Will My Grandchildren Be Saved by Politicians or by Active Citizens?
IN FOCUS, 15 Aug 2022
9 Aug 2022 – For many years I have been wondering how the human species could soon become extinct, following the increase of man-against-man social violence and war (probably nuclear war) maintained by governments and their politicians (see Giorgi, 2020, pp 102-109). Yes, politicians, because a government is a political tool with a set program, while politicians are real peoples, elected to the National Parliament or a Regional Parliament or a City Council. Are politicians all the same? Let us see.
During my adult life (about 50 years) I followed with particular interest political events in my country of birth, Italy, even when I was living and working in several other countries of the world. During that long period, I have counted only 3 or 4 Italian politicians who, after their death, were exceptionally remembered as “real servants of the State”. Very strange, because all politicians should theoretically serve the State! Explanation: those rare pearls distinguished themselves by often taking decisions that benefited needy citizens but damaged their own political career or even the popularity of their own party. Then I noticed that in certain other countries where I lived these “real servants of the State” were more numerous (but still very few) than in Italy, probably because in those countries citizens were receiving a certain degree of political education at school (in Switzerland, for example) or were living in a more democratic environment thanks to a balanced information from the mass media (in some Scandinavian countries, for example).
It remains, however, the problem: can we still rely on politicians, even those democratically elected, to solve the many pressing problems of our little planet threatened in 2022 by the systematic destruction of nature and the systematic dying of people by starvation and extreme weather changes? In fact, the major threat to the survival of our species now comes from world-wide rapid environmental changes killing or starving millions of people (Sponsel, 2012), rather than from possible deadly international wars.
Here I intend addressing the never discussed but urgent necessary radical and rapid change in our individual lifestyle, that of me and you dear reader, to save our planet and avoid a rapid extinction.
Let us consider a practical example: the young Swedish girl called Greta Thunberg. She has spoken in simple and blunt terms for years in front of important international political institutions, accusing their members of not defending the future of young people like her. They offered loud applause, but no practical change in the direction of securing a future for Greta, as well as that of their own grandchildren. This is a clear indication that we cannot trust politicians concerning the important aspect of human survival.
Alternatively, let’s wonder whether we can trust people, the very people who risk becoming extinct as a species. Perhaps yes, we could trust them, provided we all understand the advantage of active citizenship.
Active citizenship consists in studying the problems of our local community in scientific terms, discussing them properly in local associations, with the intention of formulating proposals for the local and national media.
We are obviously talking about a new type of citizen. To be a good citizen, it is not enough to vote every 3 or 5 years and rely only on mysterious slogans, smiling faces and false statistical data. Furthermore, fake news has become a common feature in social media, which can very easily confuse unprepared minds when they are voting.
Obviously, active citizenship requires both urgent short-term changes and reliable long-term changes. We must urgently change our personal lifestyle by reducing energy consumption (by using only public transport, keeping lower temperature at home, having only one shower per day, adopting a much more Spartan lifestyle, not just switching off the water tap while brushing our teeth …), as well as offering new educational approaches to children (long-term changes) in order to become future active citizens, not just stupid consumers, as planned for us until now.
The local character of active citizenship is important because of the unfortunate tendency to speak about “changing the world” when aiming at an important social goal. This invitation to aim at changing the world (i.e. a world of 6,000 different cultures, different languages, and different local resources) is used by the true power systems – not governments, rather the few super-rich persons or financial entities that invest in good businesses and major mass media – to distract citizens from identifying true local democratic changes that would really disturb local social injustice.
During the last two centuries a stupid and wasteful people lifestyle has compromised irreversibly our natural environment, our health, our economy, and the future of our grandchildren. The observations offered above indicate the advantage of having local associations of active citizens able to intervene quickly and effectively to identify local environmental mistakes and local cases of corruption.
Let us consider two examples.
# In Casale Monferrato (outside Turin, Northern Italy) a large industry of asbestos caused the death of thousands of people by lung cancer. The phenomenon started in the beginning of the 1900s, but the first lawsuit was filed, by a citizen initiative, only on 10 December 2009 with the slow and complicated procedure typical of when rich and powerful people are facing a lawsuit. After legal actions, many ill persons have received financial compensations, while the industry quickly closed. Of course, one of the rich factory owners died in 2016 before his sentence. Another owner was sentenced to four years of prison only on 23 May 2019.
# Since 1905 the city of Taranto (Southern Italy) hosted in its middle (sic!) the largest steel factory in Europe. Consequently, 7% of city pollution was caused by the public and 93% by factories. Only in 2020 (sic!) the responsibility for that criminal factory was in large part taken up by the Italian Government. In this case no citizen action was ever initiated, despite the medical evidence of hundreds of premature deaths for leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma in Taranto.
The Possible Role of Academia in Saving My Grandchildren
Peace Studies are a “recent” field of academic studies slowly grown out of two tragedies in Asia: the explosion of two atomic bombs above the Japanese cities of Hiroshima e Nagasaki (6 and 9 August 1945) apparently necessary to conclude WWII and the bloody separation of India and Pakistan (15 August 1947) apparently necessary to conclude the local British colonial adventure.
After WWII (never too soon …) some thinkers of the humanistic/sociological fields began to define violence, nonviolence, aggressiveness, empathy, solidarity, cooperation, conflict resolution, social injustice, power systems, war, cultural oppression, social discrimination, etc. But this new thinking was kept within the short-sighted historical limitation of “needing written documents”.
Note: writing appeared only 5-6,000 years ago, just when social violence also appeared. This unfortunate coincidence in time still supports this wrong belief among untrained minds: “Ever since history is history, human beings have killed each other” and the naïve conclusion “Killing is written in our genes”. These are soothing (and wrong) reasons to excuse ourselves from not changing lifestyle and recover our normal nonviolent social behaviour (Giorgi, 2020).
A new educational input was needed. In the 1960s Johan Galtung started peace education in Norway, and a few other initiatives followed in different countries of the world.
Anthropology and Neurobiology Open New Windows
In the early 1990s, Dr Ralph Summy, myself and a few other colleagues of the University of Queensland, established a BA programme in Peace Studies taught at the Department of Political Sciences. This was later followed by the creation of a successful Australian Research Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (directed by Prof. Kevin Clements) and later still by a post-graduate program for foreign students supported by the Rotary Club. Unfortunately, only the latter is still operating now in 2022 (“Rotary Peace Centre” at the University of Queensland).
Twenty years ago, there were only two authors (Sponsel 1996 and Giorgi 2001) supporting the idea of a nonviolent human nature. We were considered eccentrics, because we broke free of the accepted historical myopia (see above) and took advantage of recent progresses in palaeoanthropology: the description of rock art found in five continents (beginning about 50,000 years ago, see Anati, 2008) and its social interpretation (rock art is essentially free of violence). Of course, all interpretations can carry debates about differences of opinions, especially when a politically important issue (human nature) is at stake (Giorgi & Anati, 2014).
Luckily, in this case all discussions can now be set aside because we don’t need to “extrapolate” anymore the nonviolence of Palaeolithic people from their art, as they are still here with us (see below and Bonta, 1993).
The Best Kept Secret in Anthropology
During most of the 20th century, several anthropologists lived for years with very isolated cultures of nomadic hunter-gatherers (that means Palaeolithic H. sapiens) and left accurate descriptions of their social organisation and their natural nonviolence (Bonta, 1993). These thirty cultures are still there but they must resist the attempts of local authorities of making them become settled agriculturalist and “civilised” like us, that means competitive and violent (Giorgi, 2001 & 2020, Giorgi and Rosco, 2019, the English version is in my blog).
A congress held in 2014 (19-24 May) at the University of Leiden, Lorentz Centre, saw the participation of many international academics interested in peace, violence and nonviolence from several disciplinary backgrounds. On that occasion I witnessed for the first time a general agreement about refuting the popular idea of violence (not aggressiveness) as a congenital characteristic of human beings. This was anticipated and followed by appropriate publications (Fry 2013, Fry, 2015, Sponsel 2015).
Here is one telling example about the control of public media concerning basic scientific information.
In Italy I tried for years (2005 – 2018) to convince newspapers to interview me about my work on nonviolence and peace studies. Common answer: “Readers are not interested in this subject”. Only a free-lance journalist lady, Carla Rosco, in 2016 accepted my offer and somehow managed to publish our interview on the principal Italian daily newspaper “Il Corriere della Sera” (Giorgi and Rosco, 2016, English version in my blog). Unfortunately, that was her last contribution to journalism; the consistent refusal of her articles made her decide to retire as a free-lance journalist.
Evidence that readers are, instead, interested about this topic: after ten conferences I offered in Italy, almost all participants bought my small but innovative book (Giorgi, 2019, 127 pages) and Gabrielli Editors had to rush for the second reprint of 2020).
About human beings: on one side thirty small cultures of “true human beings” (as defined by natural selection) who are nonviolent (Bonta, 1993), on the other side seven billion of “civilised people” (as defined by the artificial selection wanted for 5,000 years by male power systems), who are accurately trained to be competitive and violent since early infancy and live the rest of their life systematically forced to respect militarism, male supremacy, and personal egoism.
Who will survive and who will become extinct?
I continue offering conferences titled “Good news for a nonviolent future” in Australia, where I describe seven simple scientific pieces of evidence in Anthropology and Neurobiology about the original nonviolent nature of human beings and the post-natal definition of human social behaviour. These important gifts – received probably very early after we first emerged as a new species (about 200.000 years ago) has been hidden and falsified only 5.000 years ago, when male humans have taken over the power systems of small, agricultural communities, offered violent behavioural models to early infants, while effective commercial models completed the new education that was later labelled as “civilisation” (by me corrected into “the human tragedy”).
Unfortunately, with “civilisation” we obtained a rapid improvement in technology but a disastrous loss of human social qualities (empathy, solidarity, cooperation and capacity of nonviolent conflict resolution, see Giorgi, 2020, p. 74). The derived social malaise, correctly identified by Sigmund Freud (1930), but very wrongly explained in its causes, is now disturbing us in a dramatic way.
My hope is only to establish a few local Association for Nonviolence and Active Citizenship (ANAC) in Australia. If the ground is fertile, flowers will bloom.
# Anati, E. (2004) La civiltà delle pietre (The civilisation of stones). Edizioni del Centro, Capo di Ponte (Brescia). English version, 2008, same editor.
# Bonta, B. D. (1993) Peaceful people – An annotated bibliography. The Scarecrow Press Inc., Metuchen N.J. & London.
# Freud, S. (1930) Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (The uneasiness in civilisation). Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, Wien (Austria). English version: (2002) Civilization and its discontent. Penguin Books.
# Fry, D. P. (ed.) (2013) War, peace and human nature – The convergence of evolutionary and cultural views. Oxford University Press, New York.
# Fry, D. P. (2015) Conflict and war – Anthropological aspects, in James D. Wright (ed) International Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences, Volume 4, Elsevier, Oxford.
# Giorgi P. P. (2001) The origins of violence by cultural evolution, 2nd edition. Minerva E&S, Brisbane. [Out of print, free download at www.pierogiorgi.org]
# Giorgi, P. P. (2019) La rivoluzione nonviolenta (The nonviolent revolution). Gabrielli Editori, Verona (Italy). Second edition (2020), same publisher.
# Giorgi, P. P. and Anati E. (2014) Violence and its evidence in prehistoric art – A comparison of ideas, in E. Anati (ed) Prehistoric and tribal art – New discoveries, interpretations and discoveries, pp. 263-269. Edizioni del Centro, Capo di Ponte (Brescia).
# Giorgi, P.P. & Rosco, C. (2016) L’invenzione della violenza (The invention of violence). Interview published by the main Italian daily Corriere della Sera, edition of Brescia, 29 December 2016, “Culture”, p. 10. Essential conclusion: “Violence is a recent cultural invention; therefore, it can be reversed”. To read the English version of this text, see my blog <www.pierogiorgi.org> , select “Academic Fields” then “Peace Studies” and move to the end of the bibliography.
# Sponsel, L. E. (1996) The natural history of peace – A positive view of human nature and its potentials, in Thomas Gregor (ed) A natural history of peace, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville (USA).
# Sponsol, L. E. (2012) Spiritual ecology – A quiet revolution. Praeger Publishing, Greenwood Pub. Group, Wesport (Conn).
# Sponsel, L. E. (2015) Peace and nonviolence – Anthropological aspects, in James D. Wright (ed) International Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences, Volume 4, Elsevier, Oxford.
Piero P. Giorgi gained a BSc Hons in Biological Sciences (1965, University of Bologna, Italy), a PhD in Neurology (1974, University of Newcastle/Tyne, UK) and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Biology (1998). As a neuroscientist he has introduced scientific concepts and different research methods into peace studies, a discipline usually operating within humanities and social sciences. With other colleagues at the University of Queensland, Piero introduced in 1991 the first program in Australia for a Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies (Social Sciences), which is still offered in 2021. He retired in 2005 to promote peace studies in Italy, as a member of the Centre for European Studies of Gargnano, Brescia: www.centroeuropeo.info. University of Otago – National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.pierogiorgi.org (Detailed Academic CV – Peace Studies)
Tags: Extinction, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear war, Peace Studies, Politics, Warfare
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Aug 2022.
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