Year XXVI, 1984, Number 2 - Page 145
WHAT DOES «EDUCATION FOR PEACE» MEAN?
Today we increasingly hear about peace education, an issue of particular interest to all those in education who are aware of their great responsibility vis-à-vis the young. The growing attention paid to this matter by serious educational journals such as the International Review of Education, which recently dedicated a special issue to the peace education debate, is further evidence of this interest.1
This issue cannot be overlooked by those concerned with the young, who are aware that educating primarily means inducing the young to commit themselves to a better society and who appreciate that nowadays this can only be brought about by serious reflection on the question of peace. The fact that humanity must live with the constant threat of a nuclear holocaust, firstly, makes entertaining any proposal about educating for a better tomorrow very difficult and, secondly, casts doubt on the very existence of a future, unless we commit ourselves to eliminating the prospect of war from mankind’s history. The young are aware of this danger and seize every opportunity of showing it, as evidenced by their mass participation in peace demonstrations. Even so, demonstrating for peace does not necessarily mean making progress towards its achievement. We need to be able to turn the rejection of a world dominated by the nuclear threat into concrete action today. But we cannot think of any effective means of struggle unless we, firstly, rigorously define what the enemy to be defeated is – namely the causes of war – and, secondly, unless we work out a realistic framework for the historical situation within which we can act.
The issue which also involves the educational world today is, therefore, to cater for young people’s need to possess the necessary cultural equipment with which to understand reality and to orientate their current action towards a realistic struggle for peace, which makes their future still possible. In the opening essay to the collection that we shall be referring to, J. Galtung2 begins by recalling what the basic question is that education for peace must focus on: «If peace and war are, above all, relations among the states and if peace education is something that takes place, above all, among teachers and pupils at school, then, how are the pupils going to make use of what they have learnt?» (p. 282).
Peace education must not then be reduced merely to informing and making the young aware of the horrors of war as compared with the joys of peaceful living, however praiseworthy and necessary this may be. And in much the same way the debate among teachers must not be restricted to studying school teaching packages designed to illustrate this data to young people. This is the warning that Galtung directs to all those, and there are many, who do not face up to the problem of turning their theoretical commitment into political action («Peace and peace education are profoundly political»). History teaches that in politics, good will is not enough. Yet the voluntaristic myth whereby peace will be achieved when all men learn to abhor war and any form of oppression, seems to permeate most of the arguments put forward, with a high degree of formal complexity, in the articles presented in this special issue of International Review of Education.
This attitude is the logical consequence of an error when defining what war is and what peace is, common to all those who speak of it without reflecting that: «The occasion of war is irrelevant – as Lord Lothian wrote in 1935 –. War is the ultima ratio regum, the legislative instrument whereby issues between sovereign states, which will not yield to voluntary agreement, can alone be settled. War is a struggle of will between states or groups of states each using every possible resource, including mass destruction of human life, which is necessary to enable one side to enforce its will on the other... Peace is not merely the negative condition in which war is not being waged. It is a positive thing. Peace is that state of society in which political, economic, and social issues are settled by constitutional means under the reign of law, and violence or war between contending individuals, groups, parties, or nations, is prohibited and prevented.
Peace, in the political sense of the word, does not just happen. It is the creation of a specific political institution. That institution is the state. The raison d’être for the state is that it is the instrument which enables human beings to end war and bring about change and reform by constitutional and pacific means. Never from the beginning of recorded history nor on any part of the earth’s surface has there been peace except within a state »3.
Within the peace education debate war is frequently identified with violence. By so doing, we end up by associating the causes of war with a long series of sources of conflict present in contemporary society such as racism, prejudice, discrimination between the sexes and so on, which, albeit undisputed sources of serious conflict within states have absolutely no bearing on the logic behind the relationships between states, which justifies recourse to war. Many others argue that militarism is the root cause of war, whereas, if anything, it is in fact the consequence of the fact that war is always possible since mankind is divided into sovereign states, which obey the laws of raison d’état. Inevitably, any identification of the enemy in terms of violence equals war will not lead to a political strategy designed to promote an institutional system which objectively makes recourse to arms impossible but to purely voluntaristic indications of action (education based on tolerance, non-violence, etc. may seem enough to remove the causes of war).
Albeit only partially, the essays by J. Galtung and A. Nastase seem to break away from this widespread trend which overlooks the political dimension of the problem. But only partially, because, albeit implicitly, their analyses end up by accepting the argument that violence is the root cause of war, and they never question the watchword of unilateral disarmament. Indeed, anybody who believes that an act of goodwill is possible by a nuclear power in an international context in which rigid adherence to the balance of power entails the logic of power relationships between states, falls back into the voluntaristic utopia that has historically proved incapable of halting the arms race. This is witnessed by the failure of the first pacifist battles, which attempted to check the outbreak of the First and Second World Wars and the nuclear proliferation of recent years.
Nastase approaches the problem of contrasting – in the sense used by Lord Lothian – a positive definition of peace with the negative one prevalent today. This is the unrenounceable starting point for giving life to a peace culture, i.e. a full-blooded cultural revolution based on the new state of affairs now facing humanity: peace is the crucial value in the current historical age. Which is why, «Just as Bronze-or-Iron-Age culture has periods in which man was described as homo faber, so the culture of peace should be concerned with the creation of a new human type, conscious of his powers, but at the same time aware of the danger his force engenders; acknowledging the fundamental significance that peace has for mankind in this period, the new type of man should be able to be described as homo pacis» (p. 395). In this sense, peace culture is defined as a doctrine which has not remained abstract, but which is orientated towards action: the problem is to set off a gradual «process of organising the multi-value international interdependences as well as resolving any disputes which appear, by means that exclude the use of force and that emphasize the finding of adequate forms of cooperation (‘positive peace’)» (p. 395). This process can aim at strengthening existing international bodies, such as the UN: a peaceful resolution of conflicts between states can be achieved by their arbitration. Nastase’s analysis practically stops at this point, leaving many questions unanswered. In particular, it is difficult to understand if he intends to allude to forms of cooperation between sovereign states, without envisaging an end to absolute sovereignty, even in the very long term; nor is it clear if he is reasoning, albeit inexplicitly, in terms of the progressive unification of all men in a world government. In the first instance, it is not clear whether he can think of banishing war without eliminating the primary cause, i.e. the division of mankind. If on the other hand, he is thinking of the ultimate objective of a world federation, it is difficult to understand for what reason the battle for the growth of great continental federations (Europe, Africa, Latin America etc.) is not indicated as possible concrete action today. Such action would represent both a break with the current rigid bipolar system and a concrete example of ending the nation-state principle. Indeed, the second part of his article, contradicting the initial analysis, which stressed the political dimension of problems and the role of logic in relationships between states in the arms race, goes no further than indicating that teachers should prepare the young for “moral disarmament” (this expression was coined in the thirties by a Rumanian diplomat, N. Titulescu, who in a very generic way defined it as «The revising of school textbooks, in order to develop in young people the spirit of international solidarity», p. 398).
For his part Galtung introduces the problem of security: peace cannot be reasoned about without recalling that the peaceful development of human activity presupposes that there are political and institutional guarantees. Hence citizens can derive the certainty that they will never have to endure outside aggression. However, the current means of defence of states has a dual nature: they are instruments of defence for the state which possesses them and at the same time potentially a means of aggression vis-à-vis other states. Far from increasing security, the arms race progressively erodes it because it is an objective factor in international tension. We need to think of a defence system based on «a good defensive defence capability (both in the conventional military, the para-military and the non-military non-violent sense) and a high level of invulnerability» (p. 285). Non-aggressive defence is territorial defence and invulnerability is guaranteed by «a higher level of local self-reliance and autonomy, so that a country cannot be immobilized simply through cutting off from the outside supply of such essentials as food, medicaments, energy and means of defence» (p. 285).
Invulnerability is a crucial concept, then, in Galtung’s thesis which goes so far as to state that «The key to national invulnerability is local-level invulnerability» (p. 281). Nevertheless, this is precisely the most problematic point in his analysis. It is not clear, in particular, what is meant by «self-reliance» and local-level «autonomy». In some places it would seem he is referring to complete economic self-sufficiency, to be associated with sovereign control of the defence system. This would mean an end to national states, deprived of two crucial powers such as defence and economy. But Galtung does not seem to question the existence of a national level of government. He does not even refer to a federal system, the only state form that guarantees local communities (respecting «unity in diversity») the autonomy which is denied by today’s centralized nation states and which should not be confused with the autarky evoked by Galtung’s thesis.
It is moreover, hard to believe he does not realise that material self-sufficiency of a local community is unthinkable in a world like ours in which interdependence of human activity is so marked as to make world unification conceivable at least as a prospect.
Finally, he seems to base himself on a conviction that local communities are peaceful by definition whereas they are so today only because they are part of a state which has taken upon itself a monopoly of physical force and has taken on the task of imposing recourse to the right to solve internal controversies. What matters is not the size of the entity in which men are divided, but the fact that they are divided politically.
Galtung is forced to resort to this ambiguous idea of invulnerability – apparently so formulated as to be based on the attribution of sovereignty to the local level – because he thinks of the state in purely national terms. From this point of view, in fact, it is impossible to reconcile the need for security and democracy of local communities with the need to encourage world interdependence of human activity. Moreover, one ends up by conceiving that bellicosity is ingrained in the very essence of the state. Since local communities are not by definition peaceful, so the state is belligerant only when construed of as a sovereign entity in a world of sovereign entities, where the law of the strongest is imposed at an international level and centralisation and militarism are imposed within each of the individual states.
The watchwords of territorial defence and unilateral disarmament are unrealistic until they are associated with action to modify the current power system in the world.
1 See n. 3, vol. 29, 1983. The table of contents lists the following contributions: M. Haavelsrud (editorial article), An Introduction to the Debate on Peace Education (pp. 275-280); J. Galtung, Peace Education: learning to hate War, love Peace, and to do Something about it (pp. 281287); S. Marks, Peace Development, Disarmament and Human Rights Education: the Dilemma between the Status Quo and Curriculum Overload (pp. 289-310); R. Burns – R. Aspelagh, Concepts of Peace Education: a View of Western Experience (pp. 311-330); A. Pikas, Symmetric Peace Education and Unesco’s Potential for Promoting it (pp. 331-343); B. Brock-Utne, Symmetric Peace Education as Advanced by Anatol Pikas. A Critique and an Analysis (pp. 345-356, includes A. Pikas’ commentary and a reply by B. Brock-Utne); J. Esser, Friedensdidaktische Bausteine für Ausbildung, Unterricht und Sozialarbeit (pp. 357-368); C. Garcia, Latin American Traditions and Perspectives (pp. 369-389); A. Nastase, The Culture of Peace and Peace Education (pp. 391-401). In the final part there are a number of comments on «Peace and human rights» by L. Borrelli, C. Kumar-D’Souza, N. Tchakarov.
2 J. Galtung founded the Oslo International Peace Research Institute in 1959. He also founded the «Journal of Peace Research» and the «Bulletin of Peace Proposals», which for years have carried on an intense debate on peace education, which is well-known in English-speaking countries.
3 Lord Lothian, Pacifism is not enough, nor Patriotism either, O.U.P. London, 1935, pp. 7-8.