BY ANTHONY BOND
About four years ago a group of affluent Californians, observing how the worlds nuclear arsenal just kept on growing--in spite of demonstrations of a million people. women's peace camps, and leaflets stacked a mile high--decided to try something completely different.
They felt that, even though the urgency of the nuclear crisis cried out for a quick solution, the only answer was an extremely long-term one: Re-educate a good part of the human race. Their aim was to plant the idea that "war is obsolete" in so many people's minds that war becomes obsolete.
These people were members of "Creative Initiative," a spiritually-based human potential group interested in creating a better world. They were business executives, professionals, and academics. Several had made their million in Silicon Valley high-tech industries. The organization that they created was a "spin-off' called Beyond War, one oriented toward educating and motivating people who might not be receptive to the program of the average peace group.
The respectability of their presentation has helped make Beyond War acceptable to "establishment" people who are in positions of authority. The word "peace" never appears in their literature, though that is what "beyond war" means.
Theirs is a much more ambitious goal than merely preventing deployment of particular weapons. They say that, if you base a campaign on keeping the Pershings out of Europe, when the Pershings are deployed, you look as if you've lost. Instead, they work toward a vast transformation in the way humanity functions--a shift to a world beyond warfare.
However extraordinary this goal may seem, they feel it is realistic. Thus they cite studies on social change which claim we only have to convert five percent of the population for an idea to become "embedded" and 20 percent for it to become "unstoppable." (However, for this to happen, about half the population has to be aware of it.)
Beyond War's credo is that of holism, the concept that all life is interconnected, that we all are one and that our slightest actions and thoughts affect the whole universe.
When it first started, Beyond War focused mainly on in-forming people about the devastating effects of nuclear war. Then, a position paper was drafted, which evolved into the Beyond War Statement--a synthesis of talks held with military experts, scientists, government people, and men and women from all walks of life. It holds that since all wars eventually lead to nuclear war, war is obsolete; that all life is interconnected, as powerfully symbolized in the photograph of the earth from space; and that we must start using a "new way of thinking" and identify with humanity, life, the earth.
With the Statement in hand, they hit the road and started to spread the word. Today their newsletter goes to 20,000 subscribers, they have 400 full-time and 8,000 part-time volunteers active in 25 states as well as Germany and Canada.
(Dr. Foster Smith, 67 Carmichael, Toronto M5M 2W8, 481 -0298; Thelma Keene, Box 4520, Vancouver V6B 7Z3.)
Beyond War often educates people in small groups, such as corporate boardrooms, with audio-visual presentations including one that dramatically illustrates the world's nuclear overkill. The speaker drops a ball bearing into a metal canister to represent the total firepower of World War II. Then, to represent today's nuclear stockpile, 6,000 more are poured in, in a deafening rattle that often leaves listeners shaken.
Beyond War also sponsors radio announcements and ads. A group of 5,000 women, for example, raised $200,000 to place full-page ads in Tune and seven major U.S. newspapers.
After absorbing the information about war being obsolete, the next step for Beyond War students is to make a conscious decision to reject the them-and-us way of looking at things and adopt the we-are-one approach in their daily lives. Then, says the Beyond War Statement, "when new agreements about principles are reached, laws, treaties and policies (can be) developed to implement them."
Beyond War is probably best known for its award ceremony each December. The award is presented to an individual, group or nation who makes a significant contribution to building a world beyond war. It was given in 1983 to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for their historic pastoral letter; in 1984, by satellite, to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and in 1985 to the leaders of Greece, Sweden. Tanzania, Argentina, Mexico and India in a ceremony that, for the first time, linked Asia, Africa, Europe and North and South America in a live video conference. Said the late Olof Palme, on receiving his award: 'This civilization does not belong to only one or two or five nations. It belongs to all peoples, to present as well as future generations."