Roots of War, Roots of Peace

Essay by Patricia Dines
(c) Patricia Dines, 2001. All rights reserved.

"Those who cannot remember history
are condemned to repeat it."

George Santayana, 1906



If you've ever yearned to help humanity find a higher level of consciousness, resolve conflict nonviolently, and connect to our shared humanity -- now is a powerful time to act!

Because the current crisis, despite it's pain, has opened a doorway, where masks are down and truths being spoken, if we'll only hear.

And, yes, old fears and greed are clinging to dysfunctional forms. But deeper yearnings and commitments to higher truths are also emerging from the rubble. The structure of the old ways is cracking, its flaws ready to be revealed, and something new is ready and willing to be born!


But, in the face of bombs and rage and xenophobic patriotism, what can we do to encourage humanity's deeper wisdom?

One answer I hear is this: If we truly want peace, we must understand how war operates -- and see it in ourselves. Only then can we embody the alternative.


Some people feel that war is guns and bombs and therefore stopping these creates peace. But in my observation war takes root long before the first shot is fired, and peace comes only when we dig out these roots.

What I see is that, no matter the issue or scale, the roots of war are always the same -- when someone approaches problems with another by:

  • SEPARATION: "There is an Other who is separate from me. Their needs, motives, and actions are completely different from mine and without any validity." This can be another country, type of human being, or political party. Anyone but me and "us."
  • BLAME: "The Other is the total cause of the problems. I have no responsibility or role at all. I am/We are Superior."
  • ATTACK: "Only by getting rid of the Other will the problems will be solved."


And the war-like approach can seem so attractive, be so easy to fall into. After all:

  • WE'RE RAISED WITH IT. We see it all over, all the time. In relationships between individuals, groups, and nations. In people in authority and people challenging authority. In our medical systems ("Find the enemy virus and NUKE it."). In our approach to crime ("Find the criminal and JAIL him.") It seems familiar, "normal."
  • IT SEEMS SIMPLER. We don't have to look at ourselves, just tell the Other how to fix themself.
  • IT APPEARS LOGICALLY DEFENSIBLE. When we attack an enemy and they defend their view, our position seems justified. ("See, I told you he was a lunatic!") This affirms our view of history, with a series of enemies who were lunatics and thus had to be destroyed.


Unfortunately, once this approach takes root, war of some kind is inevitable. It might be a gun-and-bomb war, a verbal war, a cold war, but war has started because people are:

  • DEFENDING NOT LISTENING. As soon as someone is attacked, they defend themselves. Very few people will agree when accused of being the cause of every problem! So they counter-attack, causing the originator to defend. Attacks increase; listening decreases; and understanding and fairness are considered unimportant.
  • DEFINING DISAGREEMENT NOT SHARED GOALS. As we defend ourselves, it's important not to agree with anything the Other says, for we might inadvertently empower their attack/position against us. We must distance ourselves from the Cause of All Problems and prove that we're fundamentally different from them.
  • NOT RESOLVING PROBLEMS. As attacks increase, the underlying problems are exacerbated not healed, and a mutually-satisfying solution moves farther and farther away.

This dynamic feeds on itself, creating escalating anger, frustration, and damage to innocent (un-involved) parties. Constantly decreasing is compassion and cooperation.

Violence is just the most visible outcome of this approach.


Isn't there a "reasonable and necessary" amount of invalidating and killing needed to reach our goals? No, I see that every step in that direction moves us away from lasting solutions, by destroying the understanding and relationship that's needed to create them.

Some people say, "But this particular enemy is really bad and must be destroyed. First we must win -- then we can worry about 'the other stuff.' " This logic is used by all sides for all reasons.

And thus we miss again this vital truth -- WAR IS NEVER WON. Even if we beat the enemy to a pulp, to charred remains on the raw earth, to a shameful sniveling mass of Jello that bows to our every wishes or goes scampering in the corner, we have not won.

For they find a place to lick their wounds and resentments, and gather together all the others that were harmed and name you as the Grand Enemy to be destroyed. Such was Hitler's power, feeding the ego of a nation totally blamed for World War I. And the power of the Neo-Nazi movement that rose around the world decades later. Such is also, on a smaller scale, any "backlash" to any movement. The unheard rises again.

What was denied, beaten, shamed, or devalued, finds another way to come out -- but usually in a way that's meaner, less constructive, more uncontrollable and unexpected, and often in a way that can be manipulated and directed by a demi-god leader with large dreams that feed their wounded hearts while striking horror in ours'.

And war wins again -- and will until we see our shared humanity and bring the gift of peace to ourselves.


As I see it, we can only create peace and lasting resolution of conflict when we replace the roots of war psychology with these roots of peace:

  • CONNECTION. There is no Other, just people trying to get their needs met. Peace starts when we speak our needs and feelings and hear others'. Nothing dissipates anger faster than compassion.
  • RESPONSIBILITY. Seeing the larger picture, we can take responsibility for our actions and see clearly where others need to do the same.
  • RESOLUTION. Remembering the goals of our highest selves, we can invite everyone to seek solutions that honor the divinity and wisdom of all.

Look for yourself how only this discharges the engines of war. Have you ever been angry and felt suddenly calmed when someone truly wanted to understand why? Have you seen someone as evil, then seen their journey and suddenly could understand and care about their viewpoint? What do you notice makes a war seem impossible to stop? What makes one truly able to be ended?

What would happen if we stood today for the principles of Connection, Responsibility, and Resolution?

Some claim that seeking peace is being weak, not "manly." But I feel that it shows great strength and courage to deeply listen and honor divinity in all its forms -- to stand up for what is fair for everyone -- and to act for true solutions for all. That to me is how humanity gets better -- not by replaying the same sad song of bombs and funeral dirges that only lead to more of the same.

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So if you're sad at another round of bombs, another round of truths and freedoms suppressed -- if you yearn for something better right now -- I say that you're not alone. Let's join together, speak and listen from our sacred hearts, develop our skills at peacemaking -- and help breakthroughs happen!

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Patricia Dines is a writer and poet committed to nurturing our relationship with the earth and each other. Founder of Community Action Publications, which publishes "The Organic Guide to Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino Counties" and "The Organic Guide to San Francisco", she can be reached at A condensed version of this essay was printed in the Dec/Jan issue of the Peace Press, which is published by the Sonoma County Peace & Justice Center.

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This entire website is (c) Patricia Dines, 1998-2007. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 04/05/07