As we have seen, ‘naturalization’ includes assimilating our cultural codes in such wise that they seem natural, fixed, unchangeable. This is precisely what has happened with the culture of adversarialism, and why we need to train agents of socio-cultural change in order to reverse it. We have also seen that denaturalizing the culture of adversarialism implies “making the unconscious conscious”, to use Pierre Bourdieu’s words, and showing that is it cultural codes and not genetic codes that lead us to behave the way we do. This chapter will explore a few ways to achieve this change and promote it in others.
Once upon a time, a young couple was taking a romantic stroll along a lovely river bank near their village, when suddenly they heard a plaintive cry. Looking out across the water, to their horror they saw a small child being swept away by the current. Disregarding their own comfort and safety, they dove in and dragged the child ashore. Panting heavily from the effort, they again heard a desperate call for help from the river and saw another youngster fighting not to drown. Again they risked their lives to swim out and rescue the little one. The couple lay in exhaustion on the shore, remarking such an awful coincidence, when they heard the shrieks of a third victim from the river. With their remaining strength they braved the current to save this youth.
This section considers different intervention options available to agents of change who wish to work towards a culture of peace. The world was not always as adversarial as it is now, and will not always be. Achieving the world we want will require coordinated psycho-cultural and socio-structural transformations, and action alternatives are suggested that consider these two dimensions. We will end with a review of the role of utopia in building a new world.
This is another important source of often-invisible referents that coexist alongside, below the surface, or sometimes against the current of the predominant culture. A classical example of this is the so-called ‘private sphere’, traditionally managed by women, which is characterized by cooperation, conciliation, preservation, kindness, and compassion. It coexists with the ‘public sphere’, conventionally dominated by men, with its patterns of competition, conflict, conquest, aggression, and insensitiveness. The public sphere tends to be the most visible and outspoken, but it is the private sphere that has enabled humankind to survive the damage it has caused.
Anthropologists have described numerous indigenous cultures that evince significant elements of mutualism. They include the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic, the Mbuti of the rain forests of Zaire in Central Africa, the Zuni in the deserts of Southeastern United States, the Arapesh of the New Guinea mountains, and the Lepcha in the mountain villages of Nepal, to name but a few. The peaceful attitudes of these communities are not due to a different essence or genetic makeup that differentiates them from the rest of humanity, but to generations of conscious decisions and daily efforts to nurture a harmonious way of life.
Here, too, are found referents that teach valuable lessons regarding the process of organizing and developing a different kind of society. For example, Norway is a country whose culture of peace has attracted much attention recently. Several modern nations of Asia have millenary cultures that have long been acknowledged and studied for their extraordinary levels of harmony and synergy. They are also the result of joint decisions to achieve a peaceful society, express it in tangible forms and practices, and pass on both this conviction and its outer expressions from early childhood.
In this section, we will seek to answer the question, “Where is there any society based on mutualism and cooperation?” This is done from a perspective of ‘simple’ or pre-industrial societies, modern nations, intentional communities, alternative institutions, social movements, parallel subcultures, archetypical figures, and daily anonymous heroes. We will review in some detail certain samples of these different benchmarks, emphasizing that they need not be perfect to serve as alternative models, and end by asking whether or not conflict and competition would have any appropriate place in a culture of peace.
Alternative institutions seek to transform certain social structures in response to the inefficacy of official institutions, with which they coexist while seeking to replace them. Therefore, they are usually not promoted by States, but by civil society and non-governmental organizations, often in the form of political and economic “laboratories” or sociocultural “experiments”. They may be part of larger social movements that seek to correct some of the disruptions caused by the culture of selfishness and violence.
Heroes are people who transcend the limits imposed by custom and inertia, who show us what we are capable of becoming. They may be moral leaders, whose reputation has made them emblems of human virtue and achievement, such as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. They show us the heights that human beings can reach. However, often people do not identify with them enough to follow their examples, but place them in a separate category, as almost super-human.
Of greater importance perhaps is the mass phenomenon –ubiquitous but practically invisible– of everyday anonymous heroes. These are people who are around us on a daily basis, who we sometimes take for granted, but who provide tangible, unavoidable models of selflessness and kindness: fathers, mothers, teachers, brothers, mentors, and friends. Few acknowledge their ceaseless labors of love, both large and small, but they are the immense majority of the population, who keep this world from being completely torn apart by the adversarialism and voracity of the vociferous minority.