FOR A WARLESS WORLD; Elise Boulding, teacher and peace advocate
Albert Einstein once remarked that the atom transformed everything about modern life except our thinking. Nowhere is his observation borne out more soberly than in the area of nuclea-war capability. Peace is no longer an alternative to war, it is an imperative for survival. The rhetoric of peace has been with us for a thousand generations; the blueprints for peace are harder to find. Though abstractions are unavoidable in discussing untried areas, this is far from an indication that there are no positive steps available to us, no avenues for moving forward. Among the vanguard of decisive and active thinks on the subject of peace is Elise Boulding. At present a member of the federal commission to establish a national peace academy, Mrs boulding is also a member of the United Nations Center for Disarmament, a director of the Institute for World Order, and past chairwoman of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She is also the author of "The Underside of History: a View of Women Through Time" and, with her husband, economist Kenneth Boulding, "Women in the 20th-Century World."
Mrs. Boulding is at present head of the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College. Henrietta Buckmaster, editor of the Home Forum, interviewed her immediately after her return from Japan, where she, as a member, had attended a meeting of the Governing Council of the United Nations University, with headquarters in Tokyo.m
Two thousand years ago the Romans gave us an adage that's had a very long life. Translated it says, "Let him who desired peace prepare for war." Can we first explore some of the problems that stand between us and peace, and then discuss some of the signs and signals that give us hope?
One of the reasons we have our military security system is precisely because that Roman paradox hs been such a basic part of our thinking. What about rewording it? -- if you want peace you have to prepare for peace. I'm always amazed at the inability of people to visualize a funtioning social order without weapons. This means human beings feel that human problems cannot be solved by human skill. Weapons become a security blanket, and this lack of faith in one's own skills, and the inability to visualize such a society, is astonishing, because people do, in fact, solve even very difficult problems, peacefully, every day.
For a time many people thought that vietnam had changed American attitudes about war. But we're now beginning to hear that the Vietnam syndrome, as it's called, has been cured. According to George Kennan we are now racing toward war. What do you feel about this?
The Vietnam situation didn't really change our attitude toward war as such. The vast number of protesters in the '60s and '70s were protesting the Vietnam,m war -- not war.m As a Quaker I recall the work that we did during World War II when, to be a pacifist, really meant to be opposed to war as a way of dealing with any human problem. The strict pacifist is the person who undertakes the responsibility to make peace (pacem facere)m , and that commitment is to find the ingredients for the peaceful solution in any and every situation. The Vietnam antiwar movement did not have those ingredients. It was an expression of frustration that a rich and powerful nation could cause such suffering to a poor third-world nation. It touched on deep American feeling about the underdog, but it did not touch those deeper concerns for the manner in which human beings deal with their lethal attitudes.
I think what we have is such a deep condition of technological dependency that weapons are an inseparable part of our attitude toward peace. What technology has done for us is to create a shield between us and the physical realities of our planet. It's insulated us from the poverty and suffering of other people. Weaponry is another form of this insulation. And precisely because we are insulated, we are not addessing the real problems.
What would you do if our country were attacked?
That's a question we used to ask a lot in World War II! The context is such a difficult one. The peacemaker works with a different time horizon.All of the things that I do are directed at developing the peace roles for human beings, the organizations, mechanisms, problem-solving skills, that will enable us to deal with injustice, poverty, violence. Therefore, when you are in the middle of a particular outburst of violence, you draw on whatever of those skills seems appropriate under the circumstances. But you can't bring the full range of your skills to bear when you're in the midst of violence. All you can do is remember that the violence of the moments has to be handled with whatever human ingenuity you can summon. And that you must continue to work for peace. Time has not stopped. You use contemporary and immediate ingenuity, but you recognize that the reason we have the present violence is because we have not in the past dealt as well as we should with the problem. We've merely staved off the moment of solution. It has become, by this point, a deep pathology.
What are our chances of getting some roadmaps -- something concrete to guide us?
What do you mean by concrete? We have ancient laws: love thy neighbor. We have successful expedients: negotiations. The most concrete thing we need is the absolute desire and recognition that war is vicious, barbarous and totally inadmissible -- that violence must give place to cooperation and emphathy in thought and action. Most of this begins at the most pragmatic, concrete level we can reach --
War economy is alleged to settle unemployment, bring prosperity. War economy means also the selling of arms. The USSR, France, Israel, the United States, have been consistently selling arms. Can military resources and facilities be redirected toward a peace economy?
One of the oddest illusions of 1980, and certainly of World War I and II, is that militarism and weapons manufacture are good for the economy. In fact it's very bad for the economy, and it puzzles me that Congress doesn't somehow have this information presented to it in a way that will allow it to act sensibly. If people would take it upon themselves, for example, to write their congressmen , to become involved in reversing the fascination with weapons and retaliation . . . The manufacture of advanced weaponry is a highly capital-intensive enterprise. Each job that comes into the economy as a result of weapons manufacture involves an enormous economic investment. It's expensive to put people to work on the manufacture of weapons. What we need are far more labor-intesive enterprises -- save ou high-technology capabilities for dealing with the overwhelming problems that we're facing now, with pollution, for example -- a real life-threatener. In terms of employment, the military industries do not help us; they exacerbate our economic difficulties. It's a very poor way to keep employment steady.
Is the insistence on being well armed a symptom, as many believe, of a complex of fears that our policymakers do not and cannot examine?
There's a feeling in the United States of needing to be No. 1. The Japanese term is "ichiban" -- No. 1. And that's an odd stance, for it means we must continually measure every achievement against whatever the comparable achievements is in other countries. This makes us very insecure. We're not producing, for example, the cadre of young people with scientific training on a par with what other countries in Europe have. When President Carter spoke about "reindustrialization" he was speaking about the fact that we have not kept up in many areas -- a lot of our equipment is absolete, and that frightens us because of the No. 1 mentality. But othe countries have given up being No. 1. Sweden was once the scourge of Europe. And now look at how Sweden sees itself -- as a peacemaker, a broker for the family of nations. And England also. Though it's having troubles with its transition, it no longer clings to No. 1. I think that the US will in the course of the next 100 years no longer want to be No. 1.
Should we try to redefine security?
Indeed we should! And live with the new definition! That is one of the most important things that we have to do. In the broadest sense of the word, a certain level of insecurity is part of the human condition. To be able to function and live amid uncertainty -- that's a clinical definition of sanity. Insecurity stems from uncertainty about outcomes.Our society has a lot of social uncertainties, but the third world has far more than we. We need to learn to accept uncertainty as part of the human condition, and the intelligently to approach those uncertainties by determining which need the greatest reassurance. Women's roles, in any society, have always been to provide a sense of security. It's the mother's role in the family. She encourages you to feel you are the family. She encourages you to feel you are smat enough -- you have the skills -- let's see what you can put together to solve this problem. We all need nurturance. Human beings need some affirmation about themselves in order to risk taking on problem-solutions. True, it's always at a risk, because you might not come up with the right answer. So, we need to provide a lot of security for each other, confidence that we can explore the right answers. We've had the man on horseback brandishing the sword, riding down the corridors of history. But the exercise of providing the image of security, of power, authority, gentleness and reassurance, of nurturance and consideration of one another, has been relegated to the private realm and considered inappropriate for public behavior.
How does one translate this into public behavior?
We need to find ways to bring nurturance into the public sphere and make it men and women's work. It has been done -- Gandhi did it -- and Martin Luther King. At their best, our political leaders have tried to do the same. But it's too low-keyed -- not popular. We like to feel that we're being led by somebody strong and dominative.
The longing to provide blueprints suggests that we must restructure our societies in many ways, not be afraid of a new consciousness, challenge assumptions on a very broad basis.
It's lack of courage which keeps us from that kind of exploration.I've given this a lot of study because I'm very concerned about beginning at the beginning -- with children -- helping them to become problem solvers rather than little figthers who battle their way through life. As I looked at different studies of violence and aggression in children's behavior, it became very clear that the more experience children have in different ways of doing things, the more they've been encouraged to think, the more answers they're able to pull out of their own minds when in a crisis. But a child who has very few ideas about what to do next usually sulks,strikes out, hits. The same is true of an adult. The more resources you develop, the more answers you find. "It's the richness and compassion of the life experience in dealing with others that keeps you from hitting out.
But so many of our assumptions about the other fellow are ideological. "There goes the devil," Russian say about americans, and Americans about Russians. How do we deal with this?
The study of history is a help; you get to know what the human race has come through, to learn what the Pax Romana was, to understand what the Pax Americana has meant to other parts of the world. The Pax Romana eventually hurt the Romans; the Pax Americana is hurting the Americans. Study of history is indispensable is coping with ideologies.
I understand that $500 billion a year is now spent on armaments. Could this be construed as overkill?
We've had overkill for so long that the term has become a cliche. But the fact that both the Soviet Union and the United States are now talking of targeting means we are venturing onto some kind of inevitability. If we accept that, we'll act. Yet one of the most important resources we have in human history is the dream in every culture -- expect our own -- of a society in which human beings live together without weapons. These utopian concepts of a world without weapons have always existed. The Homeric epics had the Elysian fields, where the warriors take off their weapons, put their horses out to pasture and talk poetry and philosophy. Even Valhalla is a place where abundance is shared and people lay down their weapons at feasts and are brothers and sisters. Every culture in the past has had a sense that when things are right for human beings it is within the context of peace. Now partly because of the way our technology has developed, we cannot envision a weaponless world.
In the '50s I translated the Dutch sociologist-historian, Fred Pollock's book "The Image of the Future." This vast historical study made it very clear that societies generate images of the possible and then draw their behavior from those images. The fact that we cannot image a weaponless world means that we have nothing with which to organize our behavior in that direction because we say it's not possible. I've taken as my No. 1 task to try to develop a series of future imagings wherein people can ask: "What would it be like if 50 years from now we have no weapons?" Just describe it. Don't say, "Could we do it?" Just say it's happened -- a mental exercise -- it's happened: no weapons. In a weaponless world, how do people relate to one another? And then let's work back from that to see how we could achieve it. It's so elementary, basic and vital.
Will we be pushed to the brink before we're willing to consider new ideas?
I hope not, but it takes people with the courage to say, "Look, there are alternatives."
May we talk about some of those alternatives now?