Epilogue: The First Day of Hope

© The Author(s) 2015
Betty A. Reardon and Dale T. SnauwaertBetty A. Reardon: A Pioneer in Education for Peace and Human RightsSpringerBriefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice2610.1007/978-3-319-08967-6_14

14. Epilogue: The First Day of Hope

Retrospective Reflection on the Epilogue (1982)

Betty A. Reardon 

International Institute on Peace Education, New York, NY, USA



Betty A. Reardon

Reading this “futures scenario” written shortly after the actual historic, “first day of hope,” is somewhat bittersweet. June 12, 1982 was the glorious early summer day of an historic anti-nuclear demonstration. The celebratory, hopeful tone of the scenario is reminiscent of many actual high points experienced in my years in the peace movement and the evolution of peace education. It calls to memory not only the spirit that surrounded the convening of the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament, but the sense of the possibilities for transformative change forthcoming from a massive, coordinated campaign by global civil society, the kind of change we know to be possible, given the realization of convergent conditions made possible by popular will and citizen action. Both the will and the action, we believe, can be cultivated through the creative and courageous exercise of people power inspired by human imagination, informed by full understanding of the opposing realities and knowledge of the intended social transformations human society has experienced throughout history.

Those years of vigorous action in the disarmament movement were both frightening and hopeful ones for peace learning and peace politics. The hope was sweet but the bitterness of fear prevailed, and another historic opportunity was lost, as it was to be again with the possibilities opened a few years later with the winding down of the Cold War, wasted in short sighted continuation of the traditional competitive and conflictual international politics of the war system. The same politics of fear perpetuated the arms production and trade that pushed conflicts into violence, as only limited reduction in the numbers of (outdated) nuclear weapons were made. Hope was sorely needed in these years in which fears incited by the nuclear arms race, produced education efforts that gave a boost to peace studies and peace education. Much of that education, however, focused on the dangers and destructive capacity of nuclear weapons with little in the way of alternatives beyond study of conflict resolution (largely applied to the playground and classroom) and understanding “the other” primarily “the Russians.” Few educators devoted attention to the possibilities of altering the international security system so as to strengthen and increase its capacities to prevent war, or change the fundamental structures of the relationships that encouraged the amassing of more and more destructive weapons.

Among the purposes of including this scenario in this special issue of The Teachers College Record on education about the nuclear arms race was opening readers minds to consideration of more constructive, potentially transformative possibilities. Such an educational goal remains an important responsibility of peace education. Written at the request of Douglas Sloan, editor of The Record , it was based on a teaching technique devised in my days of curriculum development and teacher training on world order studies. I was asked to offer something brighter in outlook than other articles in the issue, which dealt largely with education concerning the destructive consequences, including the annihilation of human society, inherent in the raging nuclear arms race, suggesting how to teach toward envisioning positive changes in the world order. I drafted the scenario, not as a prediction of a probable future, but as an example of envisioning preferred futures. Imaging preferred futures, was one method through which students were helped to conceptualize alternatives to the war system by proposing new institutions and situations, coupled with informed speculation on the strategies, policies and events that held promise of achieving the envisioned alternative. We always face a need to spark learners’ motivation to consider possibilities for positive change. To consider the possibilities they have to see them.

To meet the challenge we called upon devices to release the imaginative and creative capacities that had been given short shrift by standard citizen education, even the critical thinking approach that had been practiced since the days of Dewey. A teaching methodology of imaging and assessing alternative possible futures was adapted from the world order approach to its normative and futures perspectives and purposes as a teaching device of proposing images of probable, possible, and preferred futures. Often the images were specified with plans or ‘models’ of the institutions, which would be make preferred social and political conditions possible. Sketching out such possibilities was undertaken to encourage speculation on how events in the present could be starting points for the positive changes toward which we hoped peacelearning would provide preparation to take social and political action. Following the adage that “Without a vision, the people will perish,” we sought to empower peace students and citizens to envision the world they hoped for. Conducted, as is most peace education, as an inquiry rather than exposition, imaging is cultivated around core questions: What is the nature of the world you would prefer to live in? What institutional changes would that require? What political and social changes might bring forth those changes? What events could lead to the change? What must we do now to start such a chain of events? What do we need to learn to be able to do it?

Peace education has largely been an informed inquiry (substantive knowledge is essential) into cultivating hope. Hope informed by a positive, specified vision and awareness of the possibilities to work toward it, helped to lift us from the despair so easily succumbed to under the nuclear fear. We strive to hold on to it now under looming fears of the proliferating wars of insurgency conducted and responded to with various forms of terror; and the horrendous possibilities of ecological collapse. We need to take action to face down the fear and make “another world possible.” The task of peace education is to elicit the learning that will enable us to invest our strongest endeavors in moving peace from a preference to a possibility to a probability, to “keep hope alive.”

Betty A. Reardon

April 2, 2014

14.1 Introduction

It was cool and clear in the stadium this morning.1 The sunlight was so bright I felt as if I could see past and future as now I could see places other than this huge arena thousands of miles from the New York home from which I viewed the events leading to this formal inauguration of the World Disarmament Plan. How had all this been possible when less than a decade ago we had been so close to unprecedented destruction? When did it start to happen? What was the turning point? Where did the vision come from that gave this sense of déja vu? Only once before had I seen or experienced anything like today. As I scanned the stadium on my own side where the observers sat, the faces and garb reflecting the varieties of human diversity, so recently and so vigorously reclaimed from disappearance into the homogenization of the global military/industrial culture, I remembered the huge auditorium of the Medical Center in Mexico where the Women’s Tribunal met in June 1975. And I thought of the great assembly in another part of Mexico City where the formal U.N. conference convened as I watched the delegates file into their section, many of them embracing, shaking hands, greeting each other with the enthusiasm of members of a winning team, with the energy of those revitalized by ultimate success in a long and arduous struggle. The official delegates were somewhat more decorous than we nongovernmental observers, members of a multiplicity of organizations and movements, many totally unaffiliated participants in the struggle. Most of us had contributed to “stalling traffic” in the large tunnel entrances, shouting, waving to each other, hugging, blowing kisses; no small number doing dances of joy as they sang their way to their places in the stand. Even the delegates seemed joyously celebrant. I saw again that same day in June when the official delegates to the World Conference for International Women’s Year assembled for the inaugural session, the expansive bright hall festooned with the flags of the member states and the largely female assemblage comprising a glorious costume display, representing all the world’s cultures.

Maybe it began there on those hot and rainy days when our feet were constantly wet from waiting for the bus to take us for our nearly daily trips from the nongovernmental tribune to the official U.N. conference to lobby the delegates.2 We struggled to assure that some consideration of the legitimate concerns of women would be included in the politics-as-usual discourse of the nation-states. Ah, the startled look of the grey-garbed Chinese delegate as she emerged from the toilet stall to have a disarmament statement thrust at her! We were determined to focus attention on disarmament as the basic requirement for ‘peace’ without which we saw little hope for the two other themes of that international year that became a U.N. decade, ‘equality’ and ‘development.’

Memory carried me, more comfortably than did the chartered Mexican buses, back to the tribune and the panel on disarmament where a Nobel Laureate received a standing ovation from the women when he told them the task was theirs. Without their persistent, global, and voluminous demand, he asserted, the male power structures of the nation-states would never disarm. “If you have to take to the streets, do it! And keep doing it until we’ve got an agreement for General and Complete Disarmament!” General and Complete Disarmament (GCD) was his watchword and the constantly articulated vision he and those who clearly perceived the true dangers to human security put forth as the only real hope for peace, and the fundamental need for survival. He also continuously pointed, as he did in his call to the women to articulate their demands forcefully and publicly, to the legitimate expression of popular sovereignty in public opinion, and to the potential for articulation and execution of the “will of the people” that lay in communications media free of the control of nation-states.

Maybe that is what really made the difference, the media. Certainly without it the great outpouring of revulsion at the thought of nuclear war and the rejection of further development of nuclear weapons would not have been so quickly perceived and responded to by the policymakers, especially the leaders of the nuclear states and most especially the superpowers. Yes, it was the media, and their coverage of the changes in strategic doctrine—the shift from deterrence to limited nuclear war policy, which the politicians did not expect the masses of people to notice or respond to, assuming they could continue to cover it over with arguments about national security and technical competence and all the smoke screens that for so long had kept the average person from confronting the fundamental security issues.

Surely that had an impact—the mistaken assumptions of a leadership out of touch with the people, in fact out of touch with reality. The shift startled and frightened even those of us in the peace movement, including the researchers who had closely followed arms issues and were always aware of the grave danger. It made the danger more imminent. We could see it, smell it, feel it, almost touch it. It was in our heads constantly, often crowding out all other thoughts, screaming “Do something! Act on your analysis! Live your commitment!” And that was part of it, too, the numbers of people beginning to live by their commitment to the reversal of militarization and the abolition of war. Some even willingly died for this goal, not as the innocent victims of militarism and repression to whose liberation they committed their lives, but as persons consciously embracing the ultimate risk for the sake of the ultimate value. But again, without the media would so many have known of them, a few American religious, a Dutch journalist, and the others? None of them had to be there with their lives on the line in the struggle. Nor in fact did all the others about whom we never learned because neither their lives nor their deaths were considered ‘newsworthy.’ Now people demanded to know.

Yes, it might be that public opinion can influence the media as much as the other way around, and even journalists can have commitments and be both acclaimed and reviled for them. I thought briefly of the Jonathan Schell phenomenon and the startling impact of his book on people who had never thought seriously about the problem of nuclear war3

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