Larry Langdon’s letter in the last issue stirred up quite a bit of response. Here’s a sampling.
Dear IN CONTEXT:
Maybe now-a-days we grow up in worlds as different as the worlds anthropologists study throughout the past. As they had different cultures, we now have different professions, perspectives and life patterns. I suspect that Larry Langdon’s perspective (Spring 1984 IN CONTEXT) comes from a world radically different from mine, despite the fact that we are both peace activists.
He argues that if we destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons, so much for painting, dance, celebration, alternative communities, etc. So how can we waste time dealing with other things in this magazine, good though those other things may be? All hinges on eliminating the threat of nuclear war.
But what if our present media and approaches to convincing people about the virtues of peace and vices of war just aren’t up to overwhelming virtually all of our violent nationalistic upbringing? What if we need completely new approaches in addition to the best of the old ones?
Though Larry is strictly right in a way, all hinges even further back on human imagination and creativity. Anthropologists talk about "Culture Pattern Models": the basic values and styles of interaction are reflected in many aspects of society. A society with great creative imagination is probably in a much better position to solve problems in general, including problems of warfare, than a society that thinks any game, even the nuclear game, is the only game in town. It isn’t.
Regarding nuclear war, I’m convinced that the direct approach to eliminating it is absolutely essential and I congratulate all of us working for disarmament. But I’m convinced that the indirect approach that transforms the entire culture presently based on fearfulness, competition and conflict is yet more important. I’m depressingly confident that unless we gear up our creative imaginations we won’t rise to the nuclear challenge. I believe we have failed to even build the necessary tools with which to confront the problem.
Why? Because, I think, we don’t have a very creative, imaginative society. How do we create an imaginative society? There must be infinite ways, and IN CONTEXT’s dealing with the breadth of those ways is a great service, potentially moving all elements of society (in a Cultural Pattern Model) in a very positive direction, helping to build the context in which nuclear war can become eliminatable.
Dear IN CONTEXT:
I am retired and am finding great fulfillment in devoting my time and energies to the peace movement. I was pleased to see letters continuing the peace theme in your Spring 1984 issue. I feel, along with Larry Langdon, that other issues are insignificant until we solve the problem of self- destruction.
I want to share my personal discoveries regarding the creation of peace in my life and then explain how this relates to the creation of global peace.
For much of my life I believed that the way to keep peace was through the "big stick" approach, the one so much favored by many national leaders. It took me a long time to discover that this autocratic approach was not working in the world, nor was it working in my personal life.
We are all searching for peace in our own way. My search began about thirty years ago when my marriage of eleven years was falling apart. My wife wisely suggested that we find someone to guide us out of our power/revenge approach to resolving conflict. I resisted her suggestion but finally realized that the alternative, that of losing my wife and three beautiful children, was even more frightening, so I took the "risk" of going into therapy. While this did not suddenly transform us into a loving, happily-ever-after family, it did convince me that greater peace and tranquility was possible, that there was a better way.
Twelve years ago I resumed my search that had been abandoned for some years. I was finally ready to apply myself to learning what changes I had to make in order to find "the peace that was meant to be." After many years of struggle and pain I finally accepted that I was creating my own unhappiness. Following upon this discovery came an invaluable insight, that I could also choose to create happiness. With this knowledge came a feeling of power, a power much greater than any I had felt while trying to dominate and change others. I could take responsibility instead of escaping through blaming; I knew that I could be in charge of my life.
How does this relate to the creation of planetary peace? As more and more of us choose peace and harmony instead of suspicion, distrust, fear and other separating emotions, these positive emotions will spread – to our families, to the community, the State and ultimately, to all of the planet. As we then participate in our government, we will be far more effective because we will not view those who disagree with us as enemies but rather as fallible human beings with fears and doubts as ourselves. We will want to encourage rather than condemn them and they will thus hear us and be far more likely to act upon our suggestions. We will BE our message because we will truly feel, with Gandhi, that "All men are our brothers."
My wholehearted support goes out to your positive efforts. We WILL make this a humane and sustainable culture.