By Ray Cunnington (Amazon 2016) 93 pp, $13.16 at amazon.ca
Ray Cunnington pleads for readers to free themselves from “the grip of culture.” At a boy’s boarding school in England, he resisted the traditional masculine culture that ultimately led to World War II. He evaded combat by volunteering to serve as a medical orderly with the Royal Air Force. “This step has affected my life, jolting me to search for better ways to handle conflict and understand how cultures gradually change.”
After the war, Cunnington moved to Canada, raised a family, had a career, and became a mover and shaker with Culture of Peace Hamilton. In part as a result of his efforts, city council has declared Hamilton a City of Peace. Among other projects, Culture of Peace members have installed a peace poll at City Hall, helped beautify a peace garden, and started a $25,000 fund at the Hamilton Community Foundation to ensure the city always has a group of committed peace builders.
According to Ploughshares Monitor (Autumn 2016), wars abound and climate change is upon us. Cunnington asks: Can humanity work together to address these crises? How much depletion of the earth’s bounty will occur before human greed is satisfied? Will nations fight to the last fish, tree, and piece of earth? Or can common global problems engender learning to share and care for what remains?
This book invites readers to reflect on such questions. Cunnington proposes re-cognition that, “God or Nature has provided each of us with the incredible gift of choice. Even if we can’t always love our neighbors, at least we don’t have to hurt them…. We don’t have to fight each other to get our needs met. We can refuse to be each other’s enemies. A less violent world is possible. It is in our hands.”
Now 96, Cunnington weaves a readable account his journey to find alternatives to the adversarial, wasteful culture that leads to war. This book is suited for discussion in groups such as the Hamilton Peace Think Tank that meets several times a year. Appendix I provides the text of the United Nations Manifesto 2000, and a helpful list of resources.
Reviewed by Paul R. Dekar, a founder of the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster. Retired, he teaches, writes, and volunteers.