By David Gallup
Garry Davis said that world peace begins with each of us putting the earth first: “Because it is your world! You are the ‘center’ of it. It revolves around you! You were born to it. And willy-nilly, you are already in it; in fact on it! And like it or not, you are therefore responsible for it … for the good and the bad. What is required is our individual commitment to one world and humanity first, and ourselves and our particular country second.”
In a recent tweet, spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said that world peace starts with the individual finding personal peace: “The creation of a more peaceful and happier society has to begin from the level of the individual, and from there it can expand to one’s family, to one’s neighborhood, to one’s community, and so on.”
When we recognize that the individual is a microcosm of humanity and that peace is a life-long process, the individual can seek both individual peace and world peace simultaneously. World peace depends upon the intertwining of the one and the many seeking peace.
Finding Inner Peace and Outer Peace
When we learn and build inner peace for ourselves as individuals, we can expand our knowledge and skills to help others learn and build outer peace.
If we see people in need, people suffering, people facing oppression and violence, we must find a way to help them. It could be speaking up or speaking out, lending a hand, checking in, sending clothing, making a donation, offering a shoulder to cry on, sharing food, providing free medical or other support, offering a safe haven, etc. In other words, we should act towards one another non-violently.
The term “non-violence” defines an action or state of being by using the opposite of how we should act as part of the term. Because people should focus on what we need to do to achieve peace, rather than what we shouldn’t do, it is important to use a positive term to describe how we can effect change in our world, both as individuals and collectively. Encouraging people to “act peacefully” is no longer enough to achieve dramatic change in how humans interact. We must now compassionately insist upon peace in our own lives and in our collective interactions. I suggest we use the stronger term “peace insistence” instead of “acting peacefully” or “non-violence.”
Peace insistence* is more than a commitment to acting non-violently. It is a question of ensuring that your interactions, your behavior, and that of others be conducted peacefully, that you consciously and consistently choose peace over aggression, and that you begin by finding peace in your own heart and mind.
The underlying elements of peace insistence are love, empathy, healing, and moving together and toward one another. Individual peace and world peace require us to move beyond non-violent action to peace insistence.
Peace Insistence through World Citizenship
If individuals do not have inner peace, it is difficult for them to participate in endeavors to build external peace in their surroundings, let alone build a loving, accepting, just, free, sustainable, and peaceful community.
Institutions reflect the values and ethics of those who create them. If individuals have suffered violence, exclusion, discrimination, harassment, poverty, oppression, etc., then the institutions they make will likely consciously or subconsciously have those experiences weaved into the fabric of the organizational structures, policies, politics, and milieu.
The current system of national division encourages killing, greed, and environmental degradation by exalting profit and competition over societal health, demanding incessant economic growth that favors the few over the many, and maintaining power dynamics with inherent structural violence.
The national-focused framework for human interaction values war and preparing for war over peace and building peace. Just one quarter of the trillion dollars that national governments spend on maintaining and “defending” fictional borders, would be enough for local communities to successfully deal with abuse, human trafficking, power dynamics, gender and different-identity othering, illiteracy, homelessness, corruption, global warming, toxic environment, and the lack of conflict analysis and resolution/non-violent communication skills.
At this point, humans have created too many complex problems threatening the earth and humanity’s survival. These problems can only be handled with complex, indigenous and unified processes. Humans do not have to agree on everything in order to agree that we would rather have a world than have none.
Causes of violence and conflict are rooted both in local and international frameworks, in our individual lives and in the wider society. We cannot apply processes of peace to resolve the root causes of violence with either/or approaches: local peace requires world peace; world peace requires local peace; and all peace requires individual peace.
By developing peace insistence skills and an understanding of our common identity as world citizens, individuals and institutions can be of value to each other in the process of dealing with root causes of negative conflict and violence.
World citizenship is about acceptance of “the other” as if the other is related to us—as if the other is us but just separated by a different physical body, different experiences, and different education. World citizenship can help us create a “we and we” (or simply “we”) mentality (rather than an “us versus them” mentality). World citizenship can help us to meet people where they are, to listen and become aware of distinct voices and values, and to appreciate those distinctions even if the temptation is to automatically reject those distinctions.
Peace activist Azeezah Kanji says that we need to establish a “paraversal” community, meaning that uni-versal may not take into account all voices and values. “Universal” might drown out or dilute our individuality. We need a community that incorporates as well as transcends all diverse voices. We need an intersectional and parasectional community.
World citizenship brings people together to share their unique voices in developing solutions to global problems. Coming together as world citizens is not only about averting future crises; it is also about mitigating the crises we already face and perhaps finding a new sustainable path. Social, economic, political, ecological, local, and global peace require us to use all the tools we have and that we can imagine. World citizenship is about imagining, creating, and educating about a world system that can work for all.
Peace Insistence through Education
World citizenship engages change within and outside of individuals and institutions, within local spaces and within the world space. Change toward peaceful coexistence is dependent upon individuals as well as the institutions they develop having a world citizenship education and mentality.
How we educate youth and offer continuing education to adults will dramatically impact whether we will be successful in creating an ethical local and world community. Education is fundamental to all change, growth, and opening our minds to alternative perspectives. By sharing world citizenship ideas, people will become aware of the world and people beyond themselves, their family, friends, and local community.
Everyone already is a world citizen by birth and in fact, but putting into action world citizenship as an ethical framework or system for human interaction requires education and training, just like conflict resolution and collaborative development do. World citizenship is about opening people’s minds to the world as one web of life, providing the tools to help foster empathy and conflict resolutions skills internally and externally, at all levels of human interaction and within the individual human. Being a world citizen is about recognizing our link to, and having empathy for, our fellow humans and the earth. That means that we must nurture skills of living indigenously with all other beings and with our parent earth.
World citizenship and world governmental structures are meant to help us learn about and work together on issues that are more efficiently and effectively handled at the world level—issues that impact the entire earth and all of its inhabitants. Local governments will still govern locally and indigenously.
The tool of world citizen government provides a process of positive interaction of, by, and for the individuals of the world. As a world citizen, you do not give up any lower level allegiance or commitment. You do not give up your individuality. You affirm a commitment to yourself, to other individuals, to humanity, and to the earth—a commitment to learning how to live together sustainably, a commitment to insist on peace.
Each of us has the right, the power and the duty to commit to peace insistence.
*My definition of Peace Insistence: The individual and the community consciously and consistently engage the tools, skills, strategies and tactics of loving, empathetic self-perception and interaction through non-violent methods, harmonious engagement, sharing, learning and teaching peace, and rights-affirming activism. The process requires affirming to yourself and to those around you that you will choose to think and act peaceably, that you will seek out education to learn the skills of peaceful interaction, and that you will seek self-healing and offer support to everyone in the healing process.
Peace insistence may also contain elements of non-violent action, civil resistance, civil disobedience, non-cooperation, renunciation, withdrawal, civil and political disruption, legal advocacy, mediation, arbitration, non-conformity, individual and group intervention, economic boycott, strike, divestment, positive investment, protest, momentum-building, strategic organizing, long term planning, collaborative development, artistic, musical, scientific, mathematic, ethical, and comedic expression, indigenous creativity, training in peaceful communication, individual and group therapy, and the hundreds of other actions, processes and initiatives that maintain peaceful relationships as an ultimate goal. (See Gene Sharp’s list of “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.”)