Posted by Jim Halderman (Golden)
All too often I have watched my garden sprout and then die.  After a few classes, I began to understand my struggles.  When a seed is planted, the soil must be ready to supply the proper nutrients for it to remain healthy and grow.  If the soil is not prepared, then the seed will wither and die.  It is very apparent to me that Peacebuilding is no different. 
Take the case of Megan Rice, the 82-year-old nun who broke into a plutonium facility in Tennessee to demonstrate its vulnerability.  There were also protests against Canada’s International Global Defense and Security Show, through classes, speeches, marches but to little avail. 
Then there are the works by the many noted leaders of the peace movement and war prevention (Lederach, Ury, Timothy O’Brien, Gene Sharp, and Erica Chenoweth, etc.), also to little avail. “Sprouts” soon died after a short period in the news, good conversation among friends, and conferences made up of the choir.  Still we live in what Diana Ohlbaum, chair of Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) calls a “Militaristic Paradigm.”
Diane Ohlbaum describes the Militaristic Paradigm by three assumptions.  First is our feeling of superiority, that we know what’s best for others. Second, the concept that military solutions are “strong” (therefore good), and diplomacy is “weak” (therefore bad).  And third is an economic system predicated on violence towards people and the earth.  I would add to that the belief all world resources are a win/lose solution, a zero-sum game.
So, how do we move our culture from this paradigm to a culture of peace?
The first step in the cultural change for peace is in the approach of our leaders – at all levels.  We must demand greater integrity as an essential political value. Honesty, compassion, listening, justice, and equality should be essential electable characteristics.  With these characteristics guiding our leaders, good policies will follow.  Encourage leaders to focus more on GNH (Gross National Happiness), developing resources for the many, instead of GNP (Gross National Product) which measures how resources are developed for a few.
Aesop taught us all we need to know about national security in “A Bundle of Sticks.”    Tied together, we are strong.  Singular we are weak.   True diplomacy, again following the essential characteristics set out for all leaders, creates the strength of “the bundle”.  Following the essential characteristics prevents us from dividing nations into allies or adversaries.  We will always fail to understand another nation when first referenced by non-positive terms.
The good news about “changing the culture” is you only have to change 10% of society.  90% follow while 10% lead.  Change leaders, change the culture.  The masses follow when leaders are respected.  It is what Howard Zinn referred to as the “habit of obedience” by the many.
Walt Kelly was a famous cartoonist in the 50’s & 60’s.  His political philosophy was illustrated through “Pogo,” one of the characters of the Okefenokee Swamp.  His most famous line was: “We have met the enemy and it is us,” referring to mankind’s ability to create our own problems.  In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “If humans can be trained for cruelty and greed and a belief in power which comes through hate and fear and force, certainly we can train equally well for greatness and mercy and the power of love which comes because of the strength of the good qualities to be found in the soul of every human being.”
When we, in our own lives, live in integrity and begin to demand it of our leaders, when we demand more humanistic values, when we move away from a militaristic way of thinking, when we see humanity as the strong woven bundle of sticks, then we can grow our GNH.  The good news is that to do this, we do not need any more knowledge than what we now have.  We don’t need to read more books or attend any more conferences or lectures.  We only need to recognize the power of the bundle, the power of mercy and love, our better angels, and remain open to new possibilities.  As Buddhists tell us, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” 
Once we accept and expect the possibility for our leaders to change, then “the way” will present itself.  When we are open to new ideas and open to what John Paul Lederach calls the Moral Imagination, we begin to notice things we might not otherwise. 
Yes, necessity is the mother of invention.  So long as we continue to develop nuclear weapons, to support existential climate change, and to more division on our planet, the stronger our need becomes for the Moral Imagination.  Let us now begin to develop the soil and plant the seed for peace.