"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
            Lao-tzu, Chinese Proverb
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How Far We Have Already Come

We are already well along the way to the goal of a warless future. Consider how far we have come already.

Two massive cultural shifts institutionalized the ideas that each man should be allowed and encouraged to think for himself and that each man is important as an individual. This radical change began in the Western world during the Renaissance (from the 14th to the 16th century) and the Reformation (beginning in the early 1500s). During this turbulent period, the view of the relationship between the individual and authority shifted: worldly authorities such as kings and priests were no longer to be deferred to simply because they sat at the top of the grand dominance hierarchy.  

A much later outgrowth of these changes is the phenomenon of conscientious objector: we have moved to the point where many members of a community can decide that they will not answer a call to war, something that only a relatively short time ago might have shamed them within their community or even cost them their heads.   

Second, the modern Scientific Method, which developed roughly 300-400 years ago, caused an extraordinary and powerful shift from the past in our methods of acquiring knowledge. Previously, philosophers and authorities proclaimed notions about the nature of men—and women—that fit preconceived religious, intellectual, or philosophical convictions.

It used to be said for example:

  • that black-skinned people are inferior, more animal-like than light-skinned people;
  • that women are not quite fully developed humans, while men are the supreme creation;
  • that men make war because they were born in "original sin," a tragedy that resulted from the trickery and defiance of the woman Eve as she was led astray by a devil.

The subsequent application of the Scientific Method by anthropologists, primatologists, sociologists, psychologists, and evolutionary biologists gave us a fact-based understanding of human nature as it is, not as we imagine it might be. This carried us another step closer to abandoning war as the chosen means of resolving conflicts. Ideologies and philosophies that veer too far from scientifically proven facts provide increasingly weak justifications for armed aggression, particularly if they argue that the inclination for war is innate or that original sin or inherent human evil make it our inescapable fate.

We now know that men and women differ with respect to aggression because of fundamental differences in their reproductive biology. Although the roots of war can be found in male biology, war itself is not inevitable.1 Instead, it is the result of choices we make about how we live. Men as a group are more inclined to use aggression—from mild to violent—in pursuit of dominance, even if it results in social unrest or war. They also tend strongly toward aggressive group bonding that facilitates hunting and is reflected in men's attraction to competitive team sports. These inclinations can be exploited by leaders seeking armies to instigate war.

By contrast, women on average tend to prefer social stability to war.   Social stability is important to raising children, and evolution has imbued women facing potential conflicts with a strong preference for negotiation, mediation or compromise rather than physical conflict.1 Embracing this aspect of women's biology is critical to reaching our goal (see The Secret Ingredient).

Paradoxically, revolutions and wars for independence and democracy have been a third major step toward ending wars of conquest, particularly the English (1688), American (1775), and French (1789) Revolutions. These three revolutions resulted in an attempt at republican/democratic governance that continues until today. Democratic government is critical to eliminating war because democracy is the most successful means we have yet devised to constrain the urges of leaders inclined to start wars. Democracy alone, however, will not end war (see Spread Democracy). But in a democracy, rules of law limit the aggression of individuals or factions, and wars can be funded only with public consent.

A fourth step, the enfranchisement of women, began a little over a century ago. New Zealand gave women the vote only in 1893. In retrospect, it seems shortsighted that this step was never taken by early democracies and republics in places like Athens and Rome. Perhaps one of the principal reasons for the ultimate failure of these early attempts at government "by the people" was that neither the participation of Athens nor the laws of Rome could curb the natural inclination of dominant men to seek power by instigating wars to enlarge their wealth. Empowering women fully is the critical catalyst for the changes we need to make (see How Long It Will Take). It will also be critical to any hope that the future without war we establish will persist over time (see the Secret Ingredient).

The most recent steps toward making war obsolete began in the 1960s.   One was a quiet revolution in family planning introduced by highly effective means of birth control. In the 1960's the global fertility rate was 5 children in a woman's lifetime (see How Long Will It Take). In 2003 this global rate had dropped to 2.7 children. Women's ability to control the timing and numbers of their children is critical to their full empowerment in larger social and political affairs, including any decision to launch a war. Women who are bearing and rearing large families of six or more children, as they did in the past, cannot participate in the higher political levels of state. Giving women reliable control over their reproduction is another essential step in the campaign to end war.

Finally, in the 1960s the first steps were initiated to produce what was to become the Internet and World Wide Web. The explosive growth of this instrument of information and communication makes it possible for people across the globe to connect—to feel and act as one (see Foster Connectedness). Through associations maintained by instant global communication, organizations and individuals can coordinate efforts to advance the cause to end war in ways that were unthinkable only thirty years ago.

All these basics are now in place. Our challenge is to fulfill their promise.    

  • Will we fully empower women around the globe? Will we make it a top priority because we recognize women's critical, catalytic contribution to a warless world?
  • Will we work to build fully mature liberal democracies in which men and women participate equally in decisions, including the decision to go to war?
  • Will we embrace with our votes and passion leaders who understand how the cornerstones describe in this site are interconnected, who show us a strategy for success that integrates all these elements, and who lead us with determination and urgency?

Empowered women in partnership with like-minded men in fully mature democracies can rapidly do the necessary work required to end wars (see Nine Cornerstones)—as long as their efforts are backed up with manpower, time, and emotional and financial resources.

Since the first of the changes necessary to achieve the kind of world most of us wish to pass to our children, approximately seven centuries have passed. We are so close. We can create a future where women, men, and children achieve their potential in social stability, free from the ravages of wars. We are only one, or at the most, two generations of change away (see How Long It Will Take).

Many individuals and organizations are already working toward this greater goal, often without realizing that they are a part of this grand historical trend. It would be tragic were we to falter at this point and fail to achieve the promise that so many courageous individuals of previous generations struggled and sometimes died for. They laid the foundation upon which we now build. News broadcasts or newspapers (dedicated to the disastrous and exciting, however negative) may give the opposite impression, but we are so very close. 


1 For a discussion of the biological roots of war and differences between men and women
     with respect to aggression see Hand, Judith L. 2003. Women, Power, and the
     Biology of Peace
. San Diego, CA: Questpath Publishing. For a FREE download of the
     book see www.jhand.com.

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