Right here, right now, peace demands our commitment. We might say we want peace in the world but peace demands something of us that we may not be willing to offer. When we stay present and resist hiding behind the complexity of our stories, truth emerges. Facing the truth of our daily lives is a daunting challenge for us would-be peace ambassadors.
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Many people were damaged by negative instinctive behaviors at many points along the way to our current levels of enlightenment and inclusion — and memories of that damage will never disappear. But major progress has been made, and our laws now are very well constructed to help us end the worst discrimination and abuse, and to create real opportunities for all Americans.
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We have not changed who we each are at our most core level — and we still have all of those core sets of intergroup and intergender instincts intact, because there is no way for us to ever be instinct free — so we continue to have some negative and sometimes painful intergroup and intergender behaviors that are far too visible in far too many settings.
But we have come a very long way and we are pointed very much in the right direction for major parts of what we do today. We need to decide now what to do to go the next steps forward to the world we want to have for ourselves and for the grandchildren who will inherit what we create as we interact with one another now, and set the agenda for the next decade of progress and alignment in America.
We still have issues of gender discrimination and abusive sexual behaviors that we need to address, and we still have issues of racial, ethnic, cultural, and economic discrimination that we need to address if we want to move forward to be all that we can be as a nation and a people in all of those areas of our lives.
We could very easily slide backwards and go to very bad places and many people would feel emotionally aligned with some of the worst and most dysfunctional intergroup behaviors that could be triggered by that degenerative and damaging process if we allow it to be activated to scale. Doing bad things to people from other groups can feel emotionally right because we all have very strong emotions to be loyal to our own group and to want to defeat and damage any other group that we feel threatens our own group. It can feel very right and even heroic to do things to further our own group position and to follow our own group leaders when they lead us down those paths.
Every group has its heroes and leaders — and our instincts cause us to celebrate and support and follow the leaders and heroes of our group. We have interesting sets of Alpha and Beta and Theta instincts that guide how we feel and act in hierarchical settings. Alpha instincts, in particular, have great power to influence how our leaders feel and think, and people with activated Alpha instincts too often trigger and aggravate intergroup conflict in ways that increase and solidify the support of their own group for them as leaders.
We need to understand how all of those group instincts and alpha instincts work, and we need to make informed life decisions about our own behaviors, feelings, and beliefs in the context of that level of enlightenment about those behaviors. We can also ask our leaders to take on the role of leading us to inclusion, safety, alignment, and Peace — and we can reward the leaders from every group who help us more in those directions.
If we allow that grim and ugly intergroup future to happen, our children and our grandchildren will literally find themselves in a world where they will need to be both armed and guarded in their own communities to function and survive. We have parts of major cities that are run by gangs today for major portions and major aspects of how people function in each of those settings. We have people from several groups who are deeply angry about other groups and who distrust and dislike people from those groups just because they are from those groups.
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We have people who have been damaged by intergroup behavior who are angry and deeply unhappy about the damage that has been done and that is still happening in too many settings. Those major functional realities about current intergroup anger and division will not disappear because we would like them to go away. Wishful thinking will not bring us together as a country to create a safe future for our grandchildren and children. What will bring us to a safe and positive future is for us all to understand how seductive and powerful those instinctive behaviors and thought processes are that get us into tribalized behavior — and we need to understand exactly what we need to do to keep from hurting each other as warring American tribes and then do those things, together.
To do that, we will need to rise above those very seductive instincts, and we need to put in place beliefs and behaviors and cultural values that lead us to win-win outcomes for everyone instead of either win-lose outcomes or lose-lose outcomes for us all. Cultures need to be part of that tool kit for Peace. We build cultures in every setting and in every group to achieve our instinctive goals in each setting and group.
We have hierarchical instincts, so we build hierarchies in every setting. We have leaders everywhere, and we have instincts to follow our leaders and to want to be leaders. We have territorial instincts, so our cultures define owned territory in every setting. We have acquisitional instincts, so we define property possession and property control rules everywhere. We always tend to each feel that the rules of our own cultures are the right rules — and we tend to feel loyalty both to the rules and to the cultures that create them.
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So we need to rely on that set of feelings, and we need to build rules into each culture and each setting that will prevent intertribal war and increase interpersonal and intergroup support and trust. We are a multicultural nation — and we need to appreciate and respect that reality by appreciating all of our cultures. At the same time, we need to recognize that our best chance of having Peace for us all going forward will be to agree on some core values that we all respect, and then very intentionally do what we need to do to embed those values of Peace into each culture in each setting.
We will only be able to survive and thrive and be safe as a people and a nation if we agree that Democracy is a core value and that we are each entitled to participate as a voter for selecting both our leaders and our laws. Two of the InterGroup Understanding books have key sections — Chapter Eighteen in Primal Pathways , and Chapter Seventeen in The Art of InterGroup Peace — that outline, identify, describe, and explain ten core values that we generally use now to guide us all.
The values listed in those chapters are a blending of the very specific commitments we have already made to core beliefs, and those chapters include suggestions for how we can add to those core beliefs with guidance that will strengthen us as a nation. We used to pride ourselves as a nation that we were a people who told the truth to one another.
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Truth telling is a value and a behavior that disappears very quickly whenever we tribalize and enter into tribal conflict and division. At this important moment in time, we should all agree that we want our nation to succeed as a nation, and that we want to function and interact with one another in the context of shared values — and that one of the core values for us to share and honor as a nation and a people is to tell the truth.
Telling the truth is something we do for people we perceive to be Us — and we need to define ourselves to each other to be people who respect each other as an Us enough to not say something that is not true to Us. War and conflict both invite not telling the truth.
Sun Tzu — author of the famous book The Art of War — strongly recommends that people in a conflict situation lie to one another constantly and deceive the other party whenever deception is possible. Too many of our political settings and interactions today have adopted the Sun Tzu value set, and we have far too many communications happening in public and political settings that are intended to deceive or to sell an untrue set of facts rather than saying what is true.
When we use that approach, it makes people angry and distrustful and undermines both credibility and functionality.
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It is hard to solve real problems using false information for obvious reasons. Lies build on lies — and when the lies are intended to do damage, they clearly set up communications interactions that cause us to believe that the person lying to us is definitely a Them in the worst instinct driven definition of that term, and deserves to be treated as a Them in our own behaviors, statements, actions, reactions, and responses. We also need to raise our level of discourse civility, courtesy, and openness to the point where we can acknowledge that a person on the other side of the debate on a given issue is making a legitimate point when that happens without having our acceptance of a particular point perceived to be a total defeat for our position.
We have sunken to the level of debate where we too often do not take the conversation with people in opposing situations as a learning opportunity for improving our knowledge on a topic, and instead, often feel pressure to defend every one of our points to the death and to the ninth degree because we tend to defend entire packages of beliefs rather than examining points of fact. We need to lift the discussion to a level where accepting the need to modify a point or two in our own argument can be done without surrendering the entire argument to the other side.
We need civil and mutually enlightening discourse — and that involves being able to learn from each other in the debate process without having to surrender everything and acknowledge defeat if one point of our argument is in need of change or correction. We need to disagree with each other in the context of being an overall American Us and not have disagreements on any issue cause us to think and behave like a Them.
We are at real risk today of slipping into purely tribal thinking with all of the situational and behavioral risks that thinking creates. People are angry on all sides of our intergroup interactions. We should begin with the shared goal of having our grandchildren live in safety and of having our grandchildren able to have successful, productive, secure and prosperous lives, and then take the steps necessary to have that future happen.
We should decide now that we want our grandchildren to have a wonderful and Peaceful world and that we want us to be strong, secure, safe, and prosperous and a country. We can have that future as a nation if we collectively decide now that we are going to turn our rapidly growing diversity into a great strength instead of a risk or deficit and that we will interact with each other in a context of mutual respect and aligned values.
Turning our diversity into a strength can easily be done if we make the commitment to do it, and then act in ways that help us all succeed in getting it done. We all win when we all win. That is an important point to understand and utilize in our thinking. There is no shortage of available wins in the world. We live in a world of plenty and we can expand that plenty relatively easily to include us all. We are all stronger as communities and as people when we are all helping each other win because the plenty that exists expands most easily when it is shared.
Our old approach to life and to society has almost always been to have our intellect serve as the servant of our instincts and of our cultures to help them both achieve their goals. The new approach we use now needs to be to have our intellect make enlightened and fully informed decisions about who we are and about what we do, and then have both our cultures and our instincts serve our values and help support and achieve our enlightened decisions about the behaviors we each should use to guide our lives.
The new way of having our intellect and our enlightened values guide us, and of having our cultures and our instincts work as tools for our intellect is better than having our instincts invisibly in control of our lives and having our cultures steer us blindly to negative and damaging behaviors that are a clear violation of basic morality and ethical standards, because we allow instinctive commitment to our group to overrule and over power basic morality.
Acknowledging prior sins and being clear about how wrong some prior behaviors have been is foundational — and once that foundation has been laid and once people have reached the point where they truly do want everyone from all groups to have win-win outcomes in all areas of their lives, then we need fresh starts and mutual support to get us to the world we want to be in. To make that approach work, we need a blend of guilt, wisdom, insight, sorrow, regret, remorse, good will, personal morality, individual and collective ethical alignment, and fully committed best intentions to enable us to start down the right paths from the paths we are on now.
The alternative to that right path is to keep hating one another and to have intergroup anger grow and to continue doing increasingly negative and damaging things to each other into the future, because those instincts are creating the world we will live in and guiding our emotions and thoughts, and because they are so seductive that we find ourselves under their power and influence and feel that their negative and divisive influence is the right guidance for our lives.
Doing future damage to each other because those instincts have seduced us emotionally into their power and feel right to us is just plain wrong, and we should not allow ourselves to go down that road. We need to rise above that anger and intergroup division and decide to be good people doing good things for the right reasons, and then do what we each need to do to make that future happen. Fresh starts need to be a key tool we use to steer us to the future that is best for us all, and telling the truth can be a particularly good and effective fresh start.
We all have been acting to help our own group — and doing things to help an Us is not a bad thing to do unless helping our Us also involves doing damage to other people. So we need to decide now to each help our Us without damaging any of the other people who are part of the wonderful fabric that makes up the entire and magnificently inclusive full American Us. This is not a call for drawing battle lines around truth tellers and around people who do not say true things. We do not need confrontation at this point about Truth and we do not need to make each other wrong about Truth.
We simply need to help each other do a good thing well, and we need to do it right and do it in ways that feel right when we do them. We may need to gently convert people over time to the commitment to telling the truth and not expect to get everyone on board with that commitment today. We should offer that commitment to each other, and be explicit about both what we mean and what we are doing. In addition — even if no one else agrees at this point — we should declare ourselves to be committed that telling the truth and make it what we do in clear and obvious ways.
To prime that pump with good intentions and with personal understanding and good will and clear insight, we each should choose to model this behavior beginning now, and we each should commit to tell the truth now even if other people do not follow suit and do not also commit to telling the truth to us or to anyone else right now. We might each need to do it ourselves to get that set of truth telling behaviors back into our world, and we might have to do it long enough and openly enough so that other people trust the commitment and join in that behavior over time.
This could give us a chance to find out the answer to the famous old Zen Koan — What is the sound of one hand clapping? We probably should be that hand if that is what it takes to prime this particular badly needed pump. Telling the truth with clear intent is a very right thing to do. Doing it now as a very public and clear commitment that we make without needing or requiring anyone else to agree to the same commitment at this moment in time sends a message to everyone that we are ready to be Us at a very good level, and that we are going down that path with good intent, good hearts, and clear good will.
It actually depends on us doing it. We owe it to ourselves as a country and as a nation to tell the truth to one another. Telling the truth can help us survive as a people and a nation. That used to be what we did. We used to tell the truth. We need to be an American Us to keep that from happening.
Instincts are the reason why that is true. Being Us is clearly something we each feel a need to do. Those instincts can create dangers for us today, and we should recognize that to be true. We activate those sets of feelings and behaviors in a wide range of settings. We Need to Create a Sense of Being a Values Based American Us To succeed in that effort to prevent those behaviors from tearing our communities apart, we will need to build and re build a sense of being an American Us that is based on the enlightened and positive values we share and then we need to very intentionally build a future of Peace and collective safety for us all from that American Us foundation.
Shared values very clearly and directly anchor that process and that alignment. Truth can be a shared American value that can help define Us as an Us to one another. Telling the Truth is an anchor value on that list. We all need to understand clearly what that commitment means. Instincts Have Great Power Over Our Lives We need particular shared and collective awareness and understanding of the instincts that are triggered by a sense of Us and Them so we can use them as tools for Peace rather than having those very powerful instincts being catalysts for War. We can have great power over the instincts we understand.
Honesty and truth tend to be most relevant to Us. We are naturally honest with our Us and we expect our Us to be honest with Us in return. They were all born into their group. We Should Make the World Safe for Our Grandchildren It would be the very best thing for us to collectively agree to make the world wonderful and safe for our children and our grandchildren instead of having the future for all groups be grim and to have the years ahead of us be damaging for everyone. We can save ourselves. Truth telling can help us avoid that negative future and put us on the right path.
Telling the truth can be an important thing to do. We Have Done Some Damaging and Evil Things Under the Influence of Intergroup Instincts Those instincts have structured and influenced behavior at many painful and damaging levels in our history as a country. That is no longer as true as it was. We are far from perfect, but we have made major progress in a number of key areas. Everyone can now legally vote.
Everyone now has the right to be educated. We can make that choice. Our Alpha Instincts can Trigger Some Damaging Behaviors and Need to be Understood Doing bad things to people from other groups can feel emotionally right because we all have very strong emotions to be loyal to our own group and to want to defeat and damage any other group that we feel threatens our own group. Those are not hypothetical or theoretical dangers or risks. Our prisons are also now run by gangs. Anger exists today at several intergroup and personal levels.
We need to decide that we want to create intergroup Peace in America. We know what the tools are that we can use to get to that result. One of those shared values for us all needs to be Democracy. We need to restore that value to the core set of commitments we make to one another.
We need to not trigger those perceptions by not saying things that we know are not true. Telling the truth is a good and important step down that path to intergroup Peace. It is possible for us all to Win. This call to telling the truth is not being critical of anyone. This is not a call to attack anyone who is not telling the truth now.
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