The recent turmoil in Ukraine brought up thoughts from a book I’ve appreciated, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Stephen Pinker. Pinker asserts that we may be living in the most peaceful time in human existence, and he then backs those assertions with overwhelming evidence. After looking at the turmoil mentioned, one could be forgiven for being skeptical about this assertion. Yet Pinker asserted that even with the obvious wars we’ve been engaging lately, we are still less violent than previous times. This had me do a thought experiment and it went like this.
Think for a moment of what is going on in the global human community right now. You dear reader and I are engaged in a philosophical discussion about things political in a non-coercive and non-violent manner. Neither of us is here against our will and either of us is free to get up and leave and do something else. By an unexpressed agreement, these are the rules of this thought experiment. You’re reading, I’m writing. Speaking accurately, I’ve written and strictly speaking am now engaged interactively with you. But you get my drift.
Meanwhile somewhere else, a small group of people are discussing relationships and how to have one that works. Down the block is a garage where 3 teenagers are taking apart an engine. Somewhere else we find a restaurant where 25 customers are being served by 5 waiters and 4 chefs with the owner flitting around making sure everything is humming. Let’s continue my thought experiment by imagining ourselves being able to freeze time. Everything on planet Earth is stopped except for us. You and I now pick up an iPad and go from one interaction to another cataloguing the type of interaction we encounter and logging it into our database. Every interaction is rated as either violent (at least one individual is engaged in physically coercing at least one other individual into doing something) or non-violent (no coercion is going on and even if verbal abuse is going on, the abused individual is free to get up and leave).
We are not surprised to discover that in our frozen instance in time, 99% of all the social interactions we find are non-violent. This includes instances of violence in which the coerced individual wasn’t even there, where the coercer secretly stole or damaged something belonging to the other party. But it does not include instances of accidental damage to someone’s property or body. Accidents are excluded because there was no intent to coerce or do harm.
Even the sociopaths and hardened killers we encountered spent most of their time in non-coercive activities like cooking dinner, drinking with buddies, washing the car, etc. and only a few moments were spent in hurting others.
After we stopped and looked at our stats, we concluded that people interact with each other non-coercively. We almost never intentionally behave violently to one another.
In every culture in every language in every race, people mostly live with each other in a respectful and tolerant manner. We didn’t ignore the fact that in the remaining small percent of human activity where coercion exists, much harm is done and that this harm is unacceptable. We simply acknowledged the fact that most of us do not live in a state of violence with each other. Perhaps Pinker is on to something. I’m convinced that he is.
Expressing this in my ideals, I suggest that we are already living the three rules of A World of Honour: do no harm, everything by agreement, and be your word. These three principles in action are what we observed in our thought experiment. What holds this together is not some law made by the president or queen or tzar, but personal responsibility expressed individually by every person on the planet. But we have a problem. This ideal world of mine, this world that we have built, doesn’t know that what has us flourish and prosper together in peace are those three principles. Instead, we have looked to the institution that brought us every war ever fought to tell us how to be good. But this institution was never built by women and men of good will seeking to find ways to have humanity harmonize. The institution was never built at all.
The institution that I’m referring to is government! The institution of government as we know it evolved from the alpha male in each of us that gets what is wanted by force. What is needed is a new institution that has us get what each of us wants cooperatively and by agreement. This is what I’m calling for.
There’s an expression that I’m sure we’re all familiar with, that of walking your talk. We use this when we’re calling out the hypocrite in us, someone who says one thing but does another. I’m suggesting another type of hypocrite, one that I’m inventing right now, one of talking your walk. Isn’t do no harm, everything by agreement, and be your word the way in which you live your life? Are you telling people about that? I know I don’t. Well didn’t. I like to think I am through my blogging.
As we discovered in our thought experiment, most people including those in our institution of government, walk A World of Honour talk. Let’s transform the institution of government into one that consistently talks it’s walk. We live our lives each day with do no harm as our fundamental way of “walking”. Let’s talk that too.
Imagine for a minute Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden talking that walk. Both of them take the principle that they live by with their family and friends and declare that they will bring that to their nations. Both men declare that they are pulling out of war now and forever. And in turn every other world leader does the same. Then each backs that up by being their word on that. Suddenly the world is at peace. The armed forces are called home. They are no longer needed.
Now let’s imagine something a bit more doable. Imagine you dear reader taking this on, declaring to your world, that you live by the principles of A World of Honour and intend to help spread this idea whenever possible. It might be as simple as speaking out against what’s happening in Ukraine. Putin and Biden are both wrong. Say that. That’s how we begin building our new world. We speak out against harm. Talk your walk.