I agree with John Steiner, who sent me the article below. This is a powerful step in the right direction. Spread it around. -- Tom
THIS ARTICLE AND BOOK ARE WELL WORTH THE READ. I BELIEVE 'GETTING TO PEACE' IS ONE OF THE IMPORTANT BOOKS OF OUR GENERATION. BILL URY TRULY IS ONE OF OUR PLANET'S GREAT PEACEMAKERS. ANY IDEAS ANY OF YOU HAVE FOR PUBLICIZING AND MARKETING HIS BOOK (INCLUDING JUST FORWARDING TO YOUR LISTS) ARE WELCOME. BILL IS AVAILABLE FOR SPEAKING, INTERVIEWS, ETC. THE PAPERBACK IS COMING OUT SOON.
PLEASE CONTACT BILL DIRECTLY WITH ANY IDEAS. SEE BELOW. I AM SURE YOU'LL FIND THE ARTICLE AND BOOK INSPIRING, USEFUL, AND JUST GOOD READING!.
THANK YOU AND VERY BEST, JOHN
The Christian Science Monitor
Copyright 2000 The Christian Science Publishing Society
January 20, 2000, Thursday 1345 words
Challenging the 'necessity' of conflict
SECTION: FEATURES; IDEAS; Pg. 15
BYLINE: Jane Lampman, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
DATELINE: CAMBRIDGE, MASS.
'What if destructive conflict were preventable - and we simply did not know it!
The words above aren't the words of an ivory-tower academic
or a naive
optimist. They come from someone who's spent years at the heart of
conflict - from family struggles to bitter labor strikes to such
intractable wars as that in Chechnya.
William Ury, an anthropologist-turned-negotiator, has distilled
lessons learned from two decades at the center of many storms, and 10
years of in-depth research, into a provocative and surprisingly heartening
message about where the human race stands in "Getting to Peace" (Viking,
1999). His latest book follows two international bestsellers on
negotiation: "Getting to Yes" and "Getting Past No."
The new book is a challenge to the prevailing "myth of
human nature," to
the idea that violence and wars are inevitable, and to each of us who
thinks we aren't in a position to do anything about it. He sets about to
show us why we can do something - and how.
The "why" has to do both with the truth about us
and about our times.
"With all the changes taking place in the world today," Dr. Ury says in an
interview, "some enormous opportunities have opened for us to begin to
take our collective fate back as a matter of choice."
We have the choice, he says, because our history is not what
believed. "This myth that human beings have been killing each other most
of the time for as long as they have existed - that it's our basic nature
and if you scratch the veneer of civilization you get a Bosnia or Rwanda -
is fundamentally mistaken. It is not borne out by what we know
scientifically," he adds. Ury devoted years to studying archaeological
records and visiting with tribes that most closely resemble our ancestors.
He presents the case that for the first 99 percent of human
norm was not organized violence, but coexistence; only in the last 1
percent did violence become the way of resolving differences. He describes
how the change from hunter-gatherer societies to farming led from
horizontal to vertical power structures, to tension over fixed resources,
and thence to organized violence.
"We have been maligning our ancestors," he says.
It's not that they
weren't capable of violence, but they worked hard at preventing and
resolving conflict - and found ways to do so. The time he has spent with
the Bushmen of the Kalahari, the Semai tribe in Malaysia, and even tribes
in New Guinea, have convinced Ury that "if anything, we [as a species] are
'Homo negotiator.' "
The tribes employ a conflict management system - what Ury calls
side" - that is wholly pertinent to contemporary life, he says. That's
because our global society is in many ways becoming more like earlier
periods in human history. With the "Knowledge Revolution," we are shifting
from fixed resources, such as land - long fought over - back to an
expandable resource. Pyramidal structures of authority are breaking down,
and self-organizing, cooperative networks of horizontal relationships are
While helping to train the worldwide managers of the Ford Motor
negotiation, as part of the company's shift to a new decisionmaking
network, Ury was struck by "how often I was reminded of the Bushmen and
other simple societies. Here were the most modern management ideas being
put into practice, yet they were reinventions of common practices I had
seen among hunter-gatherers."
Ury splits his time between teaching negotiation, working in
situations, and trying to capture the lessons learned in the books he
writes. He discussed his passion for peacemaking recently after leading a
Harvard University negotiation-program workshop on "Dealing with Difficult
People and Difficult Situations."
It's clear from his high-energy-yet-relaxed presentation style
hasn't lost any enthusiasm for the challenge. And how many people would
relish the idea of getting involved again in negotiations over the Chechen
Ury - who led the first face-to-face sessions of Russian and
leaders after a cease-fire in 1997 - would be eager to explore a "third
side" approach to the situation, he says.
The "third side" is the alternative to coercion that
has been missing in
Western approaches to conflict resolution, Ury says. It involves people
from "the community" using peer power to foster a process of dialogue and
nonviolence to bring about a win-win-win situation (both sides and the
community benefit). He offers many examples of its effectiveness, from
Boston's reduction of teen homicides to South Africa's peaceful transition
to majority rule.
On Chechnya, he would draw on the tradition of councils of
weave the situation into a larger context. "Instead of just condemning
what's going on, we ought to be making a proactive effort to try to
stimulate creation of a council of elders in the Caucasus - with support
from Europe, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in
Europe], the US, and Russia - to look at the problems of the region and
begin a slow process of peacemaking."
Because of intractable conflicts such as Chechnya, "some
very hard lessons
are being learned today," he says. One lesson is that much more needs to
be done to prevent them. "The war in Yugoslavia was the most widely
predicted conflict - 'if [President Josip Broz] Tito goes, the place
collapses'." Another lesson is that, after the bloodiest century in
history, we are beginning to learn that we can't win through war anymore -
both sides lose, he says. "And the realization is dawning that maybe there
are ways both sides can benefit" instead.
In fact, in our increasingly interdependent world, he sees
promising opportunity in 10,000 years to create a co-culture of
coexistence, cooperation, and constructive conflict."
Conflict won't go away - in fact there will be more of it because
interdependence, he says. And we're more vulnerable to it. But that
vulnerability means greater motivation for pursuing nonviolent solutions -
and mobilization of the third side.
It's beginning to happen. When he was in graduate school in
negotiation wasn't a defined subject. Now it's being taught everywhere -
universities, the corporate world, government. "In 10,000 schools in this
country, kids as young as 6 or 7 are learning peer mediation," Ury says.
Many children didn't know there were alternatives to violence to help them
stand up for themselves or get respect. Now in the cities, "gang leaders
often become the best mediators, and they command respect for the
transformation they've gone through," he says.
Ury urges all of us to get involved. His book describes 10
roles we can
adopt at various times in our daily lives to contribute to a new culture
of coexistence: As a provider, teacher, or bridge-builder, one can help
prevent conflict; as a mediator, arbiter, equalizer, or healer, one can
help resolve conflict; and as a witness, referee, or peacekeeper, help
Each role holds out the opportunity to do something other than
or do nothing. "What did we learn from Columbine?" Ury asks. "That so many
people in the community knew something, but did nothing."
"Human beings have a host of emotional needs," Ury
says. "If all these
needs had to be subsumed in one word, it might be 'respect.'... Most of
the wars in the world today revolve around identity and respect. By
addressing young people's needs for meaning and respect, we parents,
teachers and community members can help avert violence."
Ury is optimistic because we are beginning to grasp the potential
third side - "that we can apply our innovative genius not only to devising
new computers and jet planes, but to better ways of dealing with
Given who we are, we have that choice. The critical question,
he says, is
whether we will make that choice to get involved. "The third side is us."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society