How not to build peace



It’s simple: Divide everyone into “Us” and “Them”, link the two with the word “versus” (“against”), and there you have it: the opposite of “you” will always be “them,” and “they” are always the enemy. Simple, isn’t it? It’s also very, very deadly.

You’d think we would have figured this out by now. It is, after all, quite simple. But “simple” does not mean “easy,” because powerful interests are committed to keeping things the way they are. There is a lot of money to be made in conflict and war, trillions of dollars to be made over and over and over again. Who doesn’t like it? It’s always “them”, the “out” group, and “they” don’t count, so to Hell with them.

The problem is, both sides are dehumanized in the process. Here are a few examples. “I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” American sniper Chris Kyle was quoted as saying. “Savage, despicable, evil — that’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy savages.” Interestingly, America’s first settlers called American Indians “savages;” it made them easier to kill. Newsweek’s Jeff Stein, a former US intelligence officer remembers visiting a clubhouse for snipers in Iraq, where “the barroom walls featured white-on-black Nazi SS insignia, and other Wehrmacht regalia. The Marine shooters clearly identified with the marksmen of the world’s most infamous killing machine, rather than regular troops.” A bit shocked? I’m not. I’ve seen it many times in abusive families, dictatorial businesses, and other “us versus them” systems. As a former employee of a Soviet automobile plant was quoted as saying, “They pretended to pay us, and we pretended to work.” The plant? It failed. That happens to all abusive systems, and us-versus-them systems are abusive.

As Martin Luther Kind, Jr., once said, “either learn to live together as brothers, or die together as fools.” That’s not what I want for my family, my friends, my country, and the city where I live.

The question at this point is: What do we want as the future for yourself, your family and your descendants? For Israel, the US, ISIS and any other human group, the other question is: “Are we willing to set aside our differences and change?” It’s really simple: Begin treating every person you meet with respect and friendliness. Since simple isn’t necessarily easy, it takes work, and that takes a reason. My reason is simple: I want my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren and friends to have a peaceful world to live in. What’s your reason? If you don’t have one now, think about it. If you had a reason, what would it be?

About gwpj

Originally from Seattle, I now live in Sapporo, Japan, where I write, explore this city, read widely, and ask questions about things that i see as important. I'm also an author, with three novels published ("The Old Man and The Monkey", "Grandfather and The Raven", and "Bear: a story about a boy and his unusual dog"). For more information about my writing, drop by my website, at
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21 Responses to How not to build peace

  1. shatara46 says:

    George, you write “other us versus them systems” as if there were any system extant that isn’t “us versus them” in actual fact. All organizations operate by some form of predation and oppression or abuse, however mild, however camouflaged by mission statements. It begins at the family and tribal level and spreads all the way to global expressions of power. The problem is power. Anyone holding power over another has tapped into the secret of the sorcerer’s apprentice and become an addict. The best known examples of abusive power are divinities and demons. As Shakespeare brilliantly observed in “Julius Caesar,” “The problem, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.” Point: man’s propensity to do violence to others, to oppress and abuse, is the source of your problem in seeking peace. His institutions which ensconce the top-down power structure, from his invention of God to the “head of the family” who to this day in many societies retains the power of life and death over wife and children, are just that: inventions to justify or hide his psychopathic tendency. Find out the source of power, defuse that, and you will have peace. I have discovered that source, and no surprise to find it was within me. I have dealt with it or “overcome” it and defeated it. It could never again arise within me. I know this. Thus I have achieved peace, the only peace I can legitimately lay claim to. I therefore live in a peaceful world that does not seek to impose itself on any other and although conflict rages around me and I am fully (and sorrowfully) aware of it, it cannot do me harm, even if it killed me. Depending on one’s state of mind, that is no contradiction. Having said all that George, if I were in a situation where a bully was harming a victim, I would intervene, even to the killing of the bully if the choice was between his life and that of his victims. My life would be irrelevant. I’ll try to remember to post (on my blog) a short story I wrote some time ago as a parable illustrating this concept.
    “Two reasons never to own a gun: One, however great the provocation, I could never use it. Two, given the provocation I would use it.”

    • gwpj says:

      Differences exist in nature, but not all of them become “us versus them,” unless one thing is the food of another, then it is “us versus them,” but only when one side becomes hungry. What I am talking about, Shatara, is organizing life in terms of us (the “in” group) versus them (the “out” group; the one to be controlled). That is an arrangement that may be traditional among human beings, and well-nigh universal, but it isn’t the ONLY way to do things. Co-ops can be organized (and are), businesses and corporations can be (and some are) run in an open/inclusive manner, different racial, ethnic, religious and gender relationships can become inclusive, and so forth. THAT is what I am talking about. We do not have to compete, upset, attack, be “better than” others. We can learn to live together, and can learn to conduct our lives, our economies, our governments and our religious lives in an inclusive manner. It is my experience (and my belief) that we must learn to do this if we are to have a liveable future. It is the way I have learned to live my life and to conduct business, and it works a lot better than the alternative.

      • shatara46 says:

        Hi George, I had a whole neat reply guaranteed to make you smile and was ready to hit “post comment” when my computer decided to go into labour – major upgrade from Win 8 to Win 8.1 So here it is, middle of the night here, and the upgrade seems to have taken hold but of course my comments are gone to Neverland. I’ll get back at ya when things settle down to a dull roar once more. I got lots of ‘splainin’ to do for you!

      • shatara46 says:

        Hi George, just interposing here with a few moments available. I fully understand what you are saying, where you are coming from: binder, dundat. The works, all in my current past. And I’ve seen it all destroyed by greedy capitalists, aided and abetted by religionists – and I mean all of it. As soon as people get a bit ahead, a bit of good times and security in jobs and income, they immediately throw it all away. All the work done by those who suffered, were jailed and died to bring in labour unions, better working conditions, better wages, even better government. The credit unions, the co-ops, the communal gardens, the self-help groups – everything lost to the “Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney years” and to the corporates and banksters that bankrolled their taking over “democratic” governments. We went through a real revolution in the 80’s and on through the beginning of the 21st C. We saw the greedy and utterly selfish Wall Street types being handed trillions of $$$ of tax payers’ money to keep themselves as the 1% privileged class of the world. Correspondingly, the truth of the matter is these thieves had, and have, the full support of those they fleece because the sheeple have been “educated” (brainwashed) into ignorant docility through lies, toys and cheap entertainment. Yes, “man” can do better. Yes, people see themselves, and act, quite differently as individuals than as groups. But in every historical case right to the present, the “mob instinct” has always risen above the individual hope and dream and plunged the world into a repetitive hell; sometimes suddenly, usually gradually and systematically. The people of the “rich” West (Europe and North America particularly) have signed their death warrant already. Like Esau of biblical fame they’re given up their heritage for a “mess of pottage” translating as smart TV’s, bigger and louder pickups, more “free” sex, more booze, more drugs, more immorality to the point where morality has become a joke to the masses and a political football for the Neo-Nazis Christian Fundies of right-winged US and Canadian politics.
        Your world, George, will see the things you dream and hope for, but not for many generations to come. What is coming is a terrible downfall and a “natural” drastic paring down of Earthian populations. This is unavoidable because too much power resides in the hands of too few and there is too much technology available to the billionaire playboys not to try their hands at beating their fellow gamblers at the table. The stakes are no less than an entire world of remaining natural resources and billions of slave labour to serve their every perverted desire. The crap shoot has been going on for thousands of years. Every “revolution” true to its name has resulted in a repeat of what it set out to eradicate. Even Gandhi only accomplished one thing: he set himself apart from the world, as did Mother Teresa, Dr. Livingstone and M. L K Jr. among the few outstanding “other than” individuals. On the long run, and in hindsight, what has that accomplished? Better groups, races, nations?
        You managed to create for yourself a different lifestyle, as did I. But I know that what I have accomplished, I did by myself, by personal choice, as an individual through self-empowerment. I refuse joining (much less creating) any group for any reason. By working alone, without proselytizing for any cause or belief, I cannot be pushed this way or that; I do not have to compromise and I don’t have to give account to anyone for my actions, or words. I have nothing to sell or to defend, therefore no one can take anything away from me – and I trust no one, for trust is also a debt we inflict on another. The moment we say, “I trust you” we make that other accountable to us for that trust and that is totally unfair. As when we say “I love you,” which should mean: I set you free to be whomever you want or choose to be, and not, now I own your desires. For example, were I the marrying kind; were I “in love” with someone, I would desire (expect if you will) that “someone” to be “unfaithful” to me if that was his desire, or choice. I approach everyone in the same way. That’s freedom as I have come to understand it. In your world’s distant future this will be the way, but your species, which “we” dub “pseudo-human” has much to learn to arrive there, and much self-inflicted horror to experience on the way there. I was once taught (by non-earth Teachers) that there is no short-cut to sanctification. A serious “religious” term that, but just as valid for those who have no use for religion but seek enlightenment and understanding through a sort of mystical/spiritual path. Out of time, George. Take care!

  2. gwpj says:

    Computer problems are a real pain, Shatara. Fortunately I’ve shifted from Windows to an Apple iMac, which is much more flexible, and the new operating systems are always free and installed on a regular basis. I chose the iMac because it’s impossible to buy a Windows machine in Japan that’s in English. With Apple, all their machines come loaded with dozens of languages.

    I await your comments. Enjoy the new week.

  3. Jerry grant says:

    Hey there…it seems that I need to put my two cents worth of wisdom forth …likely not even worth two cents…but here goes anyway… are a fine gentleman who lives by the golden rule..that’s great,of course if the rest of the world lived that way..we would have a utopia….it can not be…the human condition will not allow is not in our genitic code…human beings are predatory ..there will always be disputes of one kind or another…some big and serious others small …there are human monsters ..and mother Teresa ..from the birth of time until today…it’s just life…one can be a Quaker,or Jehovah witness..pacifist..and let others fight the battles against the monsters …even decry the efforts to defeat the monsters…it changes nothing…unless free people fight …the monsters will win…

    • gwpj says:

      Thanks for the comment Jerry. I do not agree that humans are by nature predatory. Compassion, love, the ability to work together is also part of our genetic makeup, but NOT a part of societies & other systems organized according to top-down, us versus them, dominate / control, which are predatory. We have the ability to live together, and do so in many ways (if we didn’t, our communities would be unliveable). We need to find ways to encourage and build cooperatively, and the desire to make it happen. The human condition DOES include it, as it is in our genetic code.

  4. Jerry grant says:

    George….please tell me ..when did humans live peaceably..certainly not the early days..tribes enslaved each other..happily killed and even ate each other ..shrunk heads..took ears,,scalps and noses…this is true from the beginning of time…In the east as well as in the west…yes the Jews brought forth justice in their god…but still killed to gain their land..then and now…the Nordic tribes plundered raped and pillaged ..Europe was and will be a bloodbath..America Canada Australia ruined their natives..who also did a lot of killing of each other in their time…maybe one can find an Eskimo tribe who was always at peace…but that’s about all….But…your right too ..there are millions open millions of good peacefull folks out there lets hope some day …things will go your way …until then ..keep the powder dry

  5. Jerry grant says:

    One more thing…there are human beings that are pure evil…these evil people can and do grab power over nations and even religions..example…catholic inquisition ..Christian crusades…german naziism..and currently extreme Islam …these forces need be faced and defeated …as we speak and your leftist uber liberal morally narcissists are blind to this …either overlooking or making false comparisons.,both in scope and import ….it’s as though you and your friends would rather live under the Islamist rule…then even admitting their horrific crimes,..or perish the thought fighting them

  6. Jerry grant says:

    George…name calling….?…how sensitive?… you won’t deny my points…just the description I use to describe the followers of ..what shall I say…progressive liberalism?…it must be ..moral narcissists …it really fits…but you must find it objectionable…I am sorry…yet still I find no comment from your side on the murders in France or on the unspeakable crimes committed by Muslims open other Muslims and others caught in their killing orgy….that was my point…period

    • shatara46 says:

      George is correct, Jerry, by not siding with this or that. Have you forgotten so soon the 40 years of “The Troubles” in and around Ulster (Northern Ireland) and all that basically current bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants, the real cover being attempts to gain political hegemony over Ulster? Those wounds are still raw, Jerry, and I can assure you that your Muslim terrorists were not involved. But honestly looking at the madness of extremist Muslim jihadists, what’s driving them? Their own past; their way of life, destroyed by European conquests and World Wars, followed by disenfranchisement; elitists “Western” type dictatorships imposed by western governments at the behest of oil corporations. Clans and families destroyed which means an old balance of power gone off the rails. Thousands killed; many more dispossessed and made homeless: nomads by force, not by choice, now no longer no mads, but quite mad. If you want to do something about the madness in the middle east, look no farther than western political/religious/financial power structures and call them to account. The evil whirlwind you go on about was set in motion when the wind of conquest and plunder was set in motion long before WWI and has continued apace since. Arab populations have been treated exactly the same as Americans treated Native populations during the great expansion that saw mighty nations of free peoples decimated and remnants shoved into tiny reservations to (hopefully) quietly starve to death so that the little they had left of land and possible mineral resources could then be taken, again, for free. Which begs the question, why aren’t you up in arms about that piece of bloody, gory, sick, inhuman, psychopathic history? The story of the American West was repeated in Arab countries. You want a solution to ISIS? Get all non-Arab exploiters out of those lands – wholesale and no looking back. Then give the Arabs a couple of hundred years to sort themselves out, on their own, no interference no matter what goes on. Oh, and while you’re at it, do the same for ALL of Africa. And one more thing: write up an enforceable UN law that all, bar none, war profiteers and arms providers, individuals or groups, be systematically hanged: publicly, on TV and on YouTube – no deals possible. Show that you mean business, for once. I know which side you’re NOT on, Jerry, but whose side are you on? If you’re an “American” then logically Muslims are no threat to you. What’s a real threat is much closer to home. Your country is already a dictatorship if fact, if not in name. Why is that? Because some two-bit group of madmen across sea and land “over there” are threatening Washington, or Disney World? Give me a break. From a non-American perspective, I can assure you that “Americans” as seen by the world are viewed as a bunch of whining, bigoted, ignorant, greedy gun-toting idiots who, having no one else to shoot at, kill their own children in schools, or those of a different skin colour. You see how easy it is to demonize any group, Jerry? I hate what America stands for far more than what “questionably Muslim” crazies do – and I know that it is because of America that such groups as Al Qaeda and now ISIS, exist. America sowed the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind – that’s biblical.

  7. gwpj says:

    Jerry, I detest the murders in France and regard ISIS as a violent, abusive death cult that happens to be Muslim and is an insult and a spit in the face of Islam and every other religion. Happily, their behaviour, publicly shown on YouTube, is blowing up in their collective face. I detest violent, abusive people; I’ve worked with too many of them over the years. They are angry, seething with resentment, and refuse to own their own violence and rage. Violence breeds violence, ad infinitum, until it is stopped. End of story.

  8. shatara46 says:

    Agreed, George. See my reply to Jerry, and hope you don’t find it offensive. I’m not good at “asymmetrical” warfare! Tit for tat in bandying philosophies; no one’s bleeding, or being starved to death in the process.

  9. Jerry grant says:

    Shatara46….your points are well is not with clean hands the European and American politicians decry the turmoil ..ii will grant all of your arguments…BUT…that’s what was…I hope that your omission of the misdeeds of the Ottoman Empire Turks ..Armenian genocide for example..wasn’t because they were Muslims…not the war open the world by Muslim lords for the last ..well from the very start of Islam….there is not the time for the Muslims and Africans to sort out their problems ..Iran and Pakistan with nukes…Iran building ICBM rockets…sure ,the west mucked up the Arabs,and Iran…the only good thing was to help Israel come about..but likely you even agree to that…lastly you say you hate violent abusive people…what then ,does that not describe..Hamas,Muslim brotherhood Isis..and all of Saudi Arabia the Iranian rulers..but then again can come back with the tea party..and the right in Israel the rulers in Egypt..Putin..on and on…I still say my bad guys are far better then your bad guys…oh what the hell…it is hopeless…we all are beating dead horses and banging on empty barrels…..shalom

    • gwpj says:

      You’re an interesting man, Jerry. You tell Shatara that his points are well taken, then sweep them all aside with your remarks, then saying that your bad guys are better than his (and my) bad guys. I’m sitting here shaking my head and laughing. Hopeless, Jerry? Only when you insist that we are beating dead horses and banging on empty barrels and refusing to consider anything other than your point of view. What is my point of view, you ask? That we must (that’s MUST) get rid of, set aside as useless the “us versus them” point of view that has caused all the violence and tragedy throughout human history. “Us versus Them” sets up the comparisons of better-than/worse-than that shatter lives and cause unspeakable suffering. It causes young mothers like Ayalet Shaked (Israeli politician) to say that all Palestinian women should be killed so they can’t produce more “little spiders”, and religious Jews like Likud member Moshe Feiglin to say that, were he PM, he would push all the Moslems in Gaza into the Sinai even if Egypt doesn’t want them there. For both these people, Palestine WILL become a nation only for Jews (and white Jews at that). Then there was the elderly rabbi who preached that the Goyim are here for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to serve the Jews. Is this a different kind of thinking than Hitler engaged in? In my opinion, it is exactly the same. It is the kind of thing that Us versus Them breeds. Violent, hateful people are criminals, Jerry, and that applies to ISIS, al-Quaeda, gangsters and all types of terrorists (people who inspire terror in their “enemies”), including ones in our own national history that Shatara mentioned in his comments.

      In 1952 my best friend was a fellow student named Claude. Fifty years later I asked him why we had become such good friends back then, and told me it was “because you didn’t treat me as different.” I am white, Claude is black. So what! It made and makes no DIFFERENCE to me. Say that all Muslims are different (and potentially dangerous), I set up conflict in which I will always treat them as “different.” This I refuse to do. My Muslim friends are my friends, though our backgrounds and traditions are different. Again, so what! Set up difference, treat them as different (or be treated as though I am), and distance emerges in which suspicious are sown. Eventually, if these suspicions are watered and fed, they multiply and grow until they become toxic, both within myself and the people with whom I associate. As my mother used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” I refuse to treat persons as “different.” If you wish to Jerry, that is your right, and the results are yours to live.

      For some reason, I like you, even though I disagree with you, and at times would like to drip coffee over your head just to catch your attention. 🙂 (I hope you understand I am joking.)

      Enough for now. Salaam, Jerry.

      • shatara46 says:

        George, I keep coming back to this page with hope that I’ll find enough quality time to make a quality reply. I may have to “copy and paste” this in my editor and return with a properly expressed reply, but here goes for now: The question is the “them versus us” problem. I have been in the eye of the storm on this one for most of my life. When I first attended school, it was in a foreign country (Canada) and lo and behold, I found myself, understandably perplexed being only 6 years old, in the midst of a racist struggle: I was a foreigner, hence someone to hate. It was a natural and even the parents and some teachers joined in the persecution. I got beaten a lot and my views of mankind got jaded at a very early age. “In Canada?” you say? Well yes. In Canada. Quite “naturally” that experience made me into an outsider and loner. Later I “naturally” sided with the US black struggle, being very aware of racism and what it does. Then I saw the earth; the environment, as being the one being persecuted by man and became an environmentalist. During that time I discovered, to my dismay at first, then to my great joy, that I was transgendered; that I was neither and both, male and female, and that broadened my horizons wonderfully. I understood that I didn’t need to belong; that I did not need to live my personal life in the social box. So the great Earthian social concepts of organized religion and politics were unceremoniously turfed out. Now I could look at the world with my own “sacred” perspective. I didn’t need celebrities or “degreed” and pedigreed and blustering charismatic types to speak for me: I had found my own voice.
        So this is my voice. On the issue of “them versus us,” that can only be “resolved” when people realize that they are individuals, not collectives, and having realized this , that they learn to rely on themselves for answers to man’s social problems. From the individual perspective, through self-empowerment, there is no longer any “them versus us” as it doesn’t enter the picture. It is not self-empowered individuals who do the “them versus us” bigotry, but people who have no personal, individual voice and must be part of the crowd, the mob, the congregation, the party, the corporation, i.e., the ubiquitous “group” who hear echoes of voices they come to believe are their own and respond to those echoes. Take any power group in history and you see that it is always a charismatic or powerful individual, or a clique that speaks for the “majority” and moves them as pieces on a chessboard. Even very educated, intelligent and somewhat morally and socially responsible individuals will quickly revert to mob action when moved by their leaders. America, Germany, Israel and so many other groups have, and do, demonstrate this fact. Without self-empowerment which leads to a desire for a better world, activating compassion and real-time caring for others, there will always be the “them versus us” problem looming before the sheeple and they will always believe it to be just so, unchanging – whether they be religious, atheists or couldn’t care less and of any race.
        I’m going to let it go at that here, with a reference to Kayla Mueller who was a self-empowered person, dedicating her life to helping the poor and disenfranchised under terrible conditions to die a young martyr at the hands of the “them versus us” madmen who are currently strutting their stuff in the Middle East and North Korea (not to forget that other dystopian place). “Where is the world?” the oppressed she tried to help would ask her, and her answer was, “I don’t know.” as she cried with them. But I could have told them where the world is: it’s in the malls, in the theaters, in juggling part-time impossible to make ends-meet low pay jobs, driving off-road vehicles, on i-phones, on Facebook, commuting, flying to vacation spots, barbecuing, playing internet games and watching football, hockey, basketball racing and endlessly: TV, including the “news” about the very people asking the question before they die.
        Until we all become like Kayla Mueller, no exceptions, man’s world remains in purgatory, if not in hell. The way out can only be through self-empowerment in compassion and as Kayla Mueller showed us, our willingness to die for others. That’s a tall order for man as history clearly demonstrates.

  10. gwpj says:

    I find, once again Shatara, that I agree with you. I have a mantra that I follow (I wrote it a number of years ago) that is very simple. It comes from years of living my life and discovering what works and what does not work. It is simple, but not necessarily easy, especially at first. The mantra follows:

    Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
    There are no ordinary people; there are only extraordinary ones.
    Every life has a story, and every story is important.
    Don’t judge others, learn to love them.
    Remember to laugh and to see humor in everyday things.
    Be a servant.

    • shatara46 says:

      Yes, I can certainly relate to your mantra. In fact it looks like something “the Teachers” would have me write down and learn to live within. I will post another short story on my blog called (I think!) “What’s your Story.” I think you will see that we are drinking from the same stream most of the time. As for your last line: “Be a servant” – that is the sum total of my “ambition” in this one life, i.e., my sole purpose to exist. When done from personal volition, servanthood is the ultimate achievement for the awakened being. I have been extremely favoured in having interacted with and thus learned from, real servants in this life, and to have shared the stories of “the Teachers” on how, through servanthood they gained the wisdom to be Teachers. I am honoured to have made your acquaintance, George. May I make a copy of your mantra and insert it in my “inspirational quotes” file?

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