The human race is the only species (that we know of) that is capable of imaging its own frightening demise in such technicolor detail. In fact, looking at most science fiction produced today, a dystopian future where the world has been shredded by war, scorched by nukes and/or dominated by cruel and vicious despots is the norm. Science fiction tells us what the future will look like in some jolting ways. Author Arthur C. Clarke predicted satellites in geo-sync orbit decades before that became reality(1). Isaac Asmov wrote about the 3 laws of robotics as ways to keep robots (think AI) serving humanity instead of the other way around. (2) Kim Stanley Robinson wrote of how mars was colonized with the cycle of power, domination and war predictably following. (3) This last one has yet to play out although it is clear we will colonize mars . . .
Does it have to be this way? What I suggest is that sci-fi writers have a huge role to play in helping humanity imagine that we will ‘get it right’ in terms of bright, happy futures filled with dignity for ALL. In this blog series I will suggest paragraph book starts with ideas that could be expanded upon to imagine a bright future on this planet. Here goes with my first Bright Future sci-fi starter. . .
The Cost of Denial
By the mid-2020s it became clear that the political cost of climate change denying made running untenable. In fact, in the 2024 presidential elections, not a single candidate in any of the 6 parties who fielded a congressional candidate had a record of silence, if not outright denial, of the so called ‘climate debate’ at the turn of the century. Such was the tsunami of unanimous demand from the populace for leadership to act!
The Republic of Bendora is an island nation surrounded by lesser islands like Renbel, Kula, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Laos and Canada to name a few. Fictitious of course, Bendora is the name of one of the case study scenarios we used in the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) Human Centered Security course. Our training design was hands-on and used made-up scenarios with real-world challenges. Newly designed to help those seeking to reframe security paradigms in their countries, this course tasked work groups to use conflict analysis and mapping skills. One starting assumption in Human Security include that nations are most secure when the needs of people (freedom from fear, freedom from want and respect for dignity) are the reference points.
This year at MPI we had a major delegation from the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation, and Peace in the Solomon Islands. During group work participants from five other countries tackled the Bendoran security issues which included clan tensions, an earthquake, outside meddling by foreign powers and weak governance. I observed that, in the minds of the participants, Bendora was imagined as an island nation among many other islands. The Bendoran mapping exercise proved the truism that our world is shaped by our perspective.
Sitting daily beside the sea for three meals a day, our MPI venue on the Philippine Island of Mindanao provided a tactile reminder of our geographic location. I have often thought about how the environment around us is but one influence that shapes our perception and experience. These filters, when applied unconsciously, are often a detriment to building peace. I wonder if art is the best medium to reveal hidden perspectives and once exposed these biases can be harnessed for peace. That was certainly the case for Bendora revealing its island nature.
Jonathan Rudy Senior Advisor for Human Security at the Alliance for Peacebuilding
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Alliance for Peacebuilding or Elizabethtown College)
In the late 1980s I found myself in a country sliding into the unceremonious club of ‘failed states.’ I watched as the banks collapsed and were taken over by individuals. I watched as increasingly large parts of the country we engulfed in chaos and the only state response was repression and violence. As the cycle of violence spun out of control it swept already tenuous government authority with it. It is an understatement to say that citizens felt heightened insecurity as the fragile structures and institutions of the nation state collapsed.
Since then I have pondered what makes any person feel safe and secure. What contributes to insecurity and how would we measure that? One metric of human security is the level of state legitimacy that is acceded by a given population. Dr. Lisa Schirch says that “the state derives legitimacy from a social contract that defines what states will do to protect public interests and rights and what freedoms the public will give up in return.” 
I understand legitimacy of governance through a few different benchmarks. First is the access toand level of participation people have in decisions making. This is critical for citizens to feel that the state serves the people and not the other way around. Second is the modality with which state exercises power. Power derived by inviting collaboration and cooperation yields a very different sense of ownership than the power derived from coercion, intimidation and the use of violent force. Thirdly is the accountability to the use of that power. Accountability can be measured by adherence to the rule of law including how uniformly that is metered out on ALL of the population. Lastly it is the perception that the rule of law is for the greater common good, not just for the benefit of one group or even a few individuals.
I have been watching The Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota expose the deep illegitimacy of both the state and in some cases the Federal Government. Disregarding treaties and consultation with the tribe, the North Dakota government has systematically ignored the voices of the tribe. The militarized response to the nonviolent protests has been harsh and abusive. Accountability for the systematic marginalization of the tribe and repression of the water protectors has been missing while no acknowledgment of preceding agreements has made meaningless the rule of law. Finally the behavior of the governor is giving a distinct message that the governance apparatus is protecting the narrow self-interests of the pipeline company and corporate profits at the expense of the tribe and all who live downstream of the pipeline. That the potential for greater harm (polluted water) is not in any way recognized by a valid environmental study  further erodes confidence in the state and national authorities. A hasty licensing process and construction of the pipeline is not in the long term greater common good.
My friends in the Philippines look at this wholesale travesty of both the rule of law and respect for human rights and ask me, “why would our country want to enter into any security agreements with a nation that treats its people with such brutality?” With the continued militarized response that perpetrates human rights abuses, lack of accountability and finally adherence to the laws of the land, the US may have dipped below a threshold of legitimacy that now has negative ramifications for national security as well as human security.
 Schirch, Handbook on Human Security; A Civil-Military-Police Curriculum, The Hague Netherlands: Alliance for Peacebuilding, GPPAC, Kroc Institute, March 2016, p. 49
I want to address an apparent incongruity in the diagram in my last post. Thank you, Amy, for bringing this up. In previous posts on “The End of Enemy”, I have advocated for reimagining language that supports and reinforces peace. The use of the word “warrior” in my onion diagram may seem like a contradiction in terms when harnessed with a nonviolent model. As someone deeply committed to peacebuilding and nonviolent change I have come to terms with this word warrior. So in my thinking I have already rehabilitated the word but made a leap of logic in so doing. Let me elaborate on my thinking.
I am convinced that the role of a warrior is a masculine archetypical stage of formation. This is the life stage where mountains are climbed, rivers forded and dragons are slain. This is passionate kinetic energy focused on external struggles and even sacrifice. However, if it is not shaped and molded by elder wisdom, and grounded with the nurture of deep connection, it can easily perpetrate violence, death and destruction. This is the imbalance we see in the world today. The gift, in all the pain of the struggle for water protection in North Dakota, is balance returning to the earth and all her relations. The unity we see at the Standing Rock Camp is evidence of that.
What I see in the #NoDAPL Movement is the Lakota Sioux Tribe and indeed all First Nations tribes struggling for dignity and respect for treaties they have honored but the government as not. It is a struggle for acknowledgement that the United States has waged genocide against them. In all of this I see elders reaffirming that the struggle will be waged nonviolently. THIS is shaping the warrior energy into activism, peaceful means of protecting water and protesting the pipeline which has desecrated their sacred sites. One of the Water Protector Camps is called the Red Warrior Camp. The #NoDAPL movement is redefining the word warrior within the context of a nonviolent struggle and I deeply honor that.
Communications skills are essential to transforming conflict. Reframing is the ability to distill charged, perhaps negative and loaded statements and see the essential needs of the speaker. For example:
“I hate her…she doesn’t respect me.”
As a listener, you might reframe that exclamation as:
“You have a need to be respected by her. What does respect look like if she were to give you the respect you need?”
Simple and basic stuff but I often find it challenging to get past the raw emotion to the core need. Yet when I do use reframing, I almost always immediately find the core need. In this case the need to be heard, to have ones voice matter in a conversation or dialogue.
Getting to needs and then helping each other meet those needs is essential to peace. Disregarding the needs of others is the surest way to start the little and big wars that plague our world today. Stay with me here as I make the leap of logic . . . true Human Security might just start with listening for the needs of others!
4. Creating Reality
I have been intrigued by the question of how much of our world we create in our own minds. This question was made really clear on the streets of Kabul and rural north of Afghanistan. This journal entry from: 24 Oct 2012…posted to a student on the topic of culture on the Etown Blackboard Discussion Board…
This past weekend I experienced the hospitality of the people of northern Afghanistan. I felt safe, cared for and the warm welcome of a people who have an ancient culture. Yet just at arm’s length away were the vehicles of war from my own nation, on edge for fear of being shot at. They were at war. How can our two realities exist within the same space-time continuum? What is the difference between me in my host’s Toyota Corolla enjoying the beauty of rural Afghanistan and my compatriots in their Armored Personnel Carrier who see danger behind every rock?
Could it be that the language we use helps create reality? If you have not done so already, check out the Handbook on Human Security: A Civil-Military-Police Curriculum* that was recently written by Lisa Schirch and co-published by Alliance for Peacebuilding, Kroc Institute and Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). On page 146 is a chart comparing and contrasting State and Human security terminology. On the one hand the ‘other’ is an enemy, criminal or perpetrator. On the other hand the ‘other’ is a more neutral term; stakeholder. A stakeholder is someone to engage, hear a story from and who has an interest in what happens. Stakeholders, being such a generic term, begs questions about who, what, when, where, why and how. The other 3 terms, enemy, criminal and perpetrator denote a precast, prejudged role with no room for story or depth.
I am currently in northern Thailand giving a series of talks on peacebuilding and human security at the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace (IRCP) at Payap University. I experienced a wonderful example of the positive/creative language I have been blogging about when Dr. Suchart Setthamalinee, IRCP faculty, invited me to the local mosque for Friday prayers. The message, brought by a student, urged the faithful to “resist retaliation and embrace forgiveness because forgiveness is central to life.” He implored “when someone does evil to you and you retaliate, the evil they have done comes to you. But if you don’t return evil for evil then the evil stays with them.” With those simple yet profound words the Islamic community in Chiang Mai reinforces the tradition of neighborliness and unity which has characterized interfaith relations here.
Chiang Mai Thailand is a place where the major religions have a long history of natural co-existence. As I chatted with the leaders of the mosque, however, I became aware that the historical mutual respect these leaders have toward each other, is under stress from global attitudes and realities. Many times in our conversation the term ‘Islamophobia’ came up.
It strikes me that the normative impulse for humans to get along with their neighbors can be understood as a kind of passive co-existence. The globalization of division, hate and exclusivism is challenging the interfaith sphere in Chiang Mail to become active co-creators of harmonious living. Can we imagine communities where we more than tolerate each other but embrace the notion of thriving together in our diversity? The mosque in Chiang Mai can!
In my last few posts I suggested that we dispense with fighting enemies and focus on creating the world of peace and security we want. I pondered if the place to start was transforming our English Language idioms that are shot full war-like language. …How many of you caught that I just used one of those violence oriented saying …”shot full of…” ?
I challenged the readers in the last post to shift language to more organic and peaceful language. How about instead of “shot full of…” that I used the word “peppered, salted or spiced?” Our English Language is peppered with war-like language.
Have you thought of alternatives to the use of “bullet points?” How about “pearl points?”
I posed this challenge to a class at Elizabethtown College and they artfully came up with this substitute. Instead of “targeting that idea for a campaign” they suggested, “planted that seeds for future growth.”
I propose using earth-based, organic language to orient us away from war-like language and toward a nurturing, sustaining language that reconnects us to Mother Earth. The effect might be increased awareness for our biological, finite nature which in turn could increase respect for this little blue ball spinning around the sun we call home.
(Picture is of earth (the small blue dot) from the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn)
Have you ever pondered if and how our very use of language keeps us focused on the fight with enemies? For example, what do we call the dots in front of a series of items on a page? Bullet points? Have you ever noticed how soaked the English Language is with war making? Take these examples:
ideas shot down
attack a problem
more ammunition for the argument
campaigns and crusades for issues
aim your sights higher
in the trenches
doing battle with my kids
charge into a situation
armed with the facts
taking flack for some decision
fight for justice
saying ‘shoot’ when I goof up
drawing the battle lines
And if that were not enough we are constantly urged by advertisers to “arm ourselves against” ignorance, insurance fraud, termites ….” We declare war, endless wars on drugs, poverty, corruption, crime, cancer, rust, toilet bowl rings.
I am tired of war. I want something different and I believe the place to start is my own thinking which directly impacts my language.
I challenge you, until the next posting in a few days, to find alternative, more organic ways to say the things listed above without the aggressive, warmongering language.