Happy Interdependence Day...

…and happy fifth anniversary of the conception of propeace.net, the online community where we are “building a culture of peace” and celebrating our interdependence. This website was created to challenge people to think beyond the intricate dance of war and anti-war. We must not be silent, but we must choose our words carefully. We must intend our thoughts, words, and deeds towards the more enlightened world. We must align our passions not with hostility, avarice, anger, hatred, and outrage, but with reconciliation, harmony, humility, boldness, bravery, and love. The passions of war and antiwar can only destroy and divide. It is with the passions of the propeace community that we can heal and grow, and consciously evolve a more enlightened world.

The launch of the website took place on March 4, 2005. The relationship between “evolving from antiwar to propeace” and evolving from independence to interdependence was clearly articulated in the Declaration of Interdependence that was posted on the website’s first anniversary: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all persons are created interdependent, that they are endowed by their Creator with a connectedness to each other and to the planet, and that in respect for this connectedness they seek to reconcile with all they have held in the illusion of separateness. Thus spake the Webmaster.

Also in that first anniversary post was the radical notion that a world that works for everyone must work for everyone – no exceptions. Truly beneficial change will have to benefit all of humankind, not just those we happen to agree with in our current patterns of thought. What is that change? I don't presume to have the answer. But I do presume to ask the question. In asking this kind of question, we are forced out of our polar thought patterns and toward the holistic. The Colonists developed Independence, self-determination, civil and human rights, and representative rule as new thought patterns. In spite of being plainly obvious to us now, they were novel and transcendent then. Importantly, these new ideas were embraced by people holding opposing views on the various issues of the day.

However, Jason continues, today it becomes obvious that our illusion of Independence from each other impedes a peaceful world. It becomes obvious that when we put violence in films and video games, we glorify and subtly give permission to violence in real life. It becomes clear that when we kill the families of others, we encourage others to destroy our families. It becomes obvious that when we invest our money in warfare, we get what we pay for. It becomes clear that the abused child in the family next door becomes the bully that harms our own children. It becomes obvious that the renunciation of another's faith or way of life becomes the shallowness and narrowness of our own faith and way of life.

For what importance do our lives take if we do not hold the lives of others as important? What value has our wealth as others starve and struggle for basic necessities? Will we find the happiness we pursue in exclusion of the happiness of others? How can we create a safe and accepting world if we violently reject what we hold as other? Or, as I said in the lyrics of a song that I wrote, what good to me is freedom if my sisters are in chains? For a more comprehensive treatment of Connecting Across Differences, see the book of that title by Jane Connor and Dian Killian, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Trainers, published later in the summer of 2005.

The relationship between propeace activism and the celebration of our interdependence is further developed in The Fifth Syllable, posted in honor of the second anniversary of propeace.net. In that post, interdependence is “the new word to crystallize the scattered droplets of change and pain” as we work to move beyond “the voices that divide us, that categorize us and sort us, that insist that we perform our act of creation in separation, isolation, desolation, and finality, the voices of an utterly fantastic yet bygone independence.” I urge you to revisit that post; it is both too brief and too poetic to distill here.

And we are not alone. Great minds think alike. Throughout the propeace community, especially where it overlaps with the NVC community, there is a movement to support "evolving from independence to interdependence" - even a movement to lobby Congress to establish Interdependence Day as a national holiday, perhaps on September 11th.

My NVC mentor Miki Kashtan likes to tell a story about the conversation with her then-six-year-old nephew that stimulated her thinking about interdependence. It was about five years ago, and the family was celebrating the Jewish New Year. They were sitting around the table talking about what they wanted for the coming year, and when it was his turn, Miki's nephew said that he wanted more of his needs to be met. Remember here that this is an NVC family where needs are discussed routinely, so the thing that was shocking about his statement was not his seemingly precocious reference to universal human needs but rather that Miki was hard pressed to imagine that there are many children in the world that have more of their needs met than he does. This is a child who has never once in his life been punished or rewarded nor ever been consciously forced to do anything.

There ensued a whole piece of conversation about what needs of his are met or not met. As they named a need, he would give a percentage (yes, a percentage!) of the time that that need is met for him. So for example, he reported that his need for fun was met 75% of the time, and to the family’s enormous relief and satisfaction, he reported that his need to know that his needs matter was met 100% of the time. But the really interesting moment was when he said that his need for autonomy was met only 50% of the time. Again, it’s hard to imagine a child whose autonomy is nurtured and respected more. Then his mother said, “What about your need for considering others?” And he replied, “That’s also met 50% of the time.”

So in some intuitive way, this youngster defined that balance between autonomy and contribution that describes the interdependent way we are seeking to relate to one another. But that was only the beginning because NVC teaches that our needs are never in conflict. Now, to this youngster who has that relaxed trust that his needs matter 100% of the time even when they are not met, there is no conflict, no struggle to choose between his need for autonomy and his need for contribution in any given situation. However, for most of us, it is an either/or situation because most of us were raised by parents who worried that meeting our need to know that our needs matter would turn us into selfish beings or by parents who thought that meeting our need to know that our needs matter was the same as taking responsibility for meeting all of our needs. In reality, it turns out that the more you know that your needs matter, the more compassion you can have for others.

For me, this seeming paradox is resolved by remembering that needs work both ways. I have a need to express myself authentically AND I have a need to hear the authentic self-expression of others. I have a need to contribute to others AND I have a need to receive the contributions of others. To further fill in the logical gap in the above development of the NVC take on interdependence, read the Kashtans’ forthcoming book based on the Dancing in the Gap of Uncertainty series – or join me for one or more of the monthly teleclasses; you can get more details at the NVC Academy. “Interdependence in the Face of Cultural Imperatives” is our topic for this coming Tuesday night.

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