Thursday, June 09, 2011

Notes on the Newark Piece summit

The Newark Peace Education Summit was a three-day conference focusing on peacemaking practices from around the world. It featured three Nobel Peace Prize winners, and was, for the most part a total failure.

Now there's a reason for that, there was really no agreed definition of what peace was. Is it a mere lack of war, is it spiritual enlightenment, or personal or domestic tranquility? Is it a separated part of a lemon meringue pie? The only thing that was agreed upon is that it was not the last of these, and as such it was an amorphous discussion of conflict resolution that for the most part had nothing to do with anything, especially personal relationships.

This would have been one of those touchy-feely things that would have gone completely unnoticed by the outside world had not a certain Lhamo Dondrub, also known as the Dalai Lama, been the main attraction. He is the de facto Buddhist Pope, and as such gets lots and lots of attention. He also get's Secret Service protection, which made the entrance to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the hotel across the street a pain in the ass.

But there we are, a mega celebrity, and a bunch of lefties, new agers and local politicians trying to sell their wares to an audience who was more then willing to buy. This included two other Nobel Peace Laureates, Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi, the former of which was actually entertaining and may have actually deserved the thing, and the latter, a humorless ideologue (and former junior member of the Shah's regime) who was given it to give the Iranian regime a black eye.

There were Six panel discussions, four of which were presided over by the Dali Lama (did you know that he was on the CIA payroll for years?), and for the most part they had little to do with what they were advertised about. The first was about "inner peace" and although I missed much of it, what I did see had absolutely nothing to do with personal tranquility. Rabbi Michael Lerner spent an inordinate amount of time promoting a massive wealth transfer to the third world, and Dennis Kuchinich's sick joke of a constitutional amendment, H.Res.156, which would force all businesses to become nonprofit charities. This got applause.

The second panel was even worse. This was supposed to be about "peace in the home" and while one or two of the panelists had a tiny bit to say about the subject, most did not. For the vast majority, who ran NGOs and charities that had to do with halfway houses for prisoners and the homeless. The Dalai Lama said he had no idea what to say because he had no experience! It was worse than useless! Yeesh!

Dr. James R Doty MD practices neurosurgery in Mountain View, California and Stanford, California. He has the unique distinction of being the only graduate of Tulane University Medical School who never managed to get his bachelor's degree first. While googling his name shows that he's a genuine surgeon, much of what he said about his biography didn't make much sense (getting into medical school without a degree, giving his vast fortune away just after he went broke, etc.), he led a major "workshop" on "peace through compassion," which frankly was total BS. I don't remember most of it, because he was so smooth and charming. Another workshop was about interfaith dialogue, but no one sad anything germain to the topic.

The next two grand panels, on education, and within communities, were more germane to what was supposed to be discussed, although like the term "peace" they acted as if they had no idea what the term meant, after all, going around saying "the whole world is a community" really just doesn't cut it. Peace in schools is actually easy to talk about, as tweens and teenagers are for the most part barbarians and conflict is part of the general experience. They didn't give any decent answers to that question either.
The panel on World Peace the next day (the DL had left and the security was gone) was a bash the US session, which showed that they could solve nothing. I didn't attend ecology panel, so I cannot comment.

The main thing I learned is that winning the Nobel Peace Prize doesn't give you moral authority, it just means that you are annoying to tyrants. That might be enough.

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