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."Skip to next paragraph
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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.