* In 1987, when I learned of the contest called "Imagine Peace," I became very excited. I quickly decided to enter and eagerly worked on my submission. The task was to choose a single international "conflict" and describe a possible scenario for resolving that conflict. I chose the Cold War conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The winner was to participate in the creation of a television or movie screenplay. Although I didn't win the contest, I think my ideas were--and remain--worthy of serious consideration.
© 1987, Stephen E. Linn, Ph.D.
By Stephen E. Linn, Ph.D.
n the face of his being upstaged by Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and arms limitations initiatives and by Oscar Arias' Central American peace agreement and Nobel recognition (as well as the tarnishing of his reputation by "Iran-Contra-Gate" and the Bork nomination), nineteen eighty seven is an agonizing year for Ronald Reagan's hopes to be recorded in history as a great president. In its October 19, 1987 issue, Time magazine reports that "as Reagan's political power inevitably fades, White House Chief of Staff, Howard Baker's goal is to carve a niche for Reagan as a national political teacher during his final year." In early 1988, in a last ditch effort to assure his place in history and to score a "coup" for himself--as well as for his party during the upcoming election campaign--Ronald Reagan creates the blue-ribbon Presidential Commission on Peace. Among its members are three peace activists, a statesman from each political party and three psychologists (all of whom are already well-known for their commitments to peace). Three representatives from the Soviet Union also accept invitations to participate. The Commission's mandate is to investigate all that is known so far about achieving peace (the state of the art about the "Peace Process," as it came to be known) and, by July 4th, 1988, to report its recommendations for implementing a plan for achieving nothing less than a lasting peace, first between the two super powers and ultimately throughout the world.
The commission draws several significant and striking conclusions:
1. Peace is not merely the absence of war. The peoples of both the USSR and the USA have been living under the threat of war for so long that their individual and collective consciousness are characterized by mistrust, suspicion, and apprehension.
2. In order to achieve peace, they must be helped to transform this "imminent threat" consciousness into a "harmony" consciousness, to transform an 'adversary' consciousness into a "fellow man" consciousness (a way of being which had gained some ground around the world in the 1960's). In order to live in a world of peace, they first have to be instructed in peace: Just as there are skills requisite for living at war, there are skills essential for gaining peace and for living in peace. These include: self-esteem enhancement, listening, self-disclosure, and win-win negotiating skills, as well as the skills necessary for "projecting" themselves into that world, to imagine or visualize how it is to live in such a world, and even to practice doing so.
3. This mistrust is not merely of citizens of the other country; it extends to relationships with one's own countrymen and derives from cultural mores learned throughout childhood. An example of this is the injunction that it's not acceptable to reveal to someone that that person's behavior disturbs you. This gets communicated by such exclamations as, "Don't you dare talk to your mother like that" or "Don't be disrespectful. Such mores are, themselves, based upon this threat consciousness (which, in this case, resides in the belief that the disturbing person will disapprove or harm you if you express your distress).
4. Most of the world's political leaders are simply not aware of or choose not to engage in win-win negotiating and communicating; instead, they participate in such threat consciousness acts as posturing, threatening, deceiving (e.g., the assertions by the US that it was not trading arms to Iran), and name-calling (e.g., Reagan calling the USSR the "evil empire").
5. There must be a reeducation of both populations, including their political leaders, on a massive scale. While this must include the sharing of "facts" (about peace consciousness, enhancing self-esteem, effective communicating and win-win negotiating), as is done in traditional educating, it must also be heavily laden with "experiential" learning, involving both the ventilating of unexpressed angers, fears, hurts, sadnesses, and desires, as well as the imagining of peace, including relaxation, visualization and role-play.
6. Therefore, extensive training in self-esteem enhancement and communication must be instituted to teach skills of self-valuing; listening, self-disclosure and win-win" negotiating.
7. The body of knowledge and the skills required for executing this program already exist; there is an easily accessed pool of well-trained professionals available.
8. The agency responsible for carrying this out, as well as for communicating to both the Soviet and American people the seriousness of these intentions, is a cabinet level Department of Peace, headed by a Secretary of Peace. It is to be established as soon as possible and to be funded by both Federal funds and monies contributed separately by private individuals.
9. The time is ripe for such an undertaking, since many of the peoples of both nations are weary and frightened of wars and threats of wars and are yearning for peace.
Of course, the "hawks" in Congress are very suspicious and, on the heels of the dissemination of the Commission's findings, a great debate springs up overnight, both on Main Street America and in the halls of Congress. There's hasn't been anything like it since the Vietnam debates. Nevertheless, by the middle of October, in spite of some threat of filibuster in the Senate, Congress enacts the law establishing the Department of Peace and setting in motion further research into peace as well as making way for a pilot Peace Consciousness program.
The neophyte Department of Peace becomes, in effect, a "think tank" devoted to both the study of and the implementation of the Peace Process. The best minds in America are drawn to it. Although there are still many skeptics, there is a surprising ground swell of excitement. Many of those people who were active in the search for peace in the 60's but have since disappeared from the public scene, with their own children now grown up, have again become articulately and energetically involved: The Phoenix arising from the ashes, as it were.
School kids around the country collect and contribute nearly $50 million to the DOP. Not surprisingly, the song, "Give Peace a Chance" is revived and heard everywhere. An often-heard refrain is, "If we can send people to the moon, then we can find a way to achieve peace." One of the early projects of the DOP is the formation of Peace Sections in libraries across America. This is soon followed by the creation of Peace Science departments and peace science majors at many of our colleges and universities. (Eventually, peace science studies filter down into the secondary and elementary schools.)
Within six months, the DOP develops the Peace Game, based on its newly developed maxim:
Truth ¾® Trust ¾® Satisfaction ¾® Safety ¾® Peace
It's both a board game and a field game (the DOP's answer to the Survival Game, which has been so popular among the hawks).
At the urging of the Secretary of Peace, Congress passes a "Peace Bill" which, among other things, makes provision for taxpayers to dedicate a modest portion of their income tax to the Peace Fund. In addition, as both enticement and compensation for participants in the Peace Consciousness program (the actual events have come to be called Peace-Ins, large-scale training events reminiscent of such consciousness raising programs as LifeSpring--at least in their form), it provides such benefits as income tax credits and deductions, scholarships and low interest loans for college attendance (particularly for studies in peace science), no down payment purchases of homes, and mortgages guaranteed by an agency of the federal government (similar to the Veteran's Administration).
The Peace Bill also establishes a nationwide contest for a Peace Monument, which is to be a memorial recognizing the contributions of those who participate in the Peace Program. By the spring of 1989, some 300,000 Americans have already participated in the Peace-Ins.
Not to be upstaged by the success of the Reagan initiative, Chairman Gorbachev creates a similar Soviet organization, By the fall of 1989, The DOP begins an open Peace Dialogue with its Soviet counterpart on live television, broadcast simultaneously in the USA and the USSR (on ground broken by ABC's 1987 "Capitol-to-Capitol" broadcasts).
This dialogue between the Americans and the Soviets does not focus on arms limitations, but on the means for providing lasting peace. It's stated aim (just as in the Peace-Ins) is that each nation's participants strive for mutual satisfaction, rather than their own satisfaction at the others' expense. This is based upon the understanding that mutual trust, which constitutes the ground for peace, is the outcome of 1) dialogue--real-talk--over an extended period of time, and 2) each providing the other with a track record of being trustworthy.
Among the many positive outcomes of these extended dialogues are greatly increased tourism in both directions, increased trade, an augmented student exchange program, a Peace Exchange, which provides for the free exchange of data, ideas, and Peace Products between the US and the USSR, a Peace-In Exchange Program (wherein Soviet and American citizens are free to choose to participate in each other's Peace Programs, almost at will), and a Peace Work Exchange Program modeled after the U.S. Peace Corps.
By the end of 1990, the Peace Program is being adopted by many countries around the world, particularly western countries, such as Canada, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, and even The Peoples' Republic of China. The ever-increasing excitement about the growing possibilities for peace is a surprise to everyone. The growing rapport between the United States and the Soviet Union is also a surprise (except to those who remember the sudden turnabout in our relations with China).
This rapprochement turns out to have unexpected influence upon the other countries of the world, particularly on their ability to trust and therefore to take a less belligerent posture in their involvements with one another. Another surprise is that the reputation of the US as a warmonger has been transformed: Many of the world's people are pleased to discover that they are trusting that both the US and the USSR are truly committed to peace.
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I submit that the above scenario is possible. It's based upon well-known (at least among experts in communication) and well-tested principles of both psychology and communication. Among these are:
§ No one wins until everyone wins; that is, successful communication is possible only if no one is made "wrong."
§ Ultimately, successful communication and negotiation can occur only between people who believe they are worthy and adequate individuals (that is, who come from an "okay" position rather than from a "not-okay" position, characterized by a belief that they are flawed and unworthy of love ).
Information and processes for effectively and safely enhancing self-esteem are well described in Dr. Nathaniel Branden's work on self-esteem and in Dr. Sidney Simon's work on "values clarification" (as well as in the work of many others).
Skills, information, and processes for effective listening, self-disclosure, and "win-win" negotiating can be found in the work of Dr. Thomas Gordon (and others).
In my judgment, this scenario could be presented most effectively in the form of a television mini-series or as a movie. That is, in phase II, I would be writing a screenplay for either television or a movie. It would be an instrument by which viewers could gain in peace-consciousness (they could "imagine peace") as well as learn new skills while watching one of the world's most important dramas unfold on the screen. The advantage of a television mini-series is that viewers could tape it while watching, in order to practice the skills depicted at later times. In so doing, they would be taking the first steps in the very process they are watching.
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For more than 11 years, I've been a licensed psychologist in private clinical practice and Director of the Caring Place. The Caring Place is a "growth center" offering classes and workshops aimed at helping participants achieve effectiveness and satisfaction in their relationships and in their work worlds.
For 14 years, I have been specializing in communication and relationship skills training as well as in relationship counseling. I also consult with businesses to help them achieve peace within their managerial ranks. I believe I've become keenly aware of what it is that helps create trust and, ultimately, satisfaction and peace.
In addition, I've done a modest amount of writing for the Allegheny Journal (a newspaper) and for Lifestyles magazine and have been a guest on many radio programs and on such television shows as AM Pittsburgh, the Marie Torre Show, Pittsburgh Today and Weekend Magazine.
I've long been concerned about the state of the world and interested in the process of peace. But, until now, I've not found a vehicle through which I might contribute in more than a peripheral way.
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peace organizations online
Toys are for fun, not fighting (A War Toys FAQ)
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