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Blog: Humanist Voices

united nations blue peace symbol 9-999px copyThe International Day of Peace is more than a day of observance. It is a chance for those of us truly interested in creating a humanistic world to build platforms for a future in which violence, killing, torture, genocide, militarism, and war are confined to history. Far from an unachievable utopian ideal, a world of peace is within our capabilities as humans. It's a choice we make or don't make.


Right now we're not making it (despite encouraging signs), at least not in the way we would have to be if we were serious about addressing social systems antithetical to peace.   It's not very high on our list of moral concerns. One justification for that observation comes from the realization that we're not really counting the costs of non-peace. Culturally it is a commonplace that we measure what we value. If we use this as our heuristic, then the following is of great interest:

"Violence is rarely costed, either economy-wide or business-specific, and we are not aware of any sustained effort to pull all the available information together to tell a consistent, complete, and regularly updated “story” on the cost of violence and the beneficial promise of peace. We summarize here findings from a somewhat haphazard selection of studies, the main objective of which is to gain a sense of the magnitude of the economy-wide cost of violence. No attempt has been made to conduct a comprehensive review."[1]

I take the above as a signpost in the progressive social and historical imagination, a salient fact that tells us a little bit about where we are at in our hoped-for progression beyond the problems of the past. We generate statistics for many things, but apparently not this, at least until these researchers gave it a shot. Any humanistic politics worthy of the name would take a comprehensive inventory of knowledge gaps like this.

The Peace Index (PI) is another signpost [2]. Since 2007 its annual reports have attempted to give a unified picture of various phenomena like levels of violent crime, homicides, political terror and instability, external and internal armed conflicts, etc. According to the report, "There has been a 5% deterioration in the Global Peace Index score over the past six years, indicating a less peaceful world." However, the PI doesn't address pro-peace developments, like positive changes in public attitudes towards peace, peace activism, or the growth of institutions and practices devoted to peace. More on this anon. 

Theorizing and quantification of our problems has unquestionable merit, but can be easily oversold. What's ultimately needed of course is action. We need to change the realities of society. We need new values, practices and institutions of non-violence. 

The following resources represent such reality-changing efforts.



Here is the United Nation's site for the International Day of Peace. In the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, "Let us fight for peace and defend it with all our might." (Somewhat ironic language--and an interesting example of how deeply ingrained the language of violence is in our speech--but it works.) 



The compassion games, "survival of the kindest," offers several fun ways for you to get involved in making "our communities safer, kinder, more just, and better places to live." You can, for instance, become a secret agent of compassion. For 11 days you'll receive a "secret mission" to carry out. 


PEACE DAY TV offers numerous videos related to peace and human rights. 



Peace Day 2013 Global Broadcast will have live streaming of special events, television specials, radio simulcasts" and more on Sept. 21. 



The interdependence movement believes that the concept and philosophy of interdependence--working across national and other borders to advance humanity's collective interests--is vital to our future. It's "Citizens Without Borders" global celebration and forum is being held from Sept. 20-22 in Dublin, Ireland. 



The Culture of Peace Initiative livestreams peace-building events year round. 



The WE campaign seeks to "Ensure basic human needs and well being worldwide; Restore healthy eco-systems and environmental stewardship; Create a culture of peace and nonviolence - from individuals to nation-states." 



11 Days of Global Unity was launched in 2004, and is an annual promotion of peace, justice and environmental stewardship. It now has hundreds of events around the world during its annual celebration. 



Transcend International's mission is "To bring about a more peaceful world by using action, education/training, dissemination and research to transform conflicts nonviolently, with empathy and creativity, for acceptable and sustainable outcomes." Transcend offers a number of 12-week online courses taught by scholar/practitioners. 



The Global Citizens' Initiative's mission is to "bring people and organizations together to promote the practice of global citizenship and build a values-based, sustainable world community." 



The Charter for Compassion seeks to place compassion at the heart of "religious, moral and political life." Humanist and atheist groups everywhere should be signing this and integrating its message. Clearly, merely becoming a signatory to such a document is not enough, and no one would claim that it is. Words don't work for us, we have to do the work of our words. 



The Center for Global Nonkilling is a potential game-changer, a brilliant platform for engaging the idea that one day we may transcend killing.  The claim that we can have a nonkilling society strikes most people as hopelessly utopian.  But then you read political scientist Glenn Paige's Nonkilling Global Political Science (a free book on their website, along with many more) and you realize what an intellectually serious project this is, and based on Paige's marshaling of evidence, that it might even be realistically achievable.  You might even say that nonkillling is a new ethical guide star in the early morning sky, and all ethical people should orient themselves towards it. 


If you wish to delve more deeply into peace you may wish to consult the following academic journals: 

Journal of Peace Research 

Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 


Perhaps more than any other social phenomenon, violence and killing give a cast of primitiveness to our current time, and point to the need for a revolution in values and practices. Achieving a radically peaceful world is a highly complex endeavor, and necessitates broad changes across a wide sweep of domains: education, government, law, communication and dialogue, human development and psychology, language, environmental science and policy, and more. We need to create new images of humanity and its future. We'll need to mobilize a politically fraught dialogue and politics that seeks to end the overt and also structural violence and abuse of corporate capitalism and the state, with the latter all too often servicing the goals of the former. 

To me it appears that a great global movement is afoot. How can organized humanism help in bringing about a world of peace? 


[1] Brauer, J., and Tepper Marlin, J. (2009). Nonkilling Economics: Calculating the Size of a Peace Gross World Product. Toward a Nonkilling Paradigm, Pim, J.E. (Ed.). Center for Global Nonkilling. p. 130 

[2] You can download their 2013 report here. 


-Eric Snyder

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