|Return To Episode Page||Return to Peace Talks Radio Home Page|
Conversations held with each guest during the 2010 Peace Week event
Ocean Robbins: At some point, we’ve got to ask, not just what stories are true, but what stories are useful. For example, I think oh, my kids are going to come home from school today, I have nine year old twins, if I think they’re going to come home from school today and they’re going to be really cranky and probably hit each other all the time, so I’ve got to prepare to deal with that. Then I’ve got to ask myself, well, is that thought useful? It might be useful if it helps me to be fully available when they get home to greet them with enthusiasm, but it might not be useful if it causes me to want to shut the door and not be around them when they get home because I’m afraid of their grouchiness.
So a lot of times in our lives, we carry belief systems and thoughts about what we expect or what our history is. We frame our world through those belief systems and thoughts and they have a tremendous impact on, not only how we see things, but on what we do. I am often interested not in what is the correct way to perceive, but what is the most useful way to perceive. What will help me to meet life’s challenges and opportunities with the best of who I am and to be responsive and resilient to what comes?
So on a cultural level, we have a lot of myths, we have a lot of stories that we tell and they have deep meaning to a lot of people and you’re right, there does come a time when we’ve got to ask what is the ultimate impact for our children, for our lives, for our families, for our communities of telling these stories. Particularly we’ve got to look at the stories where there’s an enemy, where there’s a bad guy. Whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, whether it’s Jewish people or Arabs or Muslims or Christians or Fundamentalists of any kind or non-believers, whatever our story is, if there’s a bad guy, if there’s an enemy, if there’s a villain, then we’ve got to take a serious look at what the cost is of villainizing and demonizing people. We may passionately disagree with their actions. We may think they’re vile and, not only do we find them offensive, but we may think that they are destructive and violent to others.
At the same time, can we continue to hold love and respect for the individual? As Dr. King said, we must “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” So I’m constantly looking at what does it mean to do that and what are the stories and worldviews that will help us with that. One of the worldviews that I find really useful is one that honors diversity, it celebrates unique perspectives, so that when I hear someone say something I don’t agree with, my reaction is oh, maybe I’m about to learn something. At the same time, I’m not going to give up on what I believe just because I’m listening to somebody else. We have to stay true to who we are and what we know and keep listening for the deeper interpretations of that knowing.
I’m interested in taking stands more than positions and part of what that means to me is that a stand is for life and a position is about a particular issue or policy and sometimes positions need to change in order to be true to the stand that we hold as we receive new information and as our world evolves. So I’m interested in a willingness to evolve in my positions and also an absolute commitment to be true to my core intentions. I feel like I’m in this world because I want to bring more love into this world, more peace into this world, more justice and beauty into this world. Those are stands that are with me and I believe will be with me for my entire life and my methodology for doing so may change and evolve.
Stephan Dinan: What are some of the other skills or aspects of being a peace builder that you’ve seen are really key as working with leaders around the world? What are some of the skills that have been necessary to really, for them to be successful in peace-building work?
Robbins: Well one skill, which I’ve talked about a lot in this call is having an open mind to diversity and even a sense of passion, hunger, to understand different ways of seeing and understanding the world so we can know what makes people tick and what values underlie their actions and what worldviews are behind their sense of things.
I also think that persistence is pretty important. You can take a step in any direction you want, but it’s thousands of steps to get you somewhere. So I think that it matters not just what direction we head, but how long we keep going and how persistent and steady we are in that.
I really believe in creating good habits because the truth is that we don’t have time to constantly reexamine everything we do, so we try to make the wisest choices we can, think things through and get in good habits, whether it’s with nutrition, with spiritual practice, with communication styles, with work ethic, with many of the other things that we may value. How do we create around us patterns and opportunities to support us in doing the right thing day in and day out and break those habits that we know are counterproductive and destructive to your lives, whether it’s watching TV or binging on junk food or thinking junk thoughts or getting caught up in things that we know are counterproductive. The more we can catch that and listen to our inner guidance and honor it, the healthier we’re going to be and have compassion for ourselves. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to fall flat sometimes. That’s okay. Let’s keep on loving and keep on caring and include ourselves in that circle of compassion.
I believe that the same dynamics in which we tend to demonize other people play out in-house so to speak. We often demonize parts of ourselves that we’re unwilling to acknowledge or haven’t come to terms with.
So I am also a big believer in supporting leaders of all kinds, in not just trying to give the inspiring presentation on the stage, but to be authentic and to bring more consciousness to what is so in us and in our world so that we can build our lives on real ground, on something that matters and something that’s true because we don’t need more big talk nearly so much as we need more authentic action.
Aqeela Sherrill: One of the things that I’ve discovered over the years is that, as I’ve spoken to the high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder and hypervigilance that exists in the neighborhood, PTSD has the exact same symptoms as sexual abuse; being emotionally desensitized, the trust issues, the abandonment issues, those things are interwoven. A lot of times when I share these statistics, folks think that’s a little high, but I would say that somewhere in the area of about 90% of young boys and maybe 95% of young girls have been sexually and physically abused. This sexual, physical, psychological abuse kind of takes the voice away and it almost always prevents a person from standing up for themselves and voicing what has happened to them because of the fear of being rejected by your own family and also by the community in which you live. Over the years I started seeing that the incidents; the stolen car, the shoot-out where nobody was hit or murdered, they were only triggers for the deeper wounds that are happening in the personal lives of folks.
So I launched, about five years ago, a project called the “Reverence Project” to really begin to focus on those types of incidents to create an intentional space to support folks in talking about the deep secrets in their personal lives as a way of accessing the gift of who they are because I believe that if we can metamorphous the given idea about the things that we’ve experienced, then we have an opportunity to turn those wounds into gifts so that they can actually become seeds for future possibilities. My work now centers a lot around utilizing the situation of gangs as a way of going deeper and saying, “Hey, what’s happening with your personal life. What are you going through? How do you find love in your life?” It’s been really interesting.
Dinan: I’m just curious, what is it that really creates a sense of safety that allows people who have been often pretty defended to open up and really share about the wounds and the deeper secrets?
Sherrill: In many cases, me. I have to expose my secrets. Sharing a deep secret yourself actually gives others permission to do the same. If you tell folks about the things that you’ve experienced, that you’ve gone through and then folks are like, okay. They feel less like alien to the process. They’re like, wow, that happened to you too? And folks are always shocked when they hear me share about what was my inspiration for doing the work. I tell them that I shared with a woman, when I was in college, for the first time that I was sexually abused as a kid and that this kind of like became my opening that, today, that experience in my life has become my greatest gift. I don’t condone what the perpetrator did, however I do recognize that it’s given me a, almost like a sense of clairvoyance that I connect with people who have had that similar experience in a very deep way and I can almost sense when it’s happened to someone. When I share my story, folks are like, wow. So then, little by little, you’ll see them share theirs. It’s not always that they just open up and share it right away, sometimes it’s just through a look, it’s just through the eyes. It’s not a cliché to say that the eyes are the window of the soul because so much is exposed through the eyes if we are still enough to pick it up. Sometimes a person just gives that look and I know and I don’t have to pry or push too far to know.
I try to utilize a lot of different things now. I recently did an intervention for some young folks out of Bayview-Hunters Point. A really volatile situation with a few young folks and they sent two of the young men down and I spent a couple of days with them doing an intervention around some of the violence that had happened in the community and I took these young men to get a massage. Most of the time a massage is associated in my neighborhood with what we call a “happy ending.” You go to the massage parlor and you get a happy ending. So they were like we’re going to get a happy ending? I’m like, no man, we’re going to get a real massage to the etheric energy in the body so that we could have more space in the imagination for new things to be able to enter. So after we came out of Just Massage, they were just like, wow. They were like, man, I never even thought about getting a massage before and it was like man, I feel so good and like open. I was like, yeah, that’s what this is for, it’s a tool to help you to access more of your heart.
As you know, back in 2004, January of 2004, my older son, who was a student at Humboldt State University, was home on winter break and was killed at a party, 19 years old. It was just a random thing. Some kid walked up behind him, I don’t know if there were words exchanged or whatever happened, but the kid just pulled out a gun and shot him five times and killed him. To this day, I don’t know all of the details surrounding what happened, but there were 50 other young folks out there that night that my son was murdered, and this is something that happens over and over again in the neighborhood, no one said anything. No one was willing to come forward and testify about what they saw because to speak about it, we have this rule in the neighborhood of not snitching, to speak about it means that you expose yourself, both personally and collectively, to a violence that exists in the community. It’s kind of like sewn into our DNA in a certain sense that folks have historically seen people murdered and killed for speaking truth. It’s so interwoven in our person that we see horrific things happen like this and we basically shut down as opposed to speaking up about it.
I could have easily called out the wolves on this young man who took my sons’ life and took his life, but instead I was like, there’s something happening, there’s something that happened to this kid, 17 years old, that caused him to have a callous heart, that caused him to take another human being's life. There was a violation that happened and I’d like to be able to hold space for one day of being able to ask him, “What happened?” I’d like to meet his parents and ask his parents where they feel like they lost connection with their child if they ever had a connection and then support the process and him getting the proper counseling, therapy or whatever human modality is necessary so that he can begin to live some sort of a balanced life because his life is intrinsically connect to Terrell’s for the rest of his life. His ability to live some sort of a normal life hinges upon him being able to reconcile what he did, to not define himself as a murderer, but see himself acting out of the wounds in his own life.
So it’s the redemption quality that also, to me, is present in reverence. Forgiveness, as an initiation, is a quality that’s also present in this idea of a reverence movement, that you forgive yourself first before you actually forgive the perpetrator. It doesn’t mean you’re happy, chummy, chummy, kissing the perpetrator, walking down the street holding hands, no. It means that once you’ve forgiven yourself, it moves you to that place of compassion where you can put yourselves in the shoes of the perpetrator and really know and understand what it is to be deeply wounded and to act out of that place so that we can have more compassion and empathy for humanity and for human beings because nobody is innocent. We’ve all played a role in it, either as perpetrators or victims or as perpetuators of it.
I got involved with the Forgiveness Project before my son was murdered and one of the folks in the organization was asking me, “Well, you did the peace treaty between the Crips and Bloods, what are you forgiving? Have you ever killed anyone?” I was like, no, I’ve never killed somebody, but I’ve been a bystander to many people being murdered and I said, as a bystander, I’m almost just as responsible because I said nothing about what happened because to see that, I’m triggering my own wounds and my own insecurities and my own secrets and I’m like, so therefore, I am just as responsible for what happened because I said nothing to the victims family and I said nothing to the perpetrator and I’m like, so we’re complicit to the violence that’s happening in the culture and we’re not saying anything about it.
All of the work that I do is all motivated by my own inner practice and my own inner process. I engaged the peace treaty in the neighborhood because it affected me personally and deeply. I connected to this work around reverence because it’s a conversation that I find myself in consistently about how do I balance the gift in the wound in my own life and then be able to bring that forward. So to me, the cutting edge of the work centers around an inner personal practice as well as this outer organizational practice. There has to be an alignment or what happens is that folks become pretty disconnected
Bettty Williams: Those who say to you that there can’t be peace on earth are those who are not working for it because there can be peace on earth. It’s not the erring fairy. Peace is something that we have in our lives every single day; in our homes, with our children, with our relationships. A lot of times we develop that and it’s a better world for us all because everybody wants it. If you just speak to your parishes, they’ll tell you they don’t want war. The Irish used to say all the time, oh, I don’t want war, but they were committing war in the name of God. Once you bring that fact to the fore and start actually working for peace, it’s not easy, nobody ever told us it was and the work that has to be done to cure the world is going to be very hard. There is no easy way through it, but if we’re committed to it, we can do. I know we can.
Our movement in Northern Ireland didn’t solve all the problems, but what happened was it made the word “peace” and the work of peace respectable and respected. So we can all do it and that’s exactly the way peace people should work, not expecting immediate results because this world didn’t get in this mess overnight so we’re not going to get it out of this mess overnight. I’m going towards 70 years old, so whatever I start today, at least I know when I leave the world it will be ongoing and I can die happy.
Dinan: What do you see as some of the most important ways that people can empower the next generation and really help them to stand forth as peace leaders?
Williams: Never tell them a lie. Tell them the truth about what’s happening. Don’t flannel anything with the young because they can see right through that. The only thing that I can give my young that I’m with, and when I’m with them, they’re all my kids you know, the only thing I can give them is my [Inaudible 02:10] and the truth about how they can change it.
People look at you and say, “Why do you work for peace?” I look at them and say, “Why are you not?” Every child that dies in this world is a mothers’ labor spurned. It’s a rejection of what she went through to bring that child into the world. It’s a rejection of her love for that child. It’s an absolute slap in the face of creation because we, as women, were born with wombs. We are the givers of life. We must become the protectors of that life. There is no way around that but through it. It’s a fact that has to be dealt with. Every single child that dies in our world today, and there’s upwards of 40,000 of them, a mother gave that child birth and it was her labor spurned. It’s a terrible, terrible thing that’s happening and we should all be involved in stopping it.
I’m sorry for getting so emotional, but that’s a reality.
Kimmee Weeks: You know, I started in a very, very simple way in Liberia when I had a near death experience was in 1990 when I was ten and it was the same time I made the vow that I would spend my life making sure that no child went through what I had gone through; not having food, not having water, et cetera, and obviously at that point being a ten year old, I had no idea what I would do or how I would do it, but I made that commitment.
Some of the earliest projects that we did started very, very simply, nothing compared to the work that we’re doing now. The very, very first project we did was simply cleaning up the community. We had come back from the war, there was lots of debris, lots of dirt all over the place and a bunch of kids and I decided to clean up the community and that was the first thing, very simple.
Two years later on we started an organization called “Voice of the Future” and we started working on different campaigns and then later on in 1996, we were living in the capital where we had some security, but around us, there were 20,000 children who were fighting in the Liberian War and killing each other and committing some of the worst atrocities. The youngest child who fought in the Liberian Civil War, according to UNICEF, was six years old who fought and was disarmed, so you’re talking about really young children. So we said, listen, if we cannot end the entire war, the least we can do as children ourselves is to convince the rebel leaders to let the children go, convince the rebel leaders and the rebel commanders that children should not be fighting.
And so with funding from UNICEF, we went out into the rural areas and started talking to these rebel leaders and rebel commanders and going from place to place trying to convince them and getting them to sign petitions and record voice messages essentially saying that at the end of that year, all of the children fighting for them should lay down their guns. And that was a huge fight for us and it was just a beautiful moment because in that time we were also able to rally hundred of children and hundreds of young people across the country to protest for peace and start this big national movement.
But now, one of the things about child soldiers and former child soldiers is that, imagine a ten year old child being forced from their family, being forced into a rebel group, being forced to kill someone in their community, being forced to commit atrocities, they essentially lost an entire childhood and the process of helping to heal them after the war has ended is probably one of the hardest tasks where we work right now.
We work in post-war countries and the reason we work in post-war countries is to try to make sure that we can set in place the mechanisms to prevent countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone from falling back into war. We believe the way we can do that is first by educating the minds, reaching out and touching the minds of the young people of the nation, providing various avenues for healing, but also educating people that another world is possible. Not a world that we use arms and violence to succeed, but a world is possible where we can work together and see and enjoy prosperity.
Then also providing the vocational training for them, the basic skills in carpentry and auto mechanics and plumbing, jewelry making, sewing, tie dying, useful skills that these young people who otherwise would have no opportunities can learn and then finally giving them a microloan to start their businesses and then they start to become successful.
We think that with the combination of these things, when these young people have the opportunity and someone comes to them and says there’s a gun, let’s go fight, they will think twice and say no, I won’t do that because I’ll be destroying what I’ve built for myself and my family. So this is the hope that I have and all of Youth Action International has for Africa.
Steve Killelea: We did a survey here about 18 months ago, maybe two years now, with the UN Global Compact and we framed some questions and they sent it out to their membership. The first question was aimed at very senior executives within those companies. The first question was, “Do you think that the source of your markets increased with increased peacefulness?” Eighty percent came back and said, “yes.” We then asked the second question, “Do you think that your costs reduced with increased peacefulness?” Seventy-nine percent came back and said, “yes.” Then we asked the question, “Do you know where you can go to get information which can help you understand the levels of peacefulness in the markets you operate?” Only thirteen percent said they knew of anything. So opportunity, yeah?
Dinan: Yeah. That’s really interesting, so you become a go to shop to actually help businesses plan strategically for growth and which markets to enter as well.
Killelea: Well I think there is a whole body of work which is still to be done around the value of peace for the global economy and exactly how companies can go about analyzing their markets and the cost structures so that they can get a better understanding of what impacts changing levels of peacefulness will have on their markets and that will give them much more insight into where they should be engaging and where they should be disengaging.
Dinan: What are some of the easiest things that countries can do to really ramp up on their overall score on the peace index that don’t necessarily take huge outlays of infrastructure, but have this kind of holism and really addressing the core roots of violence in the society?
Killelea: I’ll just go through maybe the eight key structures. There are three which we see as the main structures. The first one is a sound business environment. Unless you’ve got the economies which are functioning well, there’s no outlet for people to productively utilize themselves.
The second is a well-functioning government. We also see the international community putting a lot of emphasis there, but quite often it’s more with governments they can work with rather than ones which function well.
The third one, which is key, is the equitable distribution of resources. So that doesn’t mean equal distribution of resources, it means equitable. It means that the resources of the society are distributed in such a way that the participants in those societies see it as equitable.
Now underpinning that, and it flows through all of them, is five other structures. The first is what we define as free-flow of information and that would be maybe epitomized as the freedom of the press, but you could also look at it in a business environment as the ability to be able to correctly price a transaction, maybe correctly price a stock price and free-flow of information gives the ability to understand that.
Low levels of corruption are key. That obviously feeds into having a well functioning government, equitable distribution of resources and sound businesses.
Acceptance of the rights of others. In many ways that is epitomized by human rights.
High levels of education. What’s fascinating about the high levels of education, it doesn’t seem to matter what percentage of the GDP is actually spent on education, what’s key is that people are just actually at school.
And the last one is just good relations with neighbors and that can be neighboring States or it might be the community which is living nearby you. Now as we dig deep into this, we don’t actually find a discourser. What we find is the always different eight structures flow between each other to create and bind with each other. Yes, all that, to me, was really quite fascinating.
Okay, so if I could backup now to a macro picture. If we look at the major issues which are facing humanity today, things like climate change, ever decreasing biodiversity, full use of the fresh water on the planet, underpinning all of them is overpopulation.
Unless we have a world which is basically peaceful, we’ll never get the levels of trust, cooperation, inclusiveness to be able to solve these problems let alone empower the international institutions to create the policies and governance. Therefore, what we would argue is that peace is a prerequisite for the survival of society as we know it in the 21st century and that is different in any other [Inaudible 05:18] in history. In the past, peace may have been the domain of the altruistic, but in this age, it’s in everyone’s self interest.
Dutra-St. John: The bottom line is kids’ emotional needs aren’t getting met. They’re going to schools with higher and higher expectations. Every teacher I know got into it because they cared and then in many ways, they’re disempowered by a system that doesn’t allow them to be able to teach some of the things that the kids need. And I’m not saying that across the board, I’m just saying sometimes. Kids are coming with, we call it “full emotional blooms.” They come to school with full emotional blooms and we’re taking out counselors, we’re taking out all of the emotional supports and we’re saying okay, show up and do this thing.
Then we add to it the feelings that they’re dealing with, the social norm of “one-ups-manship” or the social norm of being in this group and pushing that person away. It’s causing young people not to show up and academically do what they need to do, not emotionally be able to do what they do and to feel disconnected.
We actually think that the biggest problems in schools are separation, isolation and loneliness and it’s where weak and young people compare their insides to other peoples’ outsides and figure that here is the right way to be, here is the wrong way to be, that’s cool, this isn’t cool, I’m not cool and somehow, without getting to know each other, they are left just trying to survive and that’s where “If You Really Knew Me” comes from. It’s like let’s see what’s really going on in your heart. Let’s find out what really matters. Let’s find out if you’re stuck in school, make it safe enough to ask for help, ask for support, tell somebody you don’t know instead of having to act like you do.
Interviewer: Yeah. I’d love to turn that into the positives that are happening because I know that there are so many lives being touched and hearts being opened. Talk about how you guys can go in and really, in a very short period of time, catalyze a deep cultural shift and a healing for a lot of folks and maybe how you’ve structured things so that that can happen.
Rich Dutra-St. John: I actually call it “creating peace from the inside out.” We get to be the heroes we’ve been waiting for, whoever it is, and giving young people permission to actually see who they really are, see the reflection of their connection with each other, have them identify that they have more in common than different and that’s where that compassion for each others’ experiences starts to happen. Then from that opening of discussion, there is where healing starts to take place.
The school, the educators, the people in the room get to see oh, here is what’s really needed. It’s not personal to me that that kid is acting out in class. It’s not personal to me that they didn’t do their homework. It’s what’s going on in their life. So how do we, as adults, hold hands as a society to be able to give kids what they need in school? For me, we’re doing everything we can on our end to provide the resources. So that’s all we do in the day is we show them what’s possible, we get them to see that they have more in common than different and then we give them a roadmap, a path to how it could help going. How it carries on has a lot to do with what the school and the community and the adults do to hold hands and what resources we can include.
The reason we started what we call the “Be the Change” movement was because young people and adults were saying, “Well, what do we do?” And we said well, you don’t have to wait for anybody else to change things, right? Like Gandhi said, “We must be the change you wish to see.” So what happens is we start first noticing, as I mentioned earlier, what’s happening, choose how we’d like it to be and then take some small action. The first thing would be to stand for what you believe. Second is to go share it with other people, and as quickly as possible, join hands in creating a community that actually does at least one positive thing every single day. For me, it’s like if I create peace from inside out, that means I’m going to walk out and if I see someone getting teased, I’ll say something about it. If I see paper on the floor that needs to be picked up, I might be the one who makes the choice to pick that up.
It’s really fun for me to watch how many young people get online and blog their acts of change or how many people, on their own, even when their school isn’t quite on board, are actually being the change in little and big ways every single day.
Audri Scott Williams: We have to look at and begin to provide opportunities for interfaith dialogue. I think one of the most isolated – (I don’t want to say “isolated”). One of the places that we tend to stay is in our boxes in our religion and we have to begin to think about religion, valuing everybody’s religion, valuing all of our differences to make a difference in our communities and in our nation. So I think we have to begin with interfaith, how we bring various faiths and spiritual practices together to begin to acknowledge each others’ space, if you will, but to also say, you know, our God, whatever that may be called; Thor’s creator, what have you, embraces us all. We all come out of that. So I think we need to do a lot of work on the interfaith and that’s certainly a major part of what we do in every city that we go through.
The second is we need to also look at how we relate to one another and what we see with our physical eye if you just open up your eye and walk. What do you see and what is the story that comes out? If we’re speaking one thing about what we value; we value our children, we value our resources and yet what we see is children who are being left out of the opportunity and access cycle, that are hungry; we have more children in poverty now than (I don’t have my statistics in front of me) we’ve had maybe ever since we’ve been collecting statistics as we look at it from a per capita standpoint, health issues, so if we are saying we are valuing these things and then the out picturing of that is the contrary of that, then that alone just simply says we’re not doing something right. We don’t have to put a person value to it yet, but just to simply acknowledge that something is wrong with the picture. It’s not measuring up to what we say we’re doing.
The real challenge and opportunity here is to say, “I can dream this world a better place. I can dream my community a better place.” What that means for me is that okay, we’re standing in the midst of what we see, let’s take it to the next level. What can we do to make this story different two years from now, six years from now, ten years from now? That’s what we want to feed and give energy to. We are putting peace zones in each of the places that we go, with some kind of demarcation, whether it’s a peace pole, a peace garden, something that is a trigger for the community so that it doesn’t lose its connection to what it has come up with as its dream for peace and opportunity and health and healing for its community.
Dennis Kucinich: Our political culture, indeed the macro-culture, has derived from a type of thinking, a philosophical approach to life that involves seeing the world in terms of divisions, that’s what I would call dichotomist thinking; us versus them, black versus white, rich versus poor, young versus old, Christians versus Muslims versus Jews. That kind of thinking which looks at the world only in terms of polar opposites, creates such polarity that it helps to percolate conflict as a precursor to war. If we are going to have a different outcome in this world and in our politics and in our economics, then we have to examine more carefully the impact of the way we think because action necessarily follows our consciousness and we have to move from division to wholeness. We have to look at the world as an unbroken whole in which we are all contained as one fulfilling the promise of America’s first motto, e pluribus unum, out of many, we are one. It is in that oneness that we find truth that we are one and it is in that oneness that we find peace that we are one.
I think that if we are going to get to that place, we must first challenge some underlying assumptions about the way we see the world. So when I speak of challenging the underlying assumptions, I speak of actually looking at how the world is created by our thoughts. There are those who believe in victimization. Well, there’s also another view that says we are not so much victims of the world we see, we become victims of the way we see the world and if we believe the world is an evil, wicked place without redemption, we help to seal our own fate. On the other hand, if we see the world as being ultimately a place where we can work out our fate in a way where all of mankind can move towards a better path, towards a more enlightened path, towards a path of peace and justice, then we, through our deeds, following that type of thinking, can help create the self-fulfilling prophesy of an ascending condition for mankind.
If the past, the present and the future are indeed united, then we are on a journey that is timeless in nature and that every moment when we act, we are acting within the context of eternity. Eternity is not something beyond our grasp. It is something that we are within and contained within. So everything lends itself to transformation. Transformation is not simply a condition that happens at the end of a journey. Sometimes the journey is a transformative journey. The first step changes things. In some ways we have to be more patient with ourselves and with each other so that we don’t lock ourselves into believing because the conditions aren’t exactly what we want at this moment that it will never happen. There is a sense in which we need to plumb the deeper wisdom of Shelly’s poem Prometheus Unbound when he speaks of hope creating from its wreck the thing it contemplates, that we have to be able to hope beyond hope and take our hopes as Paracelsus once wrote in Latin it was [Inaudible 04:16] in English it’s “through hope to the stars.” We live in that place of spirit which we then bring into the material world to infuse it with spiritual principles that then create the transformation and that begins with the stuff of hope.
Where better to bring that than the U.S. Congress. It’s a matter of practice. Gandhi’s life was about testing principles and truth and I think that wherever we work and where I work, it’s kind of the Capital of our nation and sometimes capitol polarized thinking. It’s a good place to test the possibilities of trying to move beyond oppositionality and beyond partisanship and connect with people heart to heart and to see what can come of that. You should know that notwithstanding what appears to be internist and partisan warfare here in Washington, that many members have friends on both sides of the aisle. The thought of party, the idea that there is some inchoate force out there called a party that should trump communication between individuals is pretty crazy. There’s a constant reaching back and forth across the aisle, but we’re still not at the point where we can challenge the notion of partisanship successfully so that people have more options, more choices within the political system so it’s not just a binary democrat or republican choice. I really think that America would benefit from more of a multiparty approach and have more choices and I think we’re starting to see that even with the burgeoning Tea Part, that people want more choices and they ought to have that. If we who are within the party system can offer people a broader range of policy options, maybe they’ll feel satisfied. There’s a potential for that kind of development of bipartisanship.
Dinan: So I’m curious about what you feel are the most inspiring examples of reaching across divides, particularly in the political context.
Kucinich: What happens every time there’s a peace agreement? When you look at what Jimmy Carter was able to put together years ago in making a move towards peace in the Middle East where you had the leader of Israel actually put his life on the line. There are so many instances where people are willing to take risks to try to make this a better world. Some of them are not that well heralded, but there’s healing that takes place all over the country. There are people who try to settle fights inside of a school, people who see their loved ones involved in conflict and try to lead them out of it, people who see thing happen in a workplace and try to lend a gentle tone to things. This is going on all around the world and we need to further that impulse and to encourage the unfolding of, what Franklin Roosevelt called many years ago, the “science of human relations” in the workplace, in our schools, in our homes and celebrate each persons’ contribution. We have a Nobel Peace Prize that’s awarded yearly and yet there should be recognition of individuals at very much a local level who are performing works everyday where they help to create peace.