Mike is teaching nonviolence and getting some help from Metta Center. Listen in . . .
Christopher Hedges’s selection from “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” puts war into a human context, rather than a romanticized one, and asks us to face the forces of war in the realms of culture, myth and crusade within our society. It speaks of the power of war and how it can define us – has defined us – as a nation. It is important to recognize the power and control that violence and war can have over individual and national psyches. Hedges, however, only leads us to question war and its tragic grip on us. He doesn’t offer alternatives; indeed, he ends up also being lured into the importance of war by stating, “And tragically, war is sometimes the most powerful way in human society to achieve meaning.” He fails to accept that there are alternative paths to find deep meaning in life. If we don’t accept the forces of war, what can we – individually and collectively – replace it with? That is where Metta Center is making such a valuable contribution with its materials, guidance and programs.
That is also where my Peace Studies course, offered to juniors and seniors, at Friends’ Central School, comes in. At the current time, Peace Studies is offered every other year, this being an off year. Last year, we began our time together with a study of many of the major terms in the Nonviolence Glossary available on the Metta Center website. It was a helpful introduction to the conversations we had throughout the year regarding Gandhi, violence, nonviolence, theory and strategies applied during nonviolent freedom movements, and indeed the differences between Principled and Strategic nonviolence. Little did I know that it would become much more than a simple, introductory unit for my students.
Over a period of about 3 weeks, we discussed two or three concepts from the Glossary each day, always seeking to find examples of how they played out in real life. I would sometimes use a YouTube video clip to show how an incident exemplified the concept in a visual, historical context. Through the year, we often returned to the Glossary concepts in our discussions. It was amazing how, in responding to the assessment questions, the students would refer both to the articles we had read AND to the Metta Center Glossary. Perhaps, it was because,over time, they became increasingly comfortable with the terms. But, I also believe that those Glossary concepts became the solid foundation upon which the rest of my curriculum stood; they were the seed from which everything else grew. The students found that they could not discuss and analyze important, historical, social events without referring to the Glossary.
This fall, I have received a handful of emails from my students, who are now graduated and in college. Some have told me how useful the course has been to them in their current studies. Whether they be liberal arts, science, or business students, they now see the world differently. Although many are not totally convinced that nonviolence is their calling, they recognize the wide range of nonviolent options available to them as individuals and to us as a world when conflicts arise, whether they be interpersonal in nature or at the level of war and its impact, so tragically described by Christopher Hedges. Young people like my students give me great hope for our future, especially in a world where so many of them yearn for peaceful alternatives in the midst of violence. It is, therefore, incumbent upon those of us who belong to an older generation to share such alternatives with them, so that they may improve upon what has been left to them. I am delighted to work in tandem with Metta Center in fulfilling that mission.