Peacequest: Cultivating Peace in a Violent Culture
By Mitch Hall, 2003
Excerpts - Page 9; 18-19

This publication is available from the author. Contact information:

Mitch Hall
Dean of the School of Humanities
New College of California
777 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415-437-3474 (work)


Defining Peace
Some years ago, as part of a research project, I asked people for their definitions of peace. Here are some of the answers I got. When my youngest children, Pierre and Geoffrey, were seven and four years old respectively, I asked, "Can you tell me what peace is?" "That's easy," Pierre said. "It's being friends and not hurting each other." Geoffrey added, "And quiet."1 Glen Leet, co-founder of the philanthropic Trickle Up Program, said peace prevails when a group has values that exclude hurting anyone, and when a group will stop someone from causing harm to others.2 Mildred, his wife and partner in helping poor people start sustainable small businesses, said peace is the absence of violence where people have learned to live with respect for one another and have discovered that peace is more productive than arguing and warring.3 For Dr. Thynn Thynn, a Burmese-born teacher of Buddhist insight meditation in daily living, peace is the innate nature of our own minds that we discover when we become quiet, stop seeking external distractions, and turn our attention inwards.4 More recently, my friend AI Crowell told me he views traffic as a meaningful metaphor for peace. Motor vehicles are extremely dangerous, but drivers mostly abide by the rules of the road because it is to everyone's mutual benefit. We drive among strangers, and our driving conduct doesn't depend on whether we would like one another or approve of one another's views if we became acquainted. We all can get to our destinations safely by agreeing to follow the law. In AI's view, humans need to manage peace like traffic through the enforcement of laws. Each of these diverse views has merits, and they are just a sampling of possibilities.

Here is my definition: Peace is a condition of physical and emotional safety that prevails when people are reliably nonviolent in how they relate to one another and resolve their conflicts. Nonviolent attitudes and behaviors cause no harm to self or others and are either beneficial or neutral in their effects. Peace depends on respect in individual actions and also on cultural patterns and social structures that protect the human rights of all people equally and that provide for the fulfillment of human needs. The antithesis of peace is found in war, terrorism, oppression, exploitation, and structures of inequality -- based on class or caste -- that impoverish, demean, or neglect the needs of some groups of humans...

Page 18

...Children who are wanted, warmly nurtured, affectionately held and touched, validated, and loved from the beginning will grow up with an innate sense of self-worth and security.35 They will experience the inner peace that comes with feeling loved for who they are. Having been attended to with empathy, they will naturally treat others empathically. The ways of empathy will be patterned into the limbic and cortical areas of their brains, the tissues of their bodies, the balance of their hormones. Recognizing and caring for others' feelings will appear natural to them because they learned this in their earliest days. Empathic parents can be in touch with their children's feelings only to the extent that they are in touch with their own, so they will be able to express these feelings openly, honestly, and appropriately, including how they set appropriate limits and boundaries for their children. In this way, the parents will be emotionally genuine role models for their children. Children who grow up with such empathy and honesty will have easy access to their own feelings and needs, in other words, their core selves, and they will express themselves honestly. Since their pains, fears, anxieties, and bodily needs were from the beginning responded to with compassion, they are likely to extend compassion to others. Having been raised nonviolently, they will themselves be inclined to be nonviolent. Being secure and accepted for who they are, they will have access to their creativity, unhampered by self-doubt and anxiety about the value of their creations. Since their own needs for the primary gratifications of love and nurturance will have been fulfilled, they will not be driven to compensate with the secondary gratifications of inordinate power, prestige, and wealth for themselves. They will be compassionately concerned that others' needs be well met. Such children are fortunate with regard to the benefits their upbringing confers on their physical and emotional wellbeing.

As we have been treated in the formative period from conception to about the age of three, so we tend to treat others, based on implicit emotional memory patterns encoded in the limbic brain.36 A broad base of clinical, neurobiological, psychological, and sociological research demonstrates how human character is formed in our earliest few years of life. The import of this research is too little known and understood outside of limited academic, professional, and intellectual circles. Even where it is generally known, its extensive significance for politics, economics, peace, and security may be neglected. However, this research signals that nurturing childrearing is potentially the most significant evolutionary factor for desirable social change and peace.

Some of this research is in the relatively new field of prenatal and perinatal psychology. This research has been providing ever more persuasive data that parental health, habits, feelings and attitudes at the time of conception, the period of uterine gestation, and the process of labor and birth exercise highly formative influences on later human behavior.37 Patterns established during this time begin to define the quality of attachment and early and later child-raising relationships between parents and their children. Writers such as the late anthropologist Ashley Montagu, the French obstetrician Michel Odent, the author Joseph Chilton Pearce, and the visionary humanist Laura Huxley, among many others, have been calling attention to the need to love our children from "before the beginning"38 and to continue loving them unconditionally throughout life...

1. P. & G. hall, Personal communication, spring, 1995.
2. G. Leet, personal communication, November 19, 1995.
3. M. Robbins-Leet, personal communication, November 19, 1995.
4. T. Thynn. personal communication, November 19, 1995.
35. Huxley, 2002; Lewis, Amini, & Lannon, pp. 73-76; Montagu, 208-209.
36. Lewis, Amini, & Lannon.
37. Odent, 1999; Huxley& Ferrucci, 1987 &1992; Chamberlain.
38. Huxley.

Endorsements for Peace Quest

Peace Quest is a thoughtful, practical guide to a peaceful world. It avoids pointless abstractions and concentrates on what an individual can do in a culture of violence. I hope it is widely read.” Howard Zinn, author, A People’s History of the United States.

"It may never have been as important as it is today for us to learn how to bring peace into the world and our lives. Mitch Hall's Peace Quest inspired me and informed me. Stimulating and clear, this book illumines the path to the world for which people have worked and prayed and died for centuries -- a world of peace and understanding, rather than one of war and fear. And it makes obvious that how we raise and treat our children could not be more crucial." John Robbins, author Diet For A New America and The Food Revolution; founder and Board Chair emeritus EarthSave International

"World peace begins at home. In this little gem, Mitch Hall shows the strong connections between our everyday actions and how we can bring about world peace." John W. Travis, MD, MPH, Co-founder, Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children

"Teach your children well, as the song goes, is one of the powerful lessonshiding in plain sight that Peacequest brings to light. What is so different and vital about Mitch Hall's thoughtful and pragmatic real road map to peace is that it presents a generational perspective that is the essence of any peace that will be sustainable. His celebration of how activism is good for your health is also a tonic." Kenny Ausubel, founder and executive director of The Bioneers

“In these violent times, war and more war are a constant reality, keeping children in a chronic state of anxiety, fear, and aggression. If we would love our children realistically, here and now, we would work for peace now--not peace in the future, not pie in the sky--peace now, the most urgent need of our children, but only peaceful adults can give it. Peace Quest lucidly shows ways to peace. The welfare of children can be changed by people who use Peace Quest in their everyday life.” Laura Huxley, Founder & President, Children: Our Ultimate Investment. Author, You Are Not the Target, The Child of Your Dreams with Piero Ferrucci.

Return to:
A Few Good Books
Front Page