For this section there are two resource groupings. One involving ideas about
basic human biology and culture, which can only be representative of a vast
literature from various fields of anthropology, social science and history. The
second group includes issues about American culture in particular, which draw on
the more general concepts and can be seen as case studies to help motivate
Moral Disengagement in the Perpetration of Inhumanities (PDF), by Albert
Bandura, Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 193-209, 1999.
Bandura describes the processes of moral disengagement by which
otherwise decent people justify the atrocities of war, and justify
environmentally dangerous business practices. The process includes the following
steps: being convinced that one is engaged in a just case; euphemistic language
for negative consequences of one's actions (i.e. collateral damage, acceptable
risk); dehumanizing or demonizing one's victims; disadvantageous comparison (our
evil pales in comparison to theirs); diffusion of responsibility (one was only
following orders, or acting as can only be expected in war or
Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh, Penguin
Putnam, 2001. Simple language and intimate stories pull the reader into the
possibility of transforming anger into compassion. Clear and concrete exercises
show how to cultivate skills to reconcile conflict. As we expand awareness of
universal suffering and the suffering caused by anger and conflict, we mindfully
shift attention to gratitude and deeper understanding. These insights are
consistent with nonviolent communication. Both approaches are relevant in
intimate and diplomatic relationships.
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, by Steven Pinker,
Penguin Press, 2002. Pinker builds a rational case against historic conservative/liberal
debates about human nature by showing that equality, progress, responsibility,
and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about the diversity of human
nature. He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common
sense, and pertinent facts from biology, linguistics and history. Despite its
popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues,
the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done more harm than good. It denies our
common humanity and our individuality, replaces scientific analyses of social
problems with dismissive slogans, and distorts our understanding of government,
violence, parenting, and the significance of shared endeavors such as science,
art and religion.
Warfare Is Only an Invention—Not a Biological Necessity, by Margaret Mead, 1940.
Mead argues that war is not a natural outgrowth of human nature, but
an invention that is handed down through generations. This essay challenges
readers to asses the roots of our most basic assumptions and to reflect on how
war, as an invention, could be replaced.
The Stanford Prison Experiment, by Philip Zimbardo, Slide Show.
What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does
humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? These are some of the questions we
posed in this dramatic simulation of prison life conducted in the summer of 1971
at Stanford University. A planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the
situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few
days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed
signs of extreme stress.
Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies, by David P. Barash,
Approaches to Peace provides a unique and interdisciplinary
sampling of classic articles and short literary selections focusing on the
diverse aspects of peace and conflict studies. Readings cover the causes of war
and proposed means of preventing it, so-called "negative peace", and the universal concern for positive peace. The material examines nonviolence
movements, peace movements, religious inspirations, and our future prospects for
peace. The book's balanced approach makes it easily adaptable to both general
discussions of peace and conflict as well as the rapidly changing issues of the
moment. Each selection is prefaced by a short introduction highlighting the
author's background, the work's historical context, and the selection's
significance in terms of the "big picture."
Roots of Violence in the U.S. Culture: A Diagnosis Towards Healing, by
Alain J. Richard, Blue Dolphin Publishing, Nevada City, CA, 1999. This French Franciscan puts the North American way of life in
historic context, showing how physical force and greed are foundations of our
culture. He explores seeds of violence in racism, the messianic role, the
importance of being number One and ongoing imperialism. He points to market
culture and individualism as dominant forces for violence. The mirror Richard
holds up provides opportunity for personal reflection as well as social
critique. Recognizing the depth and pervasiveness of violence broadly understood
shows how it can be faced in many spheres.
Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives,
by Cynthia Enloe, University of California Press, 2000.
Enloe offers a feminist discussion of the impact of "militarization"
on women's lives globally. Militarization is never gender-neutral, Enloe claims:
It is a personal and political transformation that relies on ideas about
femininity and masculinity. Films that equate action with war, condoms that are
designed with a camouflage pattern, fashions that celebrate brass buttons and
epaulettes, etc.—all of these contribute to militaristic values that mold our
culture in both war and peace. Enloe outlines the dilemmas feminists around the
globe face in trying to craft theories and strategies that support militarized
What Torture Has Taught Me, by William Schulz.The Berry Street Lecture at 2006 General Assembly, Schulz assesses
his ministry, his view of human nature, and his beliefs in light of the
longstanding prevalence of torture. Drawing upon his experiences as Executive
Director of Amnesty International, Schulz explores and challenges the notion of
the inherent worth and dignity of all persons.
War Is the Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges, Random House,
"The communal march against an enemy generates a warm, unfamiliar
bond with our neighbors, our community, our nation, wiping out unsettling
undercurrents of alienation and dislocation," writes Chris Hedges, a foreign
correspondent for the New York Times. In War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,
Hedges draws on his experiences covering conflicts in Bosnia, El Salvador and
Israel as well as works of literature from the Iliad to Hannah Arendt's The
Origins of Totalitarianism to look at what makes war so intoxicating for
soldiers, politicians and ordinary citizens.
Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, by Myra
MacPherson, Doubleday, 1984.Based on more than 500 interviews, this is journalist Myra
MacPherson's acclaimed exploration of the wounds, pride, and guilt of those who
fought and those who refused to fight the war that continues to envelop the
psyche of this nation. Also available in a film version.
The Ground Truth, 2006.
Told through the eyes of veterans, this film provides a detailed
picture of the issues faced by Iraq War veterans during and after their combat
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Last updated on Friday, May 3, 2013.
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