Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Ways of Thinking: Three Cups of Tea

Family and friends say I have an interest in politics. My interest is not significant to politics in-and-of itself, that is in its ins and outs, or the political nature of our government, the personalities, its structure or affairs, or to any partisan interest. I am not, in the true sense of the word, political.

My interest in politics and government rests purely in the fact that politics and the affairs of government are fundamental to our national and global well being, to world peace. I have more so an interest in nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s), and in the courageous, magnificent work of others, often at high personal risk that further the well being of others, of humankind.

Recently, my wife Kathy called to me to tell me that there was a story on CBS news Sunday Morning of which I would be interested. The Sunday Morning cover story “Creating Schools, And Bridges, To Children” by Anthony Mason was the story of Greg Mortenson and his pursuit to “Promote Peace One School at a Time.”

Mr. Mortenson has co-authored a book with author David Oliver Relin titled “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time.” He is the founder of the Central Asia Institute , and “Pennies for Peace,” a philanthropy which was created to fund their mission: “Pennies for Peace educates children about the world beyond their experience and shows them that they can make a positive impact on a global scale, one penny at a time.” CAI’s mission goal further states: “Our best hope for a peaceful and prosperous world lies in the education of all the world’s children. Through cross-cultural understanding and a solution-oriented approach, Pennies for Peace encourages children, ultimately our future leaders, to be active participants in the creation of global peace.”

The first message in Greg Mortenson’s story is that by providing resources for people, leaving them to do the organizing, planning, controlling, directing, and staffing of community or tribal projects, such as a school, empowers them, and gives them ownership of it with very satisfactory outcomes.

This is what the state or government does not do; they instead become the manager of the project at the level of the imposed-on state, imposing their ways, their ideology because in their hubris they perceive their position as more effective, or that it is morally stronger, hoping the imposed-on state will be empowered by it, and that it will trickle-down to benefit people, which never happens.

There must be a mindset that we’re all in this together, and it will take all of us together to arrive at viable solutions; solutions that are autocratically directed are short-lived and not long-lasting.

The second message in this story is that children of every generation are the foundation on which nationally and globally, and in our communities, we evolve. With the birth of every child lies an opportunity for a better future. Teach a child hate, racism, and evil, and the chances are that child will live a life with the imbued example of hate, racism, and evil. If we teach a child through education a better understanding of their world, teach them by example through the exemplary commitment of the Greg Mortenson’s of our world, and by teaching them through examples of love, compassion, and understanding, the chances are that that child will live a life with the imbued example of love, compassion, and understanding.

The other message in the story is that the use of soft power by an in-country military power is more effective than the hard power of terror and coercion through weapons of death and destruction.

There is every indication that the military, especially within its Special Forces operations, are more often using the concepts of soft power, understanding its value in winning the hearts and minds of people.

I foresee a future where militaries will have evolved from forces of war to forces of peace. The cloth of those who serve will represent duty and service to others with a commitment towards achieving and maintaining world peace in an authentic quest for freedom, which cannot be realized in any other way except in the fruition of world peace.

“I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan specifically, is education,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, who works on the Afghan front lines, said in an e-mail in which he raved about Mr. Mortenson’s work. “The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with books. … The thirst for education here is palpable.”

When General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, read Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson says, he sent me an e-mail with three bullet points of what he’d gleaned from the book: “Build relationships, listen more, and have more humility and respect.”