For Ministries and Infrastructures of Peace

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 Jan 2024

David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

In a world torn by the wars in Ukraine and Palestine, and threatened by the Bidens, Putins and Netanyahus, we must not forget the slow, patient work of those who cultivate peace.

1 Jan 2024 – In this regard, I said the following in a video conference of the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures for Peace that was organized by Vijay Mehta.

People don’t want war, so the warriors must claim they are working for peace.
But this is a sham. I learned this from my experience during ten years at UNESCO.

I was warned of this back in 1993 when we first started the Culture of Peace Program at UNESCO. We invited the United Nations to send a representative to our first international meeting which was preparing national culture of peace programs to follow up the peace accords in El Salvador and in Mozambique. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali could not come but he send Alvaro de Soto who had negotiated the Chapultepec Accords that put an end to the civil war in El Salvador that had been fueled by the United States and its allies. De Soto told us that we should not expect support for national culture of peace programs, since the US and Europe refused to fulfill the aid that they had promised when signing the Chapultapec Accords.

De Soto was correct. With great effort and patient diplomacy we were able to get the former enemies in El Salvador and Mozambique to develop joint project proposals in education, culture and communication, but when it came time for financing them, the US and Europeans, with one exception, refused to give support. The US ambassador to Mozambique told me personally that their only aid packages were simply to fund the political parties of Renamo and Frelimo, the political parties representing the two sides of the previous civil war. Funds from the US Republican Party went to Renamo and funds from the US Democratic Party went to Frelimo in order to corrupt them and reproduce an American-style corrupt two-party system. There was no money for peace.

Eventually we had to abandon all the national culture of peace programs developed by UNESCO because we could not obtain the needed finance. By the way, one of them was an extensive culture of peace program in the Russian Federation.

Instead, we developed civil society and individual involvement in the International Year for the Culture of Peace decided by the UN system for the Year 2000. 75 million people signed the Manifesto 2000, promising to develop a culture of peace “in my daily life, in my family, my work, my community, my country and my region.” That’s one percent of the planet! And despite persistent opposition by the US and Europeans, thanks to the work of the Bangladesh ambassador, Anwarul Chowdury, the UN General Assembly adopted the landmark Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace that we had proposed from UNESCO.

All of the above was a accomplished at UNESCO thanks to the commitment of its Director-General Federico Mayor. But once his mandate expired, he was replaced by Director-General under the influence of the United States. He installed a new program director who told me bluntly, “part of my task is to get rid of you and to bury your program.” He even wrote a memo to the New York office forbidding them to allow me to enter the office once I retired to the United States.

After leaving UNESCO, in order to understand what had happened, I researched and wrote the book, The History of the Culture of War.

There are many histories of war, but this is the first history that deals with the culture that underlies war, that prepares for it and sustains it.

There are two main conclusions to the History of the Culture of War.

The first conclusion is that over the course of history the nation-state has come to monopolize the culture of war. Only the state can make war. Only the state can kill. Indigenous peoples, cities, private companies and criminal syndicates that had previously made war were now prevented from doing so, i.e. “pacified.” As the great sociologist Max Weber explained, the very definition of the state became the social organization with a monopoly of violence on its territory.

The second conclusion comes from my first remark that people do not want war. Because of this, as democracy gained around the world, national governments were forced to convince their citizens that they were threatened by an enemy. Otherwise they could not justify their military preparations and wars. And since usually there was no real enemy, they had to control and manipulate information, especially the mass media, to convince voters that they were under attack.

Usually the governments’ control of the media is kept hidden, but at one point it came out following the American War in Vietnam. Senator Frank Church (from the unlikely state of Idaho) held hearings in the Senate about government control of the media to support the war. The hearings revealed that all the major mass media were controlled and manipulated by the Central Intelligence Agency in order to manufacture support for the war. But when they got down to details, the hearings were made secret. The great American journalist Carl Bernstein attended the hearings and wrote a detailed account. But all of the major media refused to print his account, and eventually he published it in, of all places, Rolling Stone Magazine. Fortunately, his article is still available on the internet.

When we look at the media accounts of the Ukraine War, we see that all of the major media simply blame the war on Russia and take the side of NATO, cheering on their furnishing arms to expand the war. Clearly, the mass media are controlled and manipulated by the governments of NATO, just as they were during the Vietnam War. In the United States, not only the media, but also arts institutions, charities, churches, and universities receive funds from the military-industrial complex in order to buy their compliance.

For this reason, beginning when I was still at UNESCO in 1998, I have developed and maintained the Culture of Peace News Network that provides independent news on the internet about the culture of peace. Fortunately, we are not alone. There are other independent media as well that are not controlled by governments, although they sometimes come under attack, as Julian Assange came to experience when he published the culture of war secrets of the American government.

Can the culture of war of governments be changed?

That is clearly the goal of those who struggle to develop government ministries and infrastructures of peace.

It is not an easy task, since it is opposed by the military-industrial complex and others who profit from war.

Take, for example, the US Institute of Peace, established in 1984 as the result of a long struggle by peace activists, including my good friend Paul Kimmel. It was clearly intended to be an infrastructure for peace. But when it was established by the US Congress, they gave control of the Institute to the Pentagon, the US military. Hence, when the US decided to invade Afghanistan in October, 2001, and the Program Officer and Senior Trainer of United States Institute of Peace, Barbara Wien, spoke out against the invasion, she was forced to resign.

Does that mean that the struggle is impossible? Only time will tell.

Does it mean that the struggle is useless? Not at all!

In fact, the struggle itself is very important: it forces the nation-state to abandon its sham promotion of peace, and to reveal itself as the true source of the culture of war. It reveals that the struggle for a culture of peace is a political struggle! It raises our consciousness. It calls forth the righteous indignation that is the psychological fuel that we need to fight for peace.

Peace cannot be attained by meditation, by nonviolent communication, by yoga, by seeking “inner peace.” These forms of so-called “peace activism” can serve as a diversion from the true struggle, which is political!

Is the political struggle dangerous? Ask Julian Assange and Mordecai Vanunu. Ask what happened to Mahatma Gandhi, to Nelson Mandela, to Martin Luther King Jr.

But there is no greater task, no task more noble, than to work for the transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace. The future of the world depends on it.

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Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

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