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Dean of the School of Humanities
New College of California
777 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Here is my definition: Peace is a condition of physical and emotional safety that prevails when people are reliably nonviolent in how they relate to one another and resolve their conflicts. Nonviolent attitudes and behaviors cause no harm to self or others and are either beneficial or neutral in their effects. Peace depends on respect in individual actions and also on cultural patterns and social structures that protect the human rights of all people equally and that provide for the fulfillment of human needs. The antithesis of peace is found in war, terrorism, oppression, exploitation, and structures of inequality -- based on class or caste -- that impoverish, demean, or neglect the needs of some groups of humans...
...Children who are wanted, warmly nurtured, affectionately held and touched, validated, and loved from the beginning will grow up with an innate sense of self-worth and security.35 They will experience the inner peace that comes with feeling loved for who they are. Having been attended to with empathy, they will naturally treat others empathically. The ways of empathy will be patterned into the limbic and cortical areas of their brains, the tissues of their bodies, the balance of their hormones. Recognizing and caring for others' feelings will appear natural to them because they learned this in their earliest days. Empathic parents can be in touch with their children's feelings only to the extent that they are in touch with their own, so they will be able to express these feelings openly, honestly, and appropriately, including how they set appropriate limits and boundaries for their children. In this way, the parents will be emotionally genuine role models for their children. Children who grow up with such empathy and honesty will have easy access to their own feelings and needs, in other words, their core selves, and they will express themselves honestly. Since their pains, fears, anxieties, and bodily needs were from the beginning responded to with compassion, they are likely to extend compassion to others. Having been raised nonviolently, they will themselves be inclined to be nonviolent. Being secure and accepted for who they are, they will have access to their creativity, unhampered by self-doubt and anxiety about the value of their creations. Since their own needs for the primary gratifications of love and nurturance will have been fulfilled, they will not be driven to compensate with the secondary gratifications of inordinate power, prestige, and wealth for themselves. They will be compassionately concerned that others' needs be well met. Such children are fortunate with regard to the benefits their upbringing confers on their physical and emotional wellbeing.
As we have been treated in the formative period from conception to about the age of three, so we tend to treat others, based on implicit emotional memory patterns encoded in the limbic brain.36 A broad base of clinical, neurobiological, psychological, and sociological research demonstrates how human character is formed in our earliest few years of life. The import of this research is too little known and understood outside of limited academic, professional, and intellectual circles. Even where it is generally known, its extensive significance for politics, economics, peace, and security may be neglected. However, this research signals that nurturing childrearing is potentially the most significant evolutionary factor for desirable social change and peace.
Some of this research is in the relatively new field of prenatal and perinatal psychology. This research has been providing ever more persuasive data that parental health, habits, feelings and attitudes at the time of conception, the period of uterine gestation, and the process of labor and birth exercise highly formative influences on later human behavior.37 Patterns established during this time begin to define the quality of attachment and early and later child-raising relationships between parents and their children. Writers such as the late anthropologist Ashley Montagu, the French obstetrician Michel Odent, the author Joseph Chilton Pearce, and the visionary humanist Laura Huxley, among many others, have been calling attention to the need to love our children from "before the beginning"38 and to continue loving them unconditionally throughout life...
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