Healing Our World: Weekly Comment

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Some of Us Are Too Afraid for Peace and Compassion

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal."

" Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

" There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.”
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.”

To embrace the idea of peace and compassion, you have to open your arms and your heart to others. You have to welcome difference, cherish diversity, and be comfortable with uncertainty. To many people who have adopted the basic tenants of Western civilization and have become irrevocably attached to modern technology, those who are different from the mainstream media’s idea of normal, those who are not white, or not human, and that which is not certain are conditions to be feared and avoided at all cost.


Afraid of the unknown (Photo credit unknown)
To be afraid of that which is different is a paralyzing and numbing experience that shuts out all reason. Gabrielle Roth, movement teacher and one who has mapped out human emotions and our responses to them in a deep and profound way, said, “Fear writes its signature all over the body, but we are all so used to it we've become desensitized to the loud and clear message of our body language. And this pervasive fear simply compounds itself; it paralyzes our life energy, seizes up our feelings. We're so afraid of what we are going to lose, so painfully attached to what we have, that we numb ourselves into a living death to shield us from the pain of real living. By clinging to life as we have it, we deny ourselves a vibrant present and future."

So many of the choices being made in the world today seem to be driven by a fear of losing what we have. But is what we have really worth so much suffering? Is what we have worth the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people? Sadly, I am not just referring to the consequences of war. The daily activities of individuals, industries, and politicians cause worldwide deaths that rival the atrocities of war.

In Tacoma, Washington, health officials have revealed that arsenic contaminates the soil in Pierce County at levels 50 times higher than allowed by the state. A copper smelter that closed down in 1986 after polluting for nearly a century was the cause. Because they are afraid of facing the truth, officials have decided that the pollution is not a public health emergency. Instead, they are recommending that people limit their contact with the soil, wash their hands, wear gloves, clean dirt from their shoes, vacuum, and mop often!


Copper is used in electronics components. (Photo credit unknown )
Of course, regulating and limiting the copper plant during its lifetime was out of the question. Copper is an integral part of just about every piece of technology on the planet and there may be no greater fear that most of us have than to be without our technology. But there are consequences to our ultra-dependence on technology and that technology often bites back.

The real problem may not ultimately be what we do to each other, says Edward Tenner in his book, “Why Things Bite Back, Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences,” but the tendency of the world around us to get even and “to twist our cleverness against us.”

Tenner says, “wherever we turn we face the ironic unintended consequences of mechanical, chemical, biological, and medical ingenuity – revenge effects, they might be called.” But technology alone usually doesn’t produce a revenge effect. “Only when we anchor it in laws, regulations, customs, and habits,” says Tenner, “does an irony reach its full potential.

Another way that so many show their fear is through sport hunting. Some people are so afraid of the natural world and its wonderful uncertainty and unpredictability that they must exert the ultimate form of control – to kill something.

Animals hunted for trophies suffer much more than any animal killed for food. Since the hunters wants intact heads for display, they will not kill the animal quickly by shooting it in the head. Instead, they use arrows or bullets aimed at the body of the animal, usually resulting in a wounded animal staggering, limping, and panicked while the killer continues to shoot. Death is often slow and painful. But the hunter has his or her trophy head to show friends and to brag about bravery and courage in the fight. Acts like this are repeated every day around the world.

Until we stop treating animals as slaves and exhibits - animals that have proven time and time again that they are thinking, feeling, reasoning beings - we will have no chance of healing the isolation we feel from the world and from each other.

Of course, what chance do animals have when, according to the World Health Organization, more than 200,000 people are killed by pesticide poisons worldwide every year. That means 547 men, women, and children die every day from pesticide poisoning.


Vending machines at a school in Arlington, Virginia (Photo credit unknown)
We are all afraid of losing something. Schools are afraid of losing money, so they collect millions of dollars from soft drink and junk food companies to display advertisements on school grounds that encourage our children to fill their bodies with mind numbing sweets that create learning and physical disabilities for thousands every year.

Fear of Iraq has had many consequences. The U.S. and United Nations imposed sanctions on the people of Iraq have killed, some estimate, over 500,000 children alone. By comparison, the atomic bomb that wiped out Hiroshima killed 300,000 people. In Iraq today, the most serious weapon of mass destruction is a bottle of water - water tainted with disease because of the sanctions. Without medicine, diarrhea means death to many children and elderly.

To hear the rhetoric about Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" is maddening. The U.S. is the world leader in the manufacture, sale, and use of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, in the 1970s, a company in Maryland sold Iraq the "seed stock" for its chemical warfare program.

Author Franz Kafka told us, "You can hold yourself back from the suffering of the world: this is something you are free to do ... but perhaps precisely this holding back is the only suffering you might be able to avoid."

We have got to find our way through the fear to peace. We must stop the endless war we wage against not only our fellow humans, but against the natural world.

Nearly all of sculptor, painter, and writer Michelangelo’s art expressed the idea, says Wayne Dyer, “that love helps human beings in their struggles to ascend to the divine. This was true in some three hundred sonnets that he wrote and it showed itself in his depiction of spiritual themes in his painting, sculpting, and architectural design.”

One of his poems may sum up our challenge in these troubled times:

“The greater danger
for most of us
is not that our aim is
too high
and we miss it,
but that it is
too low
and we reach it.”

Cast off your fear, aim high, and crave peace.


1. See “Recipes for Creating Peace” at: http://www.creatingpeace.net/peace_recipes.html

2. Visit the Creators of Peace website at: http://www.cop.initiativesofchange.org/ppointers.html

3. The International Peace Museum was started by the students in the second grade at Indian Hill Primary School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Each student drew a picture and wrote a few words about what peace meant to them. See their efforts at: http://www.ih.k12.oh.us/ps/peace/mainpage.htm

4. Reprinted in 73 countries and 7 languages, “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear,” a powerful essay by Wendell Berry, has been made available in print by “Orion” magazine, along with two related essays at: http://www.oriononline.org/pages/oo/sidebars/America/Berry.html

5. Visit the Non-violence Web at: http://www.nonviolence.org/

6. Find out who your elected representatives are and contact them. Tell them we must begin waging peace now. You can find them at http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle and the author of "Healing Our World", A Journey from the Darkness Into the Light," available at: http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html or your local bookstore. His new book of photographs and thoughts on interconnectedness, “Of This Earth, Reflections on Connections,” is now available. Learn about it at: http://ofthisearth.org. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at: jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com}