Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words

CHAPTER 11: Transforming Our Society

I HAVE BEEN ASKED if I have any ideas for peaceful solution to some of our world and national problems. For one, I think a very long stride toward world peace would be the establishment of a world language.

I first ran into the language barrier in Spanish-speaking Mexico, where I could speak to people only through my translated message and my smile. Then in the Province of Quebec in Canada I ran into it again. Canada is a bilingual country. The schools in Quebec are conducted in French, and many of the people in Quebec cannot speak English. I had a translated message, and I was offered food and shelter through sign language. But there the communication just about ended. It made me realize anew the great need for a world language.

I think a committee of experts appointed by the United Nations should decide as quickly as possible what language would be best. Once a world language is decided upon it can be taught in all the schools along with the national language, so that very soon every literate person in the world can talk to every other literate person in the world. I think this would be the biggest single step we could take toward world understanding, and a long stride toward world peace. When we can talk together we will realize that our likenesses are so much greater than our differences, however great our differences may seem.

On Democracy and Society.

I define democracy as control by the people. Slaves are those who allow others to control their lives. Insofar as people succeed in solving their problems fairly and efficiently at a grassroots level, they retain control over their lives. Insofar as they delegate their problem solving to a higher authority, they lose control over their lives.

We have a goodly amount of individual democracy--for example, the right of a minority of one to continue to speak. And we have a lot of political democracy. We are making progress on social democracy. If we had social democracy, every human being would be evaluated according to merit, not according to groups. We've legislated in that direction; we need to go a long way still, but we're getting there.

Where we fall the shortest is in economic democracy. Here we have not too much control and I'm concerned about this. Remember, if we want to set a good example to the world, we must improve ourselves. I'll tell you a sad story:

I was walking through someone's living room. Two comedians on television were making jokes before a live audience and one of them said, "I got a medal from my company." "Why?" "I found a way to make their product wear out quicker!" And everybody in that live audience laughed.

This is no laughing matter. Raw materials are in short supply; energy is running out. Future generations will look upon us as idiots for manufacturing for obsolescence. Yes, everybody knows what we are doing and they even laugh about it. This needs to be remedied, obviously.

The other thing that needs to be remedied is unemployment. I am terribly concerned about it. Some seven or eight million of our fellow human beings in this country are unemployed. And what does that do to people? They deteriorate psychologically because they are being told by society that they are not needed, and there is no place for them. Unemployment is a terrible thing. We need to remedy this and we need to remedy it immediately.

would suggest that after a certain length of time all employable unemployed could apply for community work, funded as welfare is funded. The work wouldn't even need to be full time, but they would be earning what they received.

There is no psychologically well person who does not wish to be meaningfully occupied with something. I understand there are a few psychologically sick people--especially those who have been unemployed for a long time and have terribly deteriorated. But this is not true of most people. Most people would actually jump at the chance to be able to do something.

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From a spiritual point of view, the best way to cope with anything that is out of harmony, such as Communism as it is practiced today, is never to fear it--that gives it power. Bring good influences to bear upon it; make yourself a good example. Never try to overcome it by adopting its false philosophy. For instance, part of the philosophy of Communist governments is said to be "The end justifies the means"--which is actually the philosophy of all countries that use war as a means. Rather, adopt the spiritual philosophy of "The means determine the end," and remember only a good means can really attain a good end.

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We can only change through example. Therefore, if I had the power to do so in this country, I would set a very gentle, good example. I would establish a Peace Department in our government. It would have very useful work to do. It would research peaceful ways of resolving conflicts, war prevention measures and economic adjustments to peace. It would be established with some fanfare and we would ask every other nation to establish similar departments and come and work with us for peace. I think many nations would be willing to do so. Communications among the Peace Departments would be a step toward peace in our world.

***

During the war in Vietnam I asked my correspondents from all over the world the same question: "What country do your fellow countrymen consider to be the biggest menace to the peace of the world?" The answer was unanimous. It wasn't Russia and it wasn't China. It was us! I asked, "Why?" The answers varied a bit. The Orientals answered, "Because you are the only nation that used the nuclear bomb to kill people, and there is no evidence that you might not do so again." In South America and Latin America they tended to say, "It's Vietnam today--it will be us tomorrow." In Europe and some other places the answer tended to be, "Your economy works most smoothly in a war or war preparation period," or "In your country there is big money to be made on war or war preparation."

I don't like to report this, it's a negative thing, but I do think we need to see that the countries of the world do not always see our kind heart when they look across the sea. Instead they are apprehensive about our actions.

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I would like to see us not only take all the steps we can in the direction of disarmament and peace in the world, I would also like to see us set a better and better example in the world.

Within the last couple of years a number of my foreign friends have said to me, "Russia signed Salt II, why didn't you sign it? Are you less interested in disarmament than the Russians?" I couldn't answer them. I wish we had signed it. It was a gentle step, not nearly enough, but we should have signed it, then worked hard for Salt III and every agreement that we could get.

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On my pilgrimage across Canada I was invited to speak during the Youth Choir Concert of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ, commonly known as Doukhobors, a pacifist group which migrated from Russia in the last century. I said to them, "You have a special message to this work, specifically in Russia. Since many of you speak Russian, why not send a mission of peace to Russia? This choir, for example? You have a unique opportunity to talk to them in their own language, more so than the usual delegation that often cannot communicate with them. This sort of exchange is necessary in the present historical crisis."

***

The United Nations needs to be improved. We people of the world need to learn to put the welfare of the whole human family above the welfare of any group. Starvation and suffering needs to be alleviated. An extensive exchange of people among the nations of the world would be very helpful.

There are some national problems in connection with peace--work needs to be done on peace among groups. Our number one national problem, however, is the adjustment of our economy to a peacetime situation.

Community Peace Action.

In this crisis period there should be a Community Peace Committee in every town. Such a group can begin with a handful of concerned people.

I have been suggesting that Community Peace Fellowships start with a Peace Prayer Group for seeking the way of peace. At the first meeting consider inner peace. Pray about it and discuss it. If you become aware of some inner block which is hampering your spiritual progress, concentrate between meetings on removing that block. At the second meeting consider harmony among individuals. If you realize that you are out of harmony with some person, do something between meetings to remedy this. At the third meeting consider harmony among groups. Between meetings try to do something as a group to show friendliness toward or to help some other group. At the fourth meeting consider peace among nations. Take action between meetings by commending someone who has done something good for peace. At the next meeting, start all over again.

In some places my literature has been used for their prayer groups, since it deals with peace from a spiritual viewpoint. Read a paragraph, dwell on it in receptive silence, then talk about it. Have as many prayer meetings as you need to get through the literature. Anyone who can understand and feel the spiritual truths contained therein is spiritually ready to work for peace.

Then would come a Peace Study Group. We need to get a clear picture of what the present world situation is like and what will be needful to convert it into a peaceful world situation. Certainly all present wars must cease. Obviously we need to find a way to lay down our arms together. We need to set up mechanisms to avoid physical violence in the world where psychological violence still exists.

After world problems and steps toward their solution become pretty clear to you, you and your friends are ready to become a Peace Action Group. You can become a Peace Action Group gradually, acting upon any problems that you have learned to understand. Peace action should always take the form of living the way of peace. It can also take the form of letter-writing: to legislators about peace legislation you are interested in, to editors on peace subjects, to friends on what you have learned about peace. It can take the form of public meetings with speakers on peace subjects, distributing peace literature, talking to people about peace, a peace week, a peace fair, a peace walk, a peace parade, or a peace float. It can take the form of voting for those who are committed to the way of peace.

You have much more power when you are working for the right thing than when you are working against the wrong thing. And, of course, if the right thing is established wrong things will fade away of their own accord. Grass-roots peace work is vitally important. All who work for peace belong to a special peace fellowship--whether we work together or apart.

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Some of the steps toward peace that I talked about when I started out have now been taken or at least begun. An extensive people-to-people approach is well under way, with student exchanges and cultural exchanges. Research on peaceful ways of resolving conflicts is now being done at a number of our colleges and courses are being taught also by our neighbor, Canada.

***

I believe it is quite possible for us to obtain an outer peace at the present time. Historically speaking, when human beings are faced with the choice between destruction and change, they are apt to choose change, and it's about the only thing that will make them choose a change. So we have the possibility at the present time to take a different direction in the word--the possibility exists!

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Little people of the world, let us never feel helpless again. Let us remember that if enough of us ask together even very big things like world disarmament and world peace will be granted. Let's ask together!


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