You can’t teach a drowning man how to swim, goes the old saying. First you have to pull him out of the water. In the preceding articles, we’ve looked both at the ways in which humanity has been drowning in militarism and at strategies for pulling ourselves out of immediate danger. Danaan Parry, on the other hand, is giving swimming lessons to those ready for even greater challenges.
As Director of the Earthstewards Network and its parent organization, Holyearth Foundation, Danaan and his partner Diana Glasgow have long been on the cutting edge of citizen diplomacy and conflict resolution. (For example, the Earthstewards were responsible for the historic meeting between Viet Nam and Afghan vets – see The Tracks of War in this issue) Earthstewards members receive a bimonthly newsletter, the Earthstewards Handbook, and access to their myriad trips and activities for an annual membership fee of $18. Contact them at PO Box 10697, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.
Danaan – a clinical psychologist by training – has taught a seminar called "Warrior of the Heart" to thousands of people. He is deeply concerned with creating a "way of the warrior" that doesn’t depend on militaristic support structures, and that uses the energy of the warrior in positive, life-affirming ways. He tells us both about his own history with regard to warrior ethics and the highly innovative projects being sponsored by the Earthstewards to promote a real and lasting peace.
Robert: Can you describe some of your background as it relates to the question of the warrior?
Danaan: I grew up in a little amusement park town on the coast of New Jersey called Keansburg. It was a tough little town, and it was a funny little town – in the summer it was 50,000 people and in the winter it was 4,000 people. So in the wintertime it was my ashram, because everything closed down. But in the summertime it was bananas – boatloads of people came over from New York, especially Brooklyn. We were in gangs, because you had to be in a gang in that world to deal with the gangs that came over from New York. At least we chose to.
So I grew up in a kind of schizophrenic environment of being calm and inward and quiet in the wintertime, and in the summertime being faced with lots of people and social dynamics that, especially in my male world, were fairly confrontive. And also very exciting. I enjoyed my childhood. I had a good time in the midst of all of that. I was the leader of our gang – we had leather jackets and we were a motorcycle club, except we didn’t have any motorcycles because we were only 13 years old. My maleness got some training there about the old definition of the word "warrior."
The next thing that comes to mind is the United States Coast Guard. I was a helicopter pilot, and maybe nobody else in the Coast Guard would agree with this, but for me it represented an unconscious transition to a new kind of warrior – flying that helicopter, rescuing people out of burning boats and crashed airplanes in a peaceful, life-affirming, even life-saving way. It took all of the energy and adrenalin that somebody on a battlefield would experience while killing people to save people. And that was an interesting transition point for me.
I spent the last year of my service as captain of a crash boat in New York Harbor, and that could possibly be described as the best year of my life. We had a 10-man crew, and our job was to rescue people whose boats had crashed or blown up, or whose airplanes had flopped into New York Bay.
We had to develop a team spirit, even though we were very different human beings and some of us didn’t particularly like each other. Our mission was clear, our purpose was gallant, if you will, and we developed a camaraderie and an intuitive knowing of one another that I have never experienced again in my life and have sought and yearned for. It was situational – it was the pressure of being at the controls of that 83-foot speed boat at two in the morning in the middle of a hurricane with zero visibility. I had to know that my radar man was doing his job, or we’d hit a buoy or a log or another ship and we’d all be dead. I had to know that the engine man was doing his very best so that I could use that boat to its maximum capability. I had to know that every one of those guys was on line – and they were. We could count on one another 100 percent when we were on the job. We might fight with one another off the job, but this was, as I say, a transition from one kind of warrior imagery to another, with all the bravado that our 21-year old male spirit was able to manifest.
Then I entered a long period of university education – in nuclear physics, then out of that, then back again to clinical psychology. That spirit of clear accomplishment, that feeling of being called to be 100 percent present to my life was not there. The university educational system doesn’t really call on that part of one’s psyche. It certainly didn’t for me – I got other goodies from it but not that, and I missed it.
That may also be the reason why, after having a private practice in clinical psychology for a couple of years, I got bored with feeling like people were so attached to their problems that they didn’t particularly want to let go of them. They wanted me to help them cope with what I considered to be a fairly mediocre existence, and I wasn’t willing to do that. I needed to find something that called on more of me and demanded more of me. So that was one – not major, but one – of the reasons why I left the world of clinical psychology and became involved in international conflict resolution.
My first job was on contract with the government of British Columbia to do conflict resolution work between the native tribes and the commercial salmon fishing industry. There was such hostility between the native fisherpeople and the commercial salmon fishers that they were burning each others’ boats. It was a situation – like flying that helicopter into the burning storm – that called upon me to give everything that I had in a situation where there was some life and death involvement, and where I was able to, at least in part, facilitate peace instead of war.
Robert: As you have gotten into these issues personally, have you also done some looking back at the historical roots of the warrior?
Danaan: Yes, I have. I found myself asking, "Why is war so attractive and peace so unattractive?" Even though so much of the world wants to live in peace – at least that’s what people verbalize – it doesn’t seem to happen, and there’s more going on than just "evil empires" and corrupt bureaucrats and governments and power-hungry dictators. There’s more going on because we all support it. Every one of us supports it, even those of us who claim to be in the peace movement. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, we are all colluding in keeping our world going in one direction and not in another direction.
So why is that? What’s going on in the human psyche? I guess I wanted to know some of the pathology that’s involved in being a human being. I began to go back in time to look at the warrior concept. At that time I didn’t even call it the warrior concept – it was that human need to feel alive, to feel vibrant and have our adrenalin flowing, even if it’s going to cost us our life.
In other words, my analysis of our human situation is that we would rather feel alive than be alive. Sometimes it kills you, to feel so alive out there on a battlefield somewhere, or in a corporate environment where it’s quite clear that you’re heading for a heart attack, and you don’t change your course because you are living in that stream of energy and aliveness. You wind up bargaining your life away for it.
Why is that? It seems to be a basic human need, and looking at some of the cultures that have a concept of the warrior that is not a John Wayne or a Rambo image of the warrior, I was able to see that this need can be met in many different ways.
For instance, in the Yaqui Indian culture (the Yaquis being the indigenous people of the Northern Mexico mountains, many of whom have migrated into the southern United States) there’s a concept of the warrior that is as ancient as the Yaqui Tribe itself. The warrior fills a very special place in the Yaqui culture, and one of the interesting things is that the warrior is nobody special. When you walk into a Yaqui village, you can’t tell who the warriors are. They’re not the ones with the big feathers or the fancy beads. They’re just like everybody else, grinding the gruel, eating the grain, taking care of the kids, collecting firewood. But the warriors in that tribe – only a small subset of the total tribal culture, both men and women – have as their job description, if you will, to bring change to the tribe. They don’t say the warrior creates change, because the Yaqui way of knowledge has it that change exists as an entity, and the warrior goes out and finds it. And change is related to newness.
Anyone who has read the Carlos Castaneda books knows about the two views of reality that the Yaqui have. One is the tonal, which can be described as the "table top" – like your kitchen table – where all of us in the tribe have piled our consensual reality. That’s everything we know, believe, hold sacred and dear, everything that is "true", and our consensual collusion is that nothing exists outside of that table top.
Well, the Yaqui say there is a greater reality called the nagual, which includes the table top, but it also includes everything else, all the way from your kitchen table out to infinity in all directions. The warrior’s job is to get her or his butt off the table top and go find out what’s in the nagual, however they can – physically, psychologically, spiritually. And at least as important is to bring it back and share it with the whole tribe, because it doesn’t become change until it is added to the tonal, the consensual reality. Then the tonal grows and expands. You might even describe the Yaqui vision of enlightenment as when the tonal meets the nagual – for everybody. It has to be a collective experience. When real change happens, it happens instantaneously and for everyone at once. When one person changes, everybody changes. It sounds like quantum physics, and I’m not surprised at that.
Robert: Clearly the Yaqui don’t use the English word "warrior." How did that activity get associated with our word?
Danaan: Primarily through the concept of risk. And challenge. And courage. The warriors in the Yaqui Tribe are looked upon as incredibly courageous beings to be able to embrace the unknown, because they acknowledge, as sometimes we don’t, that the unknown is a pretty scary place. Not just the physical unknown – I’m not talking about the warriors going to Guadalajara to find out what’s happening. It’s going into their own psyches. It’s going into those dark places in the collective consciousness of the tribe and ferreting out real newness.
That element of risk and courage and the ability to face the darkness is, for me, what puts them in the class of warrior. The risk is finding out something about ourselves we may not have wanted to know.
Robert: Are there some other historical examples of warriors, besides the Yaqui, who don’t fit the Rambo mold?
Danaan: Yes, plenty. I’m fascinated with definitions of "warrior" that come from different cultures. For instance, in mainstream Chinese Buddhism, the path of the warrior is one of the eight-fold noble paths, and the warrior in that system is defined very simply as somebody who has the courage to know himself or herself. They actually use the ideogram which directly translates to our word "warrior."
One might ask, "why does it take courage to know yourself?" Well the Buddhists are talking about the same thing as the the Yaqui, and that is not just knowing the nice things about ourselves, not just knowing that peaceful, blissed-out meditative thing that "I am" – but also knowing that violent-prone person. Not just knowing the Mahatma Gandhi in me, but also knowing the Adolph Hitler in me. Because knowing oneself is knowing all of oneself, including the dark recesses where we’ve been cramming things into our shadow since we were born, or maybe before.
And then there is the definition from Tibetan Buddhism, an even older definition, which says that the warrior is one who is willing to look at his or her own fear. A warrior is one who is willing to study that fear. And I’m fascinated that both of those rather ancient definitions of the word "warrior"have nothing to do with anybody outside of myself. Both of those definitions are totally internal.
Robert: These images of the warrior are certainly different from the image of Atilla the Hun or the Assyrians descending "like a wolf on a flock" – there are a lot of awful images of what human beings do in the process of war, both ancient and modern. How do you take these more personal and explorative images of the warrior from these various different cultures and apply them in the present time?
Danaan: Let me build into that by saying that the most important step in the process is to have the courage and the guts to look at the Atilla the Huns, the Adolph Hitlers, the Mussolinis, the Eva Peróns, and identify what’s going on that makes them so seductive. What makes that kind of energy so persistent in our human dilemma?
My sense of our view of peace is that peace is a reaction to war. It is not really a thing in itself. I think most people don’t have a sense of what peace is, because war has been and continues to be so horrible on the outside but, I sneakingly suspect, so seductive on the inside, that we are just scared to death to take a look at it, so we run to the other side of the room.
Gestalt therapy says that’s exactly the way to keep those polarities alive. If we want to maintain war, I submit, we are doing exactly the thing that will work to promote it. We are ignoring what it really is, and we’re running to the other side of the polarity and calling that "peace." I frankly don’t think that what we define as peace is very peaceful. I think it’s rather insidious.
Let me give a personal example. When I was a kid, I decided I would never be like my father. No way in hell would I ever be anything like that man. That is very different from deciding what I want to be and taking some kind of positive direction in my life. I said, "I don’t know what I want to be, but I am not going to be like him." Well, you and I both know what happens when you do that. I am very much like my father. Drives me crazy, you know. I think, God, I spent all these years trying to be this conscious being, and I look around and I see myself acting in so many ways that I swore I never would. That’s what happens when you try to ignore that energy and go to its opposite polarity. You live in a world of negativity which actually completes the circle, and you wind up being what you rejected.
We are, in fact, our own oppressors in that regard. And part of what has come out of that unwillingness and lack of courage to look at war square in the eye is that we have come to define peace as the absence of war. And what has happened in defining peace that way – and we don’t have to look very far in history to find this – is that peace is really defined as an interim between wars. It’s not just the absence of war, it’s like a time-out. It’s a time for us to crawl off the battlefield, have ticker-tape parades, heal our wounds, sharpen our swords and get ready for the next conflagration. That’s not peace. In fact, I submit that it’s part of the war process. It’s the valley of the war process instead of the peak.
But there is another definition of the word "peace" that I think is perhaps even more insidious, and that’s the definition of peace that includes some mental image of Nirvana – some idyllic vision that we’re all just going to hang around, smiling at one another, totally unconflicted. We’re all going to agree about everything, we’re all going to be vegetarian, we’re all going to just hang out in the hot tub of life and it’s going to be so nice. YUCK. That’s not who human beings are. And as long as we hold that up as an image of where we need to go to be peaceful, we will deny those forces inside of us that actually can bring us to peace. One of the reasons we deny them is that those forces feel very much like the forces we’ve associated with war.
Robert: As you describe this, I realize that what I want peace for is so that I can more effectively get on with the challenges that really fascinate me.
Danaan: Exactly! That’s the energy we have to free up.
Robert: The war process – compared to these other challenges – is a crude interference.
Danaan: That’s right – it’s a bother. It takes the energy from places we need energy.
When I got to Seashell Island in British Columbia to do this work in international conflict resolution – this is trivializing it to explain it this way, but the elements are correct – what I found was that the provincial government of B.C. had spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the commercial fishermen and the native population separate from one another. Because "being peaceful" means you don’t get in conflict with one another. And how do you not get in conflict? You avoid one another.
So they had gone to incredible lengths and passed all kinds of laws so these people would never rub up against one another. Well the solution of it, which we effected in less than four months, was to bring them together and let them rub up against one another, but in a milieu where they didn’t have to shoot at one another and burn each others’ boats. Let people argue, let people feel that energy and that dynamic and that power, but do it in such a way that you are directing the energy toward something positive.
The greatest harm that we can do is to work under that old definition of peace that says "just be mellow," because then you have to keep people from interacting. And I would submit that most of western culture is set up to do that. We need to start asking questions about how we perpetuate violence by the way that we try to keep the peace.
My work in Northern Ireland has shown me that the greatest power that the IRA and the UVF – the two warring paramilitary sides – have is their ability to isolate people from one another: to throw up walls, to collude with the British Army in building "peace lines." That "peace line" is the most unpeaceful act I’ve ever seen in my life, because it’s a wall that keeps neighbors from relating to one another. Now, that relating sometimes gets a little violent, and some people do get hurt. But the alternative is two cultures that are almost ready to go nuclear with one another. And the powers that be in both of those subcultures have been able to manipulate it so that nobody knows who the enemy is.
The enemy is this faceless evil over there on the other side of the wall or the water or the negotiating table, against whom it is our duty to protect ourselves. And how do we do that? Well, we kill them before they kill us. That’s how we defend our children. We make it self-righteous, and we attach our particular brand of God to it so that God is on our side, and the energy has been stopped. The flow has been halted, and that’s when things really get violent.
Robert: So, take the more positive aspects of the warrior energy – perhaps I shouldn’t even say "positive aspects," but rather the broader vision – and throw it into that milieu. How can that energy serve to bring the true change that the Yaqui talk about?
Danaan: It’s appropriate that you question the use of the words "positive energy," because it’s actually the same energy. The energy that we use to create war is the energy we need to make real peace. Because it’s just energy – it’s not good or bad- and if it can be transformed and redirected it can be the energy of peace. Right now, peace is not a better game than war. It’s boring. It has no charisma to it, it has nothing to look forward to.
In March we brought over a group of gang leaders, teen-age kids from Belfast in Northern Ireland, to Washington DC to train them in some conflict resolution techniques, because the only way to express leadership potential in Belfast is to be a gang leader. Dealing with them was one of the most intense experiences of my life. Because they’re not nice. And they don’t say "thank you very much" and give you a hug when you do something for them. Their training is to do something else for you. But it was so alive and so passionate to work with them. And again I felt I was being called upon to use every skill and bit of experience I had. I was perfectly sure we were on the right track.
Robert: What were some of the things that you did with those kids? What were some of the changes of direction, or broadenings of perspective, that you tried to help them develop?
Danaan: We worked in conjunction with George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, which has a conflict resolution department, and together with some of the leading people in conflict resolution in the country – for instance John Burton from the University of Maryland, who is world-renowned in international conflict theory. We held classes in the nature of prejudice, which for us meant black/white prejudice in the Washington DC area, so initially we did not focus on Catholic/Protestant, Scotch/Irish prejudice in Ireland. We let them see the prejudices we deal with in the United States. We brought in a small number of black counselors who work with black/white prejudices every day on the streets of Washington DC, who live it and know it and also teach about it. The folks from Belfast got to experience our dealing with prejudice and the "stuck" places that we Americans get into, and slowly that was broadened to include "what is the nature of prejudice, period?" Not just with color, but with anybody. And how do you create enemies? One way is to find somebody who’s different from you and project all of your darkness onto them.
We were able to get to the point where kids from IRA homes and UVF homes in Belfast were talking about the nature of their prejudice and learning something about it, and we Americans certainly learned a heck of a lot about our prejudices.
We put the Belfast kids through a ropes course – an intense experience on high wires and climbing up trees and swinging across on ropes. Again it has to do with feeling the energy and directing it in positive, life-affirming ways, because that sense of accomplishment and purpose and adrenalin flow gets really clear when you’re about 100 feet off the ground on a high wire. You’re all belted in and you’re safe, but your psyche doesn’t know that. What your psyche sees is a one hundred-foot drop, and you have to work with that and you have to ask for help.
Half of those people from Belfast were from the Catholic side and half were from the Protestant side. So in Belfast they’re sworn enemies, they throw fire-bombs at one another. Here they had to ask for help to get across that high wire, and then to ride a cable 300 feet to the ground, hanging on to one another, screaming and yelling for dear life, and laughing and feeling the same energy, the same rush that they get on the streets of Belfast when they’re sniping at one another. Riding that cable down to the ground, splashing in the creek together gave them the same high, the same passion for life. They weren’t mellow together, they were excited and alive together. That’s the transformation.
We took them to downtown Washington DC to an organization called the Center for Creative Non-Violence, which is a rather famous national organization that deals with street people and homeless people, and we let the people in Belfast see our dark side. They learned they have something to give us. In fact, we wound up having a mini-course where the kids from Belfast told us how we might rekindle our family life in the United States, because they felt that family life was destroyed here.
While they may be fighting Catholic to Protestant, when they’re home they feel loved, they feel cared for in their world. When an uncle becomes an alcoholic there’s somebody there to take him in and help him. Now it may be co-alcoholic behavior as well, but there is love and caring in that environment and they didn’t feel any of that here. They said "Boy, we thought we had nothing to give anybody, and what we see is that we could teach you folks a whole lot too. You’ve been real nice to us, bringing us over here, teaching us some skills, but you need help too." And it was a humbling experience for us Americans, which is exactly what we need, and an empowering experience for those kids from Belfast who feel like they have nothing to give. There’s more that they can give to life, and they felt it on the streets of Washington DC.
Robert: What are some of the other ways that individuals can grab hold of that energy and move it into appropriately creative and non-destructive directions?
Danaan: Citizen diplomacy is a great model to hold up. It’s a way of taking that old warrior energy, transforming it, and using that same basic energy to create positive action in the world instead of negative destruction. Citizen diplomacy – going to somebody else’s world, especially a world that is in conflict with your world, and opening yourself up and making yourself vulnerable to that world – requires the courage to take risks. It takes the ability to move into the unknown. It takes all of those definitions of the warrior that the Chinese Buddhists and the Tibetan Buddhists talk about. Because you’re not bringing your world with you. You are moving into someone else’s world and essentially being as psychologically naked as you can in that milieu, which can get scary sometimes, certainly disorienting.
That’s why I think that citizen diplomacy has become so popular – because it is a positive use of exactly the same energy that some guy felt in the trenches in France in World War II, and felt guilty about feeling. I’ve talked to so many Viet Nam vets now – because of the projects we’re working on with Viet Nam vets – who have said "you know, Danaan, it hurts me to admit this, but the only time I felt really alive in my life is when I was under fire on a hill in Viet Nam with my buddies, not knowing whether I was going to get a bullet in my face in the next 30 seconds or whether I was going to have to kill somebody in the next couple of minutes. And I felt so alive, and so vibrant, and so clear about who I was then that the rest of my life has been some kind of bland mediocrity. And I feel guilty about that. I don’t want to have to kill people to feel alive. How can I use that energy in more life-affirming ways? Because I can’t just live in this mediocrity anymore. I have to be creative."
And our culture doesn’t allow us to be very creative. It puts us in little boxes. Citizen diplomacy demands us to be creative.
Robert: It strikes me that the old definition of the warrior is someone who is unswervingly loyal to an answer of some sort – country, creed or whatever – and who is willing to persevere and fight to the death without moving away from that answer. The warrior always knew who the good guys and bad guys were in a situation, and part of the core training of the warrior was to be completely, reliably inflexible on these issues. But the definition you use involves knowing that you don’t have "the answer." What loyalties does the new warrior maintain?
Danaan: It’s the boot camp indoctrination which essentially trains people to let go of their internal value system and buy into somebody else’s or some government’s value system. It seems to me that while those concepts of loyalty and connection to the whole are still very important to us, our task is to uplevel them – to move them up on the evolutionary spiral to the point where our loyalty, one could say, will be to our planet rather than to our nation-state. That will work for a while until we move into outer space and work with other planets!
But for the time being our planet – Gaia – may be a pretty good thing to be loyal to, because then it’s pretty hard to find an enemy out there if the whole planet is our home. Whose territory are we going to take? Our own? What borders will we be able to rush across to invade if there aren’t any?
One of the primary ingredients to be upleveled comes from the Japanese tradition of the Samurai, and that is indomitable integrity. Total, complete integrity. The Samurai were so connected to their sense of internal rightness that they would not violate their code. Now we need to uplevel the idea of that code to include the planet – to include perhaps the sense of oneness of all beings and the idea that separateness is an illusion, as the Buddhists say, and that all life is sacred. Now there’s a warrior code that I can get behind. There’s a shield that I could carry.
Robert: So, in that situation, where are the struggles? Who plays the role of opponent for you? Or are there no opponents?
Danaan: That would be wonderful if there weren’t. I think we’re asymptotically approaching the point where the demons and the dragons are acknowledged as being within each one of us. But while we’re approaching that point, we are still going to rub up against one another. Even in a world where the warrior code involves seeing ourselves as one family on our planetary home, a family still fights with itself. I’ve got some cousins in New Jersey that I can’t stand to be with, but I would never kill them or burn their house down. And if they really need me, I will reach out and help them because they’re blood, because they’re family. That for me is the awareness that I have to maintain about my planetary family – because that’s what we are.
I’ve read that there’s good scientific evidence suggesting we are all descended from one prehistoric woman. So the blood is there, regardless of the color and the ethnic or cultural backgrounds. And I’m just not interested in spilling family blood. But it’s important for me to remember that I don’t have to be nice with my cousins either. Because "nice" and "peaceful" don’t necessarily go together.
Robert: In fact, whether you’re talking about Belfast or your cousins or your own psyche, in each situation the demon arises out of a lack of communication. Communication requires integrity and honesty, and "niceness" is one of the techniques that people use to block the channels of communication.
Danaan: "Niceness" and "truth" are many times – though not always – at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Robert: It seems to me that a core part of this emerging vision of the warrior is that the warrior is someone who opens up the channels of communication.
Danaan: Yes, exactly.
Robert: The warrior goes into situations where communications are constricted, the system is inflamed or painful so to speak, and finds ways to nudge open the channel of communication and get it flowing again in a life-affirming way.
Now the older strategy for dealing with that inflamed situation is to try to cut off whatever is on the other side of that constriction: "If I can just destroy the thing that’s on the other side of the barrier, there won’t be any inflammation." So we need to shift away from dealing with that other by destroying it.
Danaan: And to reduce however we can the inflammation, which will require us to cooperate with one another. It will require the people on both sides of that constriction to find a way to heal it, which will bring us together. That’s the courageous act that the warrior must do – to find a way to relate to the person on the other side of the closed-off valve, so that together we can twist that valve from both sides and open it back up again.
It’s one of the reasons why I think that the networker falls within the definition of the new warrior, because networking – not just global networking but neighborhood networking, networking within a family, any kind of networking – is a communication process. But people who take on that warrior-task of networking open themselves to incredible criticism and to the projection of other peoples’ dark sides almost wherever they go. They get blamed for the constriction much of the time, because the first stage of healing is to cleanse the toxins, and the patient usually feels a little yuckier for a while before they start to feel good.
Robert: It often takes more courage to be the opener of the constriction than to be the destroyer, and one of the challenges for us as a society is to be able to affirm that higher path of courage. I’m sure there are many other examples around besides the Yaquis and Buddhists – this is not a perception that’s fresh to human society. But we have tools of communication today at a planetary level that may allow us to apply that ancient wisdom in a way that was not so easy to do 2,000 years ago.
Danaan: Yes. There’s a reason why that wisdom has maintained itself – for us to use it. Those of us who are using that wisdom must understand that in the old definition of the word "warrior," one of the warrior’s jobs was to protect his or her tribe – whether that tribe was the U.S., or the Western Hemisphere, or a small band of roaming people somewhere – against having to look at their own individual and collective shadows. When the warrior went off to war to kill the enemy he (and I use the word "he" advisedly) essentially said to his tribe, "Don’t worry, you’re not going to have to look at your own shit, because I’m going to pretend that the shit is out there and I’m going to go kill it."
The new warrior is in a precarious position, because he or she says "I am going to show myself and the rest of my tribe that there is no real shit out there. That darkness exists within each one of us, and I will demand that we have the courage to look at it." So using the word "warrior" really has some meaning, because warriors have to have the courage to put up with some pretty heavy flak from their own people. We are asking our own people to grow and not to project.
Robert: Can you tell me about the projects you’ve been doing in southern India and Central America? I think they are good examples of taking this energy and moving it in effective, though not always glamorous, ways.
Danaan: The India and Costa Rican projects have come out of the need of the Earthstewards Network to broaden the base of citizen diplomacy. In the Cold War the superpowers pretended like the rest of the planet didn’t exist – they just did what they wanted to do. And that same process is in danger of happening in peaceful ways now. We’re beginning to turn around some of those cold war energies and open up to global awareness, but still here we are with the super powers, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union, doing citizen diplomacy with one another. Lots of Soviets and Americans are getting to know one another, and we’re still acting like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
So our thought is to expand that to include trilateral and then multilateral projects. The first one we’ve chosen is India, which will happen in December of 1988. We will bring a bunch of American teenagers and Soviet teenagers together in the center of India, have them meet and live with Indian teenagers and train at the community of Auroville. Auroville is one of the world experts in desert reclamation, so they will teach us about how to reclaim the deserts – desertification is one of the major causes of starvation on our planet. And then for a couple of weeks we will actually do a trilateral reforestation project in the Tamil-Nadu province in southern India, which needs it badly.
The important parameter for us is that Soviet, American and Indian kids will be working together for the first time in a peaceful project of cooperation. And the Indian teenagers are the team leaders. They’re the ones who are going to be issuing the orders, if you will, to the rest of us, so the rest of us get to learn a little humility out of it. We’re going to give this gift to southern India of a desert reclamation project, and we’re going hold this project up to the world and say, "Look, if the kids of countries in conflict can work together to create peace, why not us? Let’s do it, let’s roll up our sleeves and work together."
Two months later, in February of 1989, we bring another group of American kids and Soviet kids to San José, Costa Rica. We live in the homes of Costa Rican kids, and at the United Nations University for Peace in San José we train again in reforestation – this time re-forestation appropriate for Central America. And then the Soviet, American and Costa Rican kids, with the Costa Rican kids as the team leaders, create what we’re calling a "Demonstration Peace Forest" near the campus of the United Nations University, a forest that has all of the latest appropriate technology for soil conservation and regeneration, desert reclamation, and ecology.
That will be those kids’ gift to the people of Central America. Hopefully, people will come from many parts of Central America to learn there, and maybe people from El Salvador and Guatemala and Nicaragua and Panama and Costa Rica will rub up against one another while they’re learning about reforestation techniques.
But again, the primary modus operandi is to get American, Soviet and Costa Rican kids together, because they’ve never been together before. The United States and the Soviet Union have only worked against one another in the Third World, and this has caused a great deal of harm there. We want to create a model where we’re all working together, with the Third World as equal partners and team leaders. This, for us, is giving our kids a little bit more of that warrior energy. It’s asking them to come into the unknown, to do something that is unprecedented and that has some political ramifications to it.
We’ve had to do a great deal of negotiation, for instance, to allow Soviet kids to come into Costa Rica. They’re flying in through Managua, Nicaragua so the whole Costa Rican-Nicaraguan question is raised, and it has brought together some people from Costa Rica and Nicaragua who would not have come together otherwise.
Robert: That brings to my mind something that’s happening right now in the Soviet Union, an Earthstewards-sponsored trip that includes a number of Vietnam veterans going over to meet with Afghan veterans and working with them. What’s your sense of how this fits into the picture of the evolving warrior, and what may be able to come out of this connection?
Danaan: Well, these are people who really know about the alternative to peace. Some of them have parts of their bodies missing to remind them, and a lot of them have parts of their psyches that have been severely stressed. The Vietnam vets are so hungry to find another way to experience what we’ve been talking about – this challenge, this feeing that their life really means something and that they’re giving a gift to their planet – that we literally spend hours on the telephone crying with these guys at the thought of taking something that was such a dark shadow and turning it into something that is life-giving and light-generating.
The ongoing process will hopefully include veterans of other warrior conflicts, perhaps the North Vietnamese combat vets who fought against the American vets, and the Afghanistan vets who fought against the Soviet vets. And one can expand it to include the Egyptian and Israeli vets, the Lebanese, the survivors of the Sandanista-Contra conflicts, coming together in one place to talk about how we can take those same energies, which seem to be important to the human psyche, and transform them into something that’s going to create a truly peaceful planet, instead of everybody just avoiding one another. Those guys will be the epitome, for me, of what the new warrior is all about.
Disorder arises from order,
cowardice arises from courage,
weakness arises from strength.