Elise Boulding

Toward a Culture of Peace in the 21st Century

In 1995, Elise Boulding (1920 - 2010) offered these remarks upon being awarded the Center's 1st Annual Global Citizen Award. Her co-recipient that year was John D. Montgomery. As Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth College, Dr. Boulding developed the nation's first Peace Studies program. Her written works include Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History (2000). Dr. Boulding was introduced by Kevin Clements, Director of the Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.

Kevin Clements

I can think of no one who matches the purpose of this award so completely as does my friend, colleague, and mentor, Elise Boulding. Elise regards the whole world as her home and has devoted herself unstintingly to its care and nurture. She has a philanthropic spirit that transcends the narrow bound of nation, race, and region, and she knows that one of the fundamental roles of a peacemaker is to see and to realize wholeness where there is fragmentation and division. To this end, she derives great joy and delight from building networks and weaving relationships between peoples of all races and religions. She is convinced that one of the most important tasks global citizens can make towards building a peaceful world is to deepen community relationships and to envision communities where none currently exist. To achieve this goal, futurists and peace researchers need to discern the incipient communities of the twenty-first century and facilitate their evolution.

In this regard, Elise is a wonderful role model. She is an incorrigible networker and once told me that her most important books were her personal and association address books. She worked assiduously to bring the International Peace Research Association and COPRED (the Consortium on Peace Research Education Development) into existence. She helped establish the United States Institute for Peace and developed important global programs within UNESCO and the United Nations University. She has brought many scholars and activists together to resolve problems as elusive as peace in the Middle East and a wide variety of other issues. Elise's networks of women, scientists, sociologists, peace researchers, futurists, ecologists, Quakers, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, to name just a few, have all made vital contributions to the generation of peaceful cultures and community.

Who is this extraordinary person we're honoring tonight? We know she was born in Oslo, Norway, and her family migrated to the United States when she was a child. We know that her soul journeying with Quakers and Roman Catholics generated a spiritually grounded person whose life, love, and courage derives from a profound awareness of the presence of another, of a presence other than but embedded within the self, a presence which transcends the clutter and busyness which cloud our everyday life.

We also know that she met and married Kenneth Boulding, and that their partnership was an exemplary combination of wit, faith, temperament, intelligence, wisdom, poetry, and vision. Each of them individually demonstrated academic brilliance coupled with high levels of compassion. Individually and together they saw cosmic connections where many others saw only randomness and chaos.

Individually and together they saw cosmic connections where many others saw only randomness and chaos.Their perspectives on these topics, while intertwined, are very different. Elise dedicated her life to understanding the social, psychological, and cultural ingredients which enable individuals and groups with different needs and interests to negotiate these differences in a nonviolent and peaceful fashion. Kenneth was often more preoccupied with the economics of war and peace and international relations more narrowly defined. Elise's primary concern has been with what makes for successful collaborative problem solving or shared decision making. To this end she has investigated cultures of war and peace; the contradictory impulses and stands within religious traditions and all the diverse ways in which people learn to be peaceful.

For all who are dominated by time — and who isn't in this sort of society — Elise has researched different orientations to time and new ways of conceptualizing it. Her idea of a two hundred present helps all of us to situate ourselves in lengthier time spans, "remembering" both the past and the future while acting in the present. As Socrates described time, "it is the moving portrait of eternity."

We are not just honoring a scholar and an activist, we are honoring someone who takes delight in and sees the whole human enterprise as a constantly unfolding adventure. Elise enlivens individuals and groups with her love, optimism, knowledge, and wisdom. She cherishes all social relationships and gives herself completely to them. She draws energy for this from her contemplative life which she shares with others but nurtures in solitude. She loves and cares for this planet as few others do. She is a true Friend and global citizen.

Elise Boulding laughing

Elise Boulding: Toward a Culture of Peace in the Twenty-First Century

I'm overcome. Many of you in this room knew Kenneth. I like to think he's here with us now. I was unaware that Kevin was going to mention the "two hundred year present," but that is a happy coincidence. While preparing these remarks I came to the conclusion that the only way I could talk about peace culture in the twenty-first century was by placing us in that larger present. I felt that using the two hundred present to talk about changing the world towards peace, justice, love, and sharing was the only way to build adequately on what's already happening. After all, we're not inventing peace from scratch. People have been at it for centuries. And to talk about the two hundred present as something we are present in, you and I, means that we have these colleagues and coworkers that link us to experience larger than our own life span.

The two hundred year present begins of course, on November 3, 1985, the year in which people who are celebrating their hundredth birthday today were born. The other boundary of the two hundred year present is November 3, 2095, when babies born today will reach their hundredth birthday. That period includes people who have been or will be part of our lives — from our grandparents and great grandparents through our grandchildren and great grandchildren, and we are all participants in the creation of a better world. Our Native American brothers and sisters talk about planning for the seventh generation, but I would like to extend that to ten — five generations back and five forward.

One of the things that astonished me as I began reading about the first half of this period — the end of the last century and the early part of this century — was what a vibrant movement there was in peace education. Teachers and community workers in Europe, Asia, and the Americas were just discovering a new way to teach. There was also the vibrancy and excitement of the movement for international law and for arbitration and dispute settlement. We assume we invented those things in our era, but they were already a big thing in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Right up to the present, there have been extraordinary developments — in problem solving, in peace building and in integrative developments, particularly the evolution of the people's associations.

Just think, at the beginning of this century there were only two hundred transnational people's associations and now there are twenty thousand! They are "thee and me," linked through our local branches — across our states, across our countries, and across regions. Of course, not all NGOs are transcontinental, but many are. They are "us," doing what we do in our communities, whether we focus on peace or economic justice or on doing better in our professions or making the business world function better. They are whatever we do in our communities of faith; what we do in concert with our brothers and sisters in networks that we can touch and feel, that we can meet in and work with.

We cannot do internationally what we don't know how to do at home.The biggest discoveries for me came in the years when our children were small. I had to stay pretty close to home because the five came very close together. But one day I realized that all the things I was working on in Ann Arbor, where our children were growing up, had their counterparts in other places: the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the League of Women Voters, our local Friends meeting, the YWCA, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary. These all had local branches throughout the country; they had regional and even transnational affiliations. So that what I did in Ann Arbor, even while I was carrying a couple of babies around, could nevertheless be effective for linking with and working in collaboration with other people. It was a great discovery. Once I made it, I never felt tied down by those homemaker years. They were great years. It was just another way of finding out how to build world community locally.

Because I love networking, I have probably started more networking letters than anything else in my life; networking is the key word of our extended present. Look at the number of coalitions — all the peace organizational coalitions, the environmental coalitions (which got a big boost at Rio), and the ones that John Montgomery has worked with in the development field and the human rights field. What's interesting is that they are all beginning to see not only that they can't work alone (in the past every NGO wanted its own turf), they are discovering — and here the peace research community has really helped — that we can't do just one thing at a time. We can't do just peace, we can't do just human rights, we can't do just environment, we can't do just development; we have to move in all those spheres at once.

We cannot do internationally what we don't know how to do at home. And that's why we have to work on developing our own cultures of peace. There isn't any way around it. We've just got to do it. I'll give a definition. I'm a bit nervous about giving a definition of peace culture, but it might help. And you can at least quarrel with it: A mosaic of identities, attitudes, values, beliefs, and institutional patterns that lead people to live nurturantly with one another, deal with their differences, share their resources, solve their problems, and give each other space so no one is harmed and everyone's basic needs are met.

We can't work for what we can't imagine. So we have to be able to imagine, play, daydream about that peace culture. And Kenneth Boulding always used to say, "What exists is possible." Because there are peace cultures — and we have all experienced islands of peace culture — it is possible. I don't have time to share with you the various trends of this peace-building, but it has a lot to do with a growing commitment to community and to localism. With the rediscovery of community, children will become more visible. Age segregation will gradually dwindle away as children do more of their learning in community apprenticeships, and every citizen is a teacher. Just as there will be more emphasis for all ages on the practices of conflict resolution, and on meditation (listening within) and mediation (listening without), there will be more emphasis on nurturing the earth itself, on caring for local forests and waters. People will grow food where they live, whether in city or village. There will be more joy in work, more smaller-scale production, and more community celebration and play!

Do you want an indicator of a peaceful society? How much smiling do you see in any given hour?

Finally, I'd like to offer the image of Indra's net, to remind us of the interconnection of local and global. In this beautiful image from Buddhist teachings, the cosmos becomes a vast jeweled net, each jewel reflecting every other jewel. It's a hologram. Within each jewel is the complexity of all life. You and I are each inside a jewel. Whatever we do inside our jewel in the way of loving and caring and listening and healing — whatever we do inside our jewel at all — is reflected in the shining net of the cosmos. So, even as we stand in our own place, we all take part in the universe itself.

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