look." Volodya had made careful marginal notes and comments next to nearly every article of that issue on "Being A Planetary Villager." I had a sudden sense of vertigo at the thought of how truly small the world is, and the degree to which synergy affects my own life. This was enhanced when I read Volodya’s article and discovered that Anatoly Belyayev played an important role in Volodya’s work.

– Diana Glasgow

My American friends have offered me the opportunity to tell about my personal experience of involvement in the peace movement in the Soviet Union.

Prior to November 1982, I existed on the individual level of consciousness, believing that politics is made by big bosses to whom we have delegated part of our free will and choice, and lay people like me cannot influence it; hence there’s no need to be interested in it. Like many of the people in this country, I was sure that our government was doing its best to safeguard peace, and that it was their duty, not mine.

In November, I met a charming mother of three children at a meeting at the House of Friendship. She gave me a book entitled The Hundredth Monkey by Ken Keyes. There were tears in her eyes when she spoke about the future of our children. She insisted that I read the book at once, which I promised her I would. At that time, I had several books to be finished first, and I was going to put it away and read it later. But on the way back in the metro, I opened the book at a random place, began to read… and missed my stop.

That very night I finished it and couldn’t fall asleep, feeling that something radical should be done that transcends individual limitations. I was sorry for my numerous friends who knew no English and couldn’t read the book, so I decided to translate it for them. For some time, it circulated in this form, and more and more copies appeared like mushrooms after rain. And yet, there weren’t enough of them to satisfy the ever-growing interest and demand. Then I decided to make an attempt to publish it.

I gave the translation to a famous poet who is the chief of the Leningrad branch of the Peace Committee. The result surpassed all my expectations; that very evening, he telephoned me, overwhelmed with impressions, and told me that he had already thought about similar things. He read his verses over the phone. He recommended that I send the translation to XXth Century and Peace, the printed organ of the Peace Committee. It was my first experience of how sincere books open the hearts of honest people.

When I was in Moscow, I telephoned Academician Chazov, the Co-chairman of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and he suggested that I mail it to him. This I did, and he forwarded it to the Editor-in-Chief with his comments.

And then a small miracle happened. The very same day the copy arrived, Britta Zetterberg, co-author of the book, turned up in the editor’s office with a copy in English. The editor called and promised that a shortened version of the book (due to size limitations on the magazine) would be published in one of the forthcoming issues. The promise was fulfilled, and the book appeared in #12, 1983.

It was a good lesson. It taught me that each one of us can do a little bit more than we had thought we could before, and that there’s no disagreement when we speak about survival. One person, even a president, cannot change the world. But if each of us does a little bit more than we have done, it will result in a confluent stream of powerful action that may bring serious positive changes on social and global levels. When an individual’s consciousness changes, and he or she begins to realize the utmost priority of peace work, the answer comes easily to the ubiquitous question, "But what can I do alone?" Our broadened consciousness tells us exactly what concrete actions we can undertake in any given context. According to the law of attraction, our activity sooner or later brings us into contact with like-minded people, and together we are able to perform deeds that are impossible for us alone.

So what do I think can be done by lay people? First, we can educate each other as to the consequences of a nuclear holocaust, which would invariably destroy the earth’s fragile ecosystem. (In keeping with that, I’ve translated The Nuclear Winter by Carl Sagan, abstracts from Jonathan Shell’s The Fate of the Earth, Nuclear Madness by Helen Caldicott, and so on.) Then, remembering that wars begin in human minds, we can work on destroying the image of an enemy and spread the truth about each other as human beings. Then there will be no pretext for spending billions more dollars on military programs, scaring the population with foreign threat.

We are not idle spectators. The question of the arms race is about our children’s life and death and about the future of all living matter on earth. It’s the foremost question of morality. Time impels us to make a choice, and the battleground is in our souls.

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