peace and preferred futures

What do we mean by ‘peaceful preferred futures’?


Peace studies is a trans-disciplinary field of enquiry – drawing from key fields like conflict transformation, community building, international relations, politics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, social change movements, systems thinking, sustainable development…and many others.

‘Peace’ is therefore defined holistically – not simply as the absence of war, but as the presence of personal wellbeing, interpersonal harmony (and constructive management of conflict), healthy communities, healthy natural environments, sustainable economies, countries celebrating their diversity, and global relations where mutual respect and conflict transformation are the defining features.

Preferred futures thinking is a key strategy for achieving peace. It emphasises the importance of ‘back-casting‘ in proactively creating and shaping our future – rather than passively accepting whatever future results from current practices and modes of thinking.

In other words – dreaming, imagining and envisioning our peaceful preferred futures and then describing the steps needed to achieve those scenarios (stepping through them backwards, from the future desired outcomes through all the required interim changes, to the present day).

This gives us a realistic ‘road map’ to reach our desired destination, and achievable, measurable goals along the way.

So dreaming of a peaceful future is not just ‘wishful thinking’, but the very important and necessary first step in order to shape our shared preferred futures.

For now, the following poems might best illustrate this idea…

Making Peace

By Denise Levertov

A voice from the dark called out,

‘The poets must give us

imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar

imagination of disaster. Peace, not only

the absence of war.’

The End and the Beginning

By Wislawa Szymborska (translated from Polish by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh)

After every war someone’s got to tidy up.

Things won’t pick themselves up, after all.

Someone’s got to shove the rubble to the roadsides

so the carts loaded with corpses can get by.

Someone’s got to trudge through sludge and ashes,

through sofa springs, the shards of glass, the bloody rags.

Someone’s got to lug the post to prop the wall,

someone’s got to glaze the window, set the door in its frame.

No sound bites, no photo opportunities and it takes years.

All the cameras have gone to other wars.

The bridges need to be rebuilt, the railroad stations too.

Shirt sleeves will be rolled to shreds.

Someone, broom in hand, still remembers how it was.

Someone else listens, nodding his unshattered head.

But others are bound to be bustling nearby

who’ll find all that a little boring?

From time to time someone still must dig up a rusted argument

from underneath a bush and haul it off to the dump.

Those who knew what this was all about

make way for those who know little.

And less than that.

And at last nothing less

than nothing.

Someone’s got to lie there

in the grass that covers up the causes

and effects

with a cornstalk in his teeth,

gazing at clouds.

Comments and discussion welcomed

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