5 days – 5 books
You are the people you spend time with. You are the music you listen to, the movies you watch. But you also are the books you read. So choose these elements carefully, and use your critical mind while reading something, because they will determine how you think, how you speak, how you live, and who you are. We will be sharing five inspiring personalities to inspire you in building a culture of peace around you.
We should all be feminist – Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
While being born as a man means earning more money than a woman or being stronger. Being born as a female means being guilty of something. «We teach girls shame: close your legs, cover yourself». Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie is a Nigerian author. The book she wrote is not revolutionary but she tries to analyze the gender issues in her country, and also in the west, and to find a solution to solve it. The problem with gender is that it presents how a man or a woman should be, rather than how they really are. It reinforces some of the gender expectations around how they should behave, work and even socialize!. Why? It is because of the way pupils and students are taught. The boys are taught to refuse their true-selves, to refuse to be afraid for example. They are taught to link masculinity with money, prove their masculinity by paying more than women for example, or by being stronger. The solution to this issue would be to focus more on ability & interest, while raising children, rather than on gender’s roles.
The gender expectations make the problems invisible. Some men – and even women – do not notice the machine and the systems of oppression related to gender, because it became a normality. Chimamanda invites girls and boys to be more honest with themselves. But they need a proper education that teaches them equality, belief in what they are and not in what the community wants them to be. This alternative education is a way to build a culture of peace. Because this promotes an inclusive feminist line, that benefits equally both men and women. A feminist, according to Chimamanda, is someone (male or female) who believes in social, politic and economic equality between women and men.
We can change the vision of gender through education, so let us do it.
Making peace with the Earth – Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva is an Indian leading environmental campaigner. She won the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize for the books she wrote and the ideas she spreads. She explains how the environment is damaged and devastated; by the increasing numbers of lobbies aiming to power and profit. The globalization has led to a world war. Agriculture became like war: chemicals used for agriculture come from military research, military production, and militarized mindset. Our minds are fed from lobbying and big companies: we are blind and do not see the diversity that the earth is giving to us. Vandana Shiva calls it the «monoculture of mind». The lobbies pretend that pesticides and glyphosate are safe, even if they are not. With organic farming, there is no need to repeat irrigation, while chemicals lead to a thirsty soil, which exhausts the lakes, the rivers, the seas. The industrial agriculture is a problem for the Earth because it increases the malnutrition, the mineral and vitamin deficiency problems. Shiva also reminds that 40% of the climate instability problem come from toxic agriculture.
What is the solution to counter this toxic agriculture? According to her, we need to liberate knowledge, we need to liberate the seeds, the soil, the farmers, «to ensure that a resilient agriculture is to put in place, with seeds of freedom and organic farming». The author is advocating for more sustainable and efficient ways of production; by growing up our plants on our terrace for example. An alternative would be to put living carbon in the soil, which would increase the production of food, the nutrition in the food up to 60%, and above all, to improve the livelihood of our farmers. By turning the soil into the biggest reservoir of water and carbon, agriculture will be more sustainable and reliable.
There is a need to share the diversity of the earth, and to create a collective resistance and earth-centered politics and economics, rather than allow monopolies to be created. Vandana Shiva approves that the peace with Earth is the first step in solving problems of inequalities, wars, injustice, and the absence of peace.
So let us make peace with the Earth.
Le Grand Détournement (the big divergence) – Fatiha Boudjahlat
Fatiha Boudjahlat is a French teacher, interested in the way some words are «diverted». In her books, she tends to find definitions for the words justice, equality, secularism, tolerance, right, among many others. The first senses of these words were diverted by politic entities or racialists. The author denounces the differences that are made in Europe between cultures. Why would it be patriarchate acceptable in Orient, while we criticize it when it existed in Europe? If such a society evolved in France for example, we say that it does not respect its women and girls. On the contrary, we find cultural excuses to justify this kind of behavior in other societies, in the Middle East for example. Why? Because the oriental patriarchate is considered as part of the culture? As acceptable, normal? She calls this cultural differential. She denounces our way of thinking, which makes us imagine that oriental women do not have the same degree of interest, of dignity. Her idea of feminism includes every women and girl in the same group. She refuses a feminism which is based on skin color, religion or culture. It is racialism to make a difference between the women here and the women there. How can something oppress the women here and free the women there? Feminism or women emancipation should not suffer from categorization. Feminism should be universalist, not racialist.
Briefly, the words she tries to explain were associated with universality, but with the political situation, they were taken to other contexts, which made change their sense. We mentioned feminism, but secularity, tolerance, humanism are also words which became pretexts of ethnic differentiation. Fatiha Boudjahlat gives us a good lesson and the book make the reader aware that ethnic affiliation is not the key to social relations.
The business plan for peace, building a world without war – Scilla Elworthy
Scilla Elworthy is a peace builder, the founder of Oxford research group and an author. She has been nominated for the Nobel Prize three times. «There is hope», in her book, The business plan for peace, building a world without war, she tries to define the reason of conflicts and a way to approach them, avoid or solve them. People are being formed by fear. Media enjoy stories of terror, horror, revenge. What we see on the TV, for example, is too complex and make us feel powerless. But each individual can actually help by building a culture of peace in the world. Elworthy wants to give us the tools to become a better leader. How to reduce conflicts everywhere from our workplace, community, home, and even inside yourself? How can we make a difference?
According to her, the non-violent language is a way to diffuse conflicts. Instead of fighting back with violence, we have to learn how to communicate to balance violence with non-violence. Instead of accusing, or pointing fingers out, it is important to show the people who we disagree with, that we listen to them carefully. The probability that they will listen to our opinion afterward will be much higher. By putting ourselves in other people situation, trying to imagine the pressure they endure, we are more ready to build understanding, respect and good communication. One of the causes of conflict is indeed humiliation. And respect is the fastest antidote to humiliation.
As individuals, it is possible to change our way to think and communicate. People only have to know themselves better, in order to use their skills of leadership to promote peace. This can be applied to big companies, which are profiting from wars. We use to believe that defense jobs are vital for the economy. It supports the economy by selling weapons. But if the government subsidy was used to promote peace, it would be much more promising. Elworthy wants to conclude that war could be avoided with a minimum amount of money than the one is used to create and to promote war. And this should involve everyone, in the way we communicate.
Mathieu Ricard, Happiness, A Guide to Developing Life’s Most important skill
Everyone is aspiring to happiness. Mathieu Ricard also called «the world’s happiest man», is a French Buddhist monk, author, and photographer. Most of the people search for happiness in the outer world. As if we need «everything to be happy, and if we miss something, it will collapse». Good exterior conditions, such as have a sunny day, the taste of chocolate, live longer, have access to education and information… are admittedly profitable, but they might be not enough. The problem is that we only have a limited and temporary control over the outer world.
That is why, Ricard tries to explain how to find well-being within oneself, not by looking at yourself, but inside yourself. «Wellbeing is a deep sense of serenity and fullfillment». There is no need to think about yourself and try to make things better for yourself. It will be exhausting, and will not lead to sustainable results. The answer to this is altruism. There is a need to train every day to become more benevolent and altruist. Happiness is not self-interested, it is compassionate. It is by helping others that I can help by myself too, and to have access to happiness, and finally improve the general atmosphere. Happiness can be found in the depths of an individual being. The change is within the mind. Ricard calls it the mental transformation; organize the mind in order to be more in adequation with the reality. This consciousness leads to a life with less negative emotions. The mind transformation develops through training the mind in pursuing happiness by focusing on the fundamental things in life and by changing the way we view the world. In his book, Mathieu Ricard gives us the key to start it.
By Elise Giroud