Yale University

Sound Off !

Beyond War: A New Way of Thinking

Jon McBride

July 23, 2013

Category: Society > War and Peace

There was a time when, if you had a headache, drilling a hole in your skull to let out the bad spirits was an accepted method to get rid of the headache. That "mode of thinking" is gone, has disappeared such that when we get a headache today it never occurs to us to skull-drill to get rid of it. We don't debate the merits of "how" to drill most effectively; we don't opine on why it's an awful idea; it simply never shows up in the range of possibilities we consider as to how to get rid of the headache.

Today, however, when we get into conflict and feel sufficiently threatened by the "other," it's okay, according to our current mode of thinking, to pick up the biggest stick we can find and whack the other 'til they're dead. Pushed out to its looney-tunes extreme, we give that a name: "war."

Problem:  60-some years ago the human species, in all its "homo sapiens" wisdom,  learned how to split the atom, and then took that process and turned it into weapons, really big "sticks," and then built so many of those weapons that the detonation of just 1 - 2% of those devastating sticks would not only whack the "other" but  would whack the "whacker," and all of life as we know it, as well.


4 billion years of life on this planet at risk based on how we elect to resolve our earthly conflicts. "They" may be dead wrong. "We" may be dead right. Or vice versa. No matter. The common denominator doesn't work.

What does this mean? It means we as a species have moved "beyond" war as a means to resolve our conflicts. Continuing to behave as though we have not moved "beyond" war is hazardous to our health. To all of us. We don't get to vote on that. We are inextricably joined together and the ongoing survival of each of us is dependent on the "other" because of this.

So, since conflict is not going anywhere, then if what we call "war" as a means to resolve it does not go away then we, as a species, are going to go "away."  If we don't "disappear" war the same way we disappeared skull drilling, if war as a means to resolve conflict does not simply disappear as a possibility when conflict resolution alternatives show up in our collective heads, then we, as a species, will be kicked off the planet as an experiment that did not work.

If we're going to survive as a species we need to adopt a new way of thinking.

What do you thinkā€¦?