Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one. John Lennon
Connectedness—to family, community, and the planet—is arguably the bedrock of long-term social stability. Disconnectedness leads to social disorder of all kinds, including war. This cornerstone of A World Without War embraces the labors of anyone who builds bridges between individuals, groups, communities, nations, and between our species and the planet that sustains our lives.
Family - We are deeply social creatures and find our greatest fulfillment and happiness when we are connected in positive ways to family, friends, and community, as highlighted in the essay “What Makes People Happy.” To be entirely isolated socially—to be alone—is for most people an emotional disaster.
Not surprisingly, people who are happy are extraordinarily reluctant to march off to war or to send a loved one into war.
And the single most important connection individuals have is to family. So family counselors, religious leaders, even the creation of laws that undergird family connectedness, all are contributors to the “Foster Connectedness” cornerstone.
Religion - Religion cannot be overlooked when considering war, both as cause and cure. Although differences in religion may not be the principle cause of war (warmongers struggling over resources and/or power most commonly are the causes of wars), individuals who want to make war virtually always harness their people’s religious fervor to support their goal. They use religious or cultural differences to disconnect people from any sense of common, shared humanity. They foster disconnect, not connect. Therefore, everyone who is working to teach tolerance of religious differences and diversity, who strives to look behind superficialities to find commonalities not only in our humanity but in the human search for connection with the divine, also labors within the “Foster Connectedness” cornerstone of a campaign to end war.
Terrorism - Happy and satisfied young men and women aren’t inclined to become terrorists (Hudson 1999). As touched on previously in the essay “Enlist Young Men,” with respect to violence and aggression, older teen males who feel disconnected are ripe for recruitment into disruptive groups. They often become the boys in city gangs, the recruits in service to rogue warlords, the candidates for suicide bombing.
It’s not necessarily money or education that young terrorists lack (although that is the case for some) (Hudson 1999). It is happiness in the broadest sense (fulfillment, satisfaction, contentedness). The reasons they offer for why they have chosen violence may be varied, but beneath surface circumstances they ache with a deep dissatisfaction that is exploited to stir them, in the name of some cause, to kill other people (Hudson 1999).
Reconciliation - All who labor to bring warring parties together after conflict are also essential to a campaign to bring an enduring end to war. When the fighting has ceased, one of the most important tasks essential to achieving future stability is in the hands of individuals who facilitate community and individual healing and reconciliation. Only through healing and reconciliation can people who have harmed each other put the past away, let it go, look to the future, connect again in community, and begin each person’s search for happiness.
Happiness - Because strong dissatisfaction—call it unhappiness (dissatisfaction, emptiness, discontent)—can be manipulated by a warmonger to create in people the willingness to kill, everyone who works to keep families, communities, and societies connected, enjoying and reveling in a sense of human community, contributes to the cause of ending the curse of sanctioned armed killing. This makes the study of happiness—learning what things make people feel good about their lives—a part of the campaign (Layard 2005, “What Makes People Happy”).
Perhaps this is really the ultimate goal: to go beyond ending war and create conditions that allow the most people possible to achieve the maximum happiness of which they are capable.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. Thomas Jefferson US Declaration of Independence
Biological Factors Working Against and For Connectedness
Biology working against us: Some facets of our biology must be overcome when teaching tolerance and connectedness. Most prominently, xenophobia—the fear of foreigners or strangers, fear of people practicing different customs, fear of people that look too different from us.
This tendency to cling to the familiar and distrust anything different had strong survival benefits in our deep, evolutionary past. The strange and unfamiliar might have been dangerous. Better for survival to have been wary. We retain it as an instinctual, emotional legacy.
But in the twenty-first century global community, lives and communities with astonishingly different customs all over the planet have become ever more intertwined. We are one species forging together into the future on one planet, like it or not. What is done in one country is carried by wind, waves, global media or transport systems to countries everywhere.
If we allow built-in xenophobia—a kind of primitive gut-level response to our diversity—to rule our decision-making rather than rationality and our “better angels,” distrust and disunity will be the result. Rather than utilizing our astonishing capacity for cooperation to solve major problems that massive immigration and climate change pose, we could very well end up in a “road warrior,” every-man-for-himself-and-his-tribe-first-endless-war future.
Biology working for us: One of the most successful advertising jingles ever produced was made for Coca-Cola: “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.” Its huge success is not explained simply because the tune is catchy, but because its entire message taps into a profound, human longing for community (Ryan 2011). This longing in all of us for community is something basic and biological that works for us, something essential for our survival that we can build on.
Significantly, if children are taught that our interpersonal and cultural differences are a rich heritage, a tribute to the unique character of our species, they enthusiastically embrace diversity.
Here’s yet another biological factor that works for us. Killing another human being, when we perceive their humanity, is not natural. One challenge to stopping the use of weapons of mass destruction is that individuals who unleash them do not look another human being in the eye when they take action. Nor do they see, smell, hear, or feel the immediate results. They drop bombs from high in the air, they launch missiles from hundreds of miles away or from drones circling high overhead, they give away blankets carrying the smallpox disease to people they will not likely ever see again. When they do not see close up the humanity in the object of their actions the biological inhibition against killing is not activated. (Lorenz 1974).
Striking or fighting with others can come rather easily to us, but not killing. Soldiers must be trained to kill another person (Grossman, 1996). An enemy must be not only dehumanized, they must generally be somehow demonized to make killing possible. “We need to kill those filthy, godless (fill in the dehumanizing epithet) who want to cut our children’s throats and rape our women.”
The instinctual loathing for killing another person is something we can build on through education and travel and providing experiences where young people who could otherwise become enemies live, play, and dialog with each other. All groups and projects providing these kinds of humanizing opportunities—and there are many of them across the globe—are working on the “Foster Connectedness” cornerstone.
Connected to Planet Earth
How we regard the Earth will be an important component in whether we live in peace or not. It is possible for humans to consider the world on which we live a place from which we extract things, its resources nothing more than a source of profit. But consider that many people who live close to the land or escape the steel and cement of a city by retreating to the country or even a park find profound pleasure, rejuvenation, and happiness in a feeling of connectedness to the earth, its landforms, plants, and creatures.
Because happiness is a critical emotion that inoculates against the desire to make war, another component of the “Foster Connectedness” cornerstone is teaching young and old to love nature. They can find in nature pleasure and serenity and at times joy. Embracing the Earth can foster a sense of not being alone, of being connected and interconnected to the planet. Mother Earth becomes something to value and protect. Which leads to the issue of survival.
Connectedness to the Environment and our Survival
Besides providing a source of happiness, there is another reason to teach our children a sense of connectedness to and love for the planet. If we don’t, we may alter the physical environment so drastically that civilization, as we think of it, can’t survive.
When I was writing this essay in 2003, the global community at large was not yet fully aware that climate change was going to drastically impact all human life. Many with a stake in maintaining the status quo, for financial reasons or simply out of fear of change, were denying that global atmospheric warming was responsible for changes, that many further changes being predicted were going to be ecologically and socially devastating, and that we ourselves were the cause.
We shouldn’t be short-sighted about teaching connectedness to and implementing means to care for the planet sustainably lest we discover, too late, that some deadly disease, chemical pollutant, environmental shift, or loss of a critical resource leads to a collapse of civilization on a scale that would make creating a global peace simply impossible.
By 2018 the onrushing effects of longer droughts, more destructive wildfires, stronger hurricanes and tornados, melting icecaps, and acidifying oceans has become very clear. There is no longer any debate among the scientific community or informed lay people about the reality of this human-induced climate shift. The resulting flooding tide of refugees has begun creating, with alarming speed and power, severe social and political stresses over necessary resources of food and living space.
Thus these changes, due to our actions, can arguably become the source of never-ending wars. Alternatively, resolving to end our addiction to war, thus freeing up money and manpower devoted to wars and devoting them instead to dealing with this global crisis, may be our salvation.
The picture of earth taken from space from Apollo-17—a beautiful gem of blue, white, and green against the velvet black of the void—might be the best symbol for a quest to end war. This is our world. Our one world. It is beautiful, and we are an enormously successful and dominant life form on it.
We have accomplished great wonders and built, sculpted, painted, written, and composed beautiful things. Our past is, however, tragically blemished with the evils attendant on wars. We know now what we could do to create a global peace. With sufficient will and visionary leadership nothing should stop us from fashioning a future human history that is equal to the beauty of this world from that vast, distant view.
In Summary The following are all facets of the ending-war cornerstone “Foster Connectedness”:
Strengthening families and communities and our sense of being connected to others.
Building understanding of and appreciation for stunning differences in human beliefs and cultures, and teaching appreciation for the richness of astounding racial, ethnic, and cultural human variety.
Fostering the sense that, in the most profound way, we are all one family, the human family, and that this place, our home in the cosmos, deserves our respect and protection.
Ultimately, humanity will not achieve total freedom from urges to make war until we attend to all elements of this cornerstone: connectedness—a bedrock of social stability.
Grossman, Dave. 1996. On Killing. The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. New York: Little Brown and Company. Hudson, Rex A. 1999. “The sociology and psychology of terrorism: who becomes a terrorist and why?” Prepared by Library of Congress, Federal Research Division. See: www.loc.gov/rr/frd/ pdf-iles/Soc_Psych_of_Terrorism.pdf. P.50 “Terrorists are generally people who feel alienated from society and have a grievance or regard themselves as victims of an injustice.” Lorenz, Konrad. 1974. c1966. On Aggression. Translated by Marjorie Kerr Wilson. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Ryan, Ted. 2011. “I’d like to buy the world Coke: the story behind the famous song.” http://tinyurl.com/y5gy8muv. (Accessed 8 April 2019).