John Hagelin Meets With U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich To Discuss Department Of Peace Legislation
Hagelin: Congressman Kucinich you have introduced some very innovative legislation, legislation calling for the creation of a U.S. Department of Peace, a cabinet-level department which is supposed to prevent the outbreak of violent conflict and war. Tell us a little bit about that.
Kucinich: Well, first of all, look at our society today. Violence is everywhere. It's in our neighborhoods, gangs, schools--police/community relations problems, racial violence. Now, some would say it's amplified by the media, but the truth is whether it's violence outside in the larger community or violence within the home, the problem of violence is an underlying theme in American society. The Department of Peace seeks to take the concept of non-violence and operationalize it, to make it an organizing principle in our society.
If we view government as a thought form, in and of itself, government communicates a message as to what kind of society we have, what our priorities are. If we then change the structure of government to create a new department which addresses the issues of violence in this society in an organized, programatic way, we'll start to change the consciousness of the country so that war is no longer is inevitable. Peace is inevitable; non-violent conflict resolution becomes an everyday matter of how we conduct ourselves in our country, our homes, our workplace, and wherever we are. So if reality is socially constructed, then we can reconstruct this social reality towards something that's more peaceful.
If we want to create a new nation free of the fear of violence and free of the violence of fear, then we have to look at the way we think and we have to begin to rethink the manner in which we construct our social reality. And in terms of specifics, we can educate our children in principles of human relations, how they can get along without having to resort to aggression, how to deal with their feelings. So the Department of Peace would have an education component that would take the message through the U.S. Department of Education and make it available to 50 states. That would have the whole curricula for peace, with many objectives at every grade level so that we would teach peace instead of war.
H: You know, Congressman, I'm an educator, and I believe that education is the source and ultimately the solution to most of our national problems and global problems. I'm also a scientist who has done research in the field of conflict resolution and peace, and it is a scientific fact that war begins in the minds and hearts of men, and it is in the minds and hearts of men that the consensus of peace must be constructed. But research has found that rising tension, among warring factions or religious or racial or ethnic groups, is always a precursor to the outbreak of violent conflict. If there's a way through education to reduce the societal stress and tension, then we can perhaps prevent the outbreak of conflict. The idea of a department in the U.S. government dedicated to the prevention of war and the promotion of peace is very innovative and refreshing. I can't help think that with even 1% of the defense budget....
K: Yes, the budget would be paid with 1%. The formula would be 1% of whatever the Department of Defense was spending. In this case, the Department of Defense spends $300 billion a year, so we would want to see at least $3 billion appropriated for a Department of Peace. In that way we enable our country to start to develop alternatives to military action as a means of resolving differences.
H: Right in your proposed legislation, as one of the goals of the Department of Peace, you have the emergence of perhaps a new University of Peace or schools of peace that could really school people in effective means of conflict resolution. Imagine a University of Peace in the world that would be a counterbalance to the dozens of military academies and graduate war colleges all dedicated to promoting the art and science of war. There should be one university in the world dedicated solely to the prevention of war and violent conflict that can maybe create a whole new profession in the world, that of professional peacemaker.
K: Well, that's what this legislation would seek to do. It would seek to create a peace academy which would be the counterpart of a military academy. It would seek to support existing programs in universities and support the creation of new programs to teach peace and to help equip teachers of peace. A new idea for a University of Peace is well taken, because we need to create an architecture for higher education in peace studies. Such programs exist in many different ways in many universities around the world, but to create a single university as a statement of the highest aspirations for such programs would, I think, be very meaningful for our world. And I think we'll probably see it happen someday.
I think we're finding all over the world this hunger people have for connectedness. Those of us who view the world in a holistic way, seeing it as an unbroken whole, understand that there is an essential interconnectedness which we all have. And when people awaken to the pulsation for peace which is out there, when they hear of programs that work to further it, they can get very excited about it. Which is why, interestingly enough, this proposal has already gained attention in countries all around the world. It's astonishing how quickly an idea starts to move, and that's why a university of peace would be a prelude to a world of peace. It's interesting though, I've talked to people who just look at this and go, "Oh, God, another pie in the sky idea." You have to believe in a benevolent nature. We have to believe that this world can be a better place. We have to believe that our highest aspirations can be achieved. And so, I believe that the power of an idea whose time has come is the sphere that surrounds the Department of Peace.
H: Well, I think this idea has even emerged through the window of science. What I particularly like, and what I think taxpayers would like, is your emphasis on field-tested programs. No one wants to waste taxpayers' money on something that may not work, but the idea that this department is going to research and promote solutions that do work is, I think, a great strength of this legislation and should hopefully silence some of the critics who might be concerned about decreasing the military budget. There's no doubt to me, however, how much we could save if we succeed in preventing even one war.
K: The creation of a government department, from its inception, ought to be about saving money. A Department of Peace would bring a new measure of economy to government because through working to eliminate war, we eliminate the greatest waste invention in the world--the waste of lives, the waste of natural and economic treasure. But, beyond that, if you look at the domestic applications, think of the cost of racial violence. Think of the cost of gang violence. Think of the cost of crimes involving drugs in our society. Think of the tremendous toll which domestic violence takes. And some could say, "Well, this is just inevitable." No, it's not. We have the ability to address this and to change our culture. It's a long haul, but the thought in which we are all united has the ability to create a moment of qualitative transformation once we get enough people interested. And that can be of great value to the society. It can save not only money and lives but it can put America on a new path.
I believe America has always been destined to be the light of the world, but sometimes we go astray. Sometimes we don't know how to handle this great power that we have, and then we think others do not have any power. It's a misunderstanding of the nature of power which is a deep, interpersonal sense and sharing in that unified field that you've talked about. So, the Department of Peace aims at developing more respect. It aims at supporting community groups that are already doing this work. It aims at celebrating the potential of all of us. And it also aims at providing a measure of hope in a society where there's a lot of fear today.
H: You've mentioned something, I think, that's very, very critical here, and that is that phase transitions can come quickly in the moment of a thought.
H: A week before the Berlin Wall fell, many people heard the president of East Germany say on television that this wall will stand for 100 years. Nobody doubted it. There was no reason to doubt it at the time, but it was only a week or two later that the wall simply fell. Enough people realized that that wall dividing humanity from humanity was unnecessary.
And when that critical mass was gained, it was like a phase transition in the collective thinking of society. So I completely agree with your thoughts. And your bill has, as you probably know, a remarkable amount of grassroot support, popular support. It may not be strongly supported yet by the Republican side of the aisle during the current Bush administration. I understand now that co-sponsorship is going quite quickly within the Democratic party.
K: It is, and there will be a moment where I'll present this to the President for his consideration. Because I take a holistic view, in terms of my activities in the congress, I don't have any difficulty going to the other side of the aisle and asking people for help. I don't even think of it in terms of the other side of the aisle in terms of my own presence in the House of Representatives. I'm moving throughout the chamber all day long. And so, I wanted to rally people from the Democratic side to this, and then I'll work with my friends in the Republican Party and go to the President and ask for his support. Because I think that all around this country, there are people who want more peaceful communities. They want to see how they can have peace at home in their households. People need help on that. And so, this is one of the things government can do.
There are people, by the way, who say, "Why should we have government involved in something like this?" Well, the fact of the matter is, the government's a reality in our life. When our government was created, it carried the thought of freedom. That was what the Declaration of Independence was about, and the inception of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. It was a thought of freedom, and that was inherited from the French Revolution and the great thinkers of the 18th century who understood that freedom was the message.
Well, we have freedom, but we don't have peace. So, for the 21st century, government can be the vehicle for peace. And because of government's overarching role in all of our lives, it can serve to facilitate and share the peace. And we know that government has the potential to go the other way. The truth is, 100 million people died in the 20th century in wars that were of course sponsored by government. So we know the connotations of war and peace.
H: That comes as a ray of hope that maybe the American people think differently from the current elective....
K: Well, I think that each new leader brings his or her own experience to the national or international forum. There's a lot of fear-based activity going on in Washington today. Witness the weaponization of space, the National Missile Defense Shield, the withdrawal from the Kyoto global climate change treaty, the attempt to cancel the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and cancel the tenets of the non-proliferation treaty to stop the progress of Start II and not go forward with Start III talks to withdraw from the chemical weapons treaty, to get away from talks on reconciliation on racial issues. All these things tend to reflect that America is withdrawing. But we can't withdraw, because America is a nation of great consequence in the world, and America is looked to by people all over the world as a fount of new ideas. And we need to quicken our position.
I think the concept of the Department of Peace has struck such a responsive chord among officials in other nations and among non-government organizations in other nations because it really resonates with the idea that America has been a leader in so many different areas of endeavor, and it puts America back on the upland road. It also creates for America a position of creating higher thought and setting a higher tone. As you know, in physics, the concept of entrainment says that a slower vibration will attune to a faster moving vibration. So this quickened thought which represents this Department of Peace will bring up the dialogue in the rest of the world and get more people involved in trying to find ways of resolving their differences without resorting to conflict.
People are aware, all over the world, that we need to do better in the way that we address human relations. And so I'm gratified by seeing the response to this idea, which isn't original because there are thinkers throughout time who have looked to ways of trying to quicken this evolutionary impulse and to improve human potential. It's just our job. We who are here now, it's our job. It's our turn to carry that message forward.
"Maybe Im not going to be happy. Maybe the roof is going to fall in." Thats part of our human condition: we have these uncertainties. So part of what it comes down to is faith--faith in ourselves, faith in our nation, faith in the future and a belief that we can, with our own thinking, with our own words, with our own deeds, create a world which wed be proud to pass down to the next generation. And so were about that work today. And this Department of Peace is just part of that work, and its the thinking that gets people involved in saying, "Maybe we can change something. Maybe this can be better."
Thats whats so exciting to have a chance to do--and to work with you. I want to say that your contribution to this country and the world has been enormous. The possibility of lifting peoples consciousness up--because this is what we have to do. We have to give people an opportunity to free themselves from these limitations in thinking. And give people a chance to know how powerful each individual can be. And when you do that, the nation becomes stronger, and then the world becomes stronger. So thank you for the work that you do.
H: I would also like to agree that you cant let the government solve our problems for us, for government is a refection of us. When we elect our government, our government really cant give us what we ourselves dont create in terms of wealth, what we dont generate for ourselves in terms of health. I think its a perennial experience that you can find this tremendous unity awakening in an emerging new era. And I think that we have scientific reasons for optimism. We have science as a benchmark (?), as they say, because in the past the relationship between us and our universe, or between one and another, wasn't so clear. Now, at least, we know that at our core we are all one. And I dont think it will be more than a generation, because it never is, before this change in the way we scientifically understand our universe makes its way through the schools and into the way that we ultimately structure our society and govern ourselves. I think its a great time coming, but it finally takes a leader to break the ice and introduce those new structures of government that accurately reflect the global reality of life. And this Department of Peace that you have introduced is a very, very timely piece of legislation which reflects great leadership on your part. Many of us would like to thank you for taking this step. Wed like to pledge our support very much.
K: Thank you very much, and thanks for the opportunity to talk about it. And each person makes a difference here. Im grateful for the chance to serve in the Congress so that I can help to advance this idea, but the truth of the matter is that hundreds and hundreds of people have been involved in discussions that have helped to shape this proposal. And Ive agreed to carry it forward, and Im grateful for the chance to talk about it.
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