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Making Peace Cultures Happen

Nonviolence Relationship
March 01, 2013

To commemorate International Women's Day (March 8), we would like to share extracts from Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen (Dialogue Path Press, 2010), a dialogue between Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda.

Elise Boulding (1920-2010) was a scholar, activist and peace researcher, whose work is credited as a major contribution to the establish of Peace and Conflict Studies. Her holisitc, multidimensional approach to peace research covered topics ranging from the role of women and the family in the peace process to global peace culture. She was Professor of Sociology Emerita at Dartmouth College and also taught at the University of Colorado. Her peace work and the devout Quaker beliefs that inspired it were shared by her husband, the economist Kenneth Boulding, also a significant figure in the peace movement. Elise passed away in June 2010 at the age of 89, after completing her dialogue by correspondence with Daisaku Ikeda.

Ikeda: The family and the local community surely are critical in bringing peace culture to full flower.

Boulding: Yes, without peacebuilding in the family and local community, even organizations like the United Nations cannot succeed. That is why I always made a point of getting to know my neighbors: We must know one another to help one another. Peace is not only about acting in times of danger, it is also about assisting one another in daily life. The family and local community are key starting points.

Ikeda: In the SGI, we also place great emphasis on our local communities. Determined to be good citizens of our communities, we promote a popular movement of peace, culture and education. We believe in the paramount importance of steadily forming ties of friendship in our communities and offering wholehearted encouragement to those who are suffering. Any movement that tries to work separate from the community can never gain its support.

We must forever remember that, as the basic social unit, the family is of utmost importance. Your research is unique in looking at peace from a mother's perspective. You have stressed both the family unit and the mission of women in fostering peace culture.

Boulding: Well, yes. But men, too, have a mission as peacebuilders. In the work of the family as the starting point of peacemaking, the father is just as important as the mother. Out in the world, as well, fathers must learn how to listen. Traditionally--though less so today than in the past--women spend more time at home listening to their children. This makes them better listeners than men.

Though mothers today spend less time with children at home, women are still expected to listen as part of their social role. A good way to build a stronger peace culture in every society is for men to spend more time with children and to learn to listen the way women do.

Ikeda: Yes, you always insist that peace culture begins with listening to others. In this regard, men have a lot to learn from women. Your friend Hazel Henderson insisted in her dialogue with me, Planetary Citizenship, that the 21st century should be a century of male-female partnership. The 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren, the founder of the form of Buddhism practiced by SGI members, taught that "there should be no discrimination . . . be they men or women." He believed men and women should make equal contributions to society. Men must respect women. A society that does not value women is doomed to decline and even collapse.

Envisioning Peace

Ikeda: What advice can you offer young people on where to begin their journey to the future?

Boulding: First, they must be able to conceive of a world without armies. Then they must start figuring out ways to make such a world happen. Although many people find the idea unimaginable, we must first have a mental picture of a highly diverse world functioning without military establishments and dealing creatively with conflict. My husband said over and over again, "What exists is possible." Think of all the places in the world where people do live in peace! A really good, working system is both possible and achievable.

Ikeda: A splendid message for youth. People tend to be deluded into thinking that the present is unchangeable and the future is already set in stone. They proceed under the false impression that current realities will never change. But, keeping our eye on present realities, we must envision a peaceful future.

Boulding: In the 1960s, at a meeting of economists working on the economic aspects of disarmament, I asked how a totally disarmed world would function. The response was unexpected. They had no idea. They felt their job was to expand the possibility of disarmament. I came to realize that many people working in the peace movement had no clear idea of what a peaceful society would be like. How could they give themselves wholeheartedly to a movement the outcome of which they could not imagine?

Ikeda: No matter how fervid our quest for peace may be, without a clear idea of where exactly we are going, there is no way to gather the strength necessary to break through the harsh realities we will face. Our efforts can even lapse into inertia or drift into abstraction.

Boulding: The Dutch sociologist Fred Polak was a good friend. He wrote The Image of the Future (which later won the Council of Europe Award) while in hiding from Nazi persecution during World War II. Drawing on human history, Polak showed that, no matter how hard times got, societies that believed in their own future repeatedly demonstrated the dynamic power to overcome hardships creatively. But societies that were apathetic and fearful could not generate the energy needed for positive change.

Ikeda: The apathy and indifference evident everywhere in modern society are a huge problem. The SGI's promotion of peace, culture and education is meant to counteract this apathy in inspiring the desire for reform on a global scale.

Boulding: My own understanding of the term peace culture is that it is a culture that promotes peaceable diversity, dealing creatively with the conflicts and differences that appear in every society, because no two humans are alike. It includes lifeways, patterns of belief, values and behavior. It includes the accompanying institutionalized arrangements that promote mutual caring, well-being and the equitable sharing of the Earth's resources among its members and with all living beings. This is what we are working to achieve for the world we live in.

Dialogue Path Press is the publishing arm of the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue, and Into Full Flower is available from the center's website, www.ikedacenter.org.


Interview with Elise Boulding


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