The Seven Forms of Peace Literacy

Literacy in Our Shared Humanity

When we understand our shared humanity we can see through the illusions of dehumanization, realize when people are trying to manipulate our human vulnerabilities in order to take advantage of us, and achieve our full potential as human beings. An oak tree knows how to be an oak tree. It doesn’t need a mentor or role model to guide it. A caterpillar knows how to turn into a butterfly and thrive in the world. It doesn’t have to attend school or be instructed by its parents. But human beings, more than any other creature on the planet, must learn to be what we are. We must learn to be human.

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Literacy in the Art of Living

Living is the most difficult art form, and most of us are not taught how to live. Many children do not learn the essential life skills that are part of the art of living. Some children learn these skills from their parents, but many parents do not know these skills, and many children learn harmful habits from their parents. Examples of healthy human functioning are also largely absent in the media. How often do you see people on television resolve conflict in a peaceful and loving way? All of us want purpose, meaning, and happiness in life, but our society is not literate in the healthiest ways to achieve this.

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Literacy in the Art of Waging Peace

People in the military have excellent training in how to wage war, but most of us have no training in how to wage peace. If people were as literate in the art of waging peace as soldiers are in the art of waging war, how much different would our world be?

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Literacy in the Art of Listening

All human beings like to be listened to. In all of human history, nobody has ever seriously said, “I hate it when people listen to me! I can’t stand it when people listen to me!” Nobody ever says, “My spouse and I have to go to marriage counseling, because my spouse listens to me all the time and I can’t take it anymore!” All of us know that many people in our society do not know how to listen well. To truly listen we must develop empathy. If we do not empathize with people we cannot really hear what they are saying. When we do not listen with empathy we hear only their words. But when we listen with empathy we also hear their emotions, hopes, and fears. We hear their humanity.

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Literacy in the Nature of Reality

So many of our misconceptions about peace result from our misconceptions about reality. Only by understanding reality can we fully know why peace is so practical, powerful, and necessary. Only by understanding reality can we develop realistic hope.

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Literacy in Our Responsibility to Animals

At the center of ethics is the following question: how should we treat the least powerful among us? How should we treat children, the mentally disabled, prisoners, and marginalized groups? Since animals have so little power — they cannot organize a violent or nonviolent rebellion against us and they are unable to defend themselves with speech — what ethical responsibility do we have to them? How can a greater understanding of ethics improve our treatment of our fellow human beings? Genocide, slavery, and rape are just a few among the many injustices that result from harming those who have less power.

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Literacy in Our Responsibility to Creation

As human beings we have the power to protect our planet or drive ourselves and most life on Earth into extinction. We have become our own greatest threat to our survival, which is an alarming yet incredible fact. If we do not become literate in peace, our species will not survive.

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