Human Nature and Peace: Statement by Psychologists
Source: Newsletter, March 1945
Statement: “Human Nature and Peace: Statement by Psychologists”
“Humanity's demand for lasting peace leads us as students of human nature to assert ten pertinent and basic principles which should be considered in planning the peace. Neglect of them may breed new wars, no matter how well-intended our political leaders may be.
1. War can be avoided: War is not born in men; it is built into men. No race, nation, or social group is inevitably warlike. The frustrations and conflicting interests which lie at the root of aggressive wars can be reduced and re-directed by social engineering. Men-can realize their ambitions within the framework of human .cooperation and can direct their aggressions against those natural obstacles that thwart them in the attainment of their goals.
2. In planning for permanent peace, the coming generation should be the primary focus of attention. Children are plastic; they will readily accept symbols of unity and an international way of thinking in which the evils of imperialism, prejudice, insecurity, and ignorance are minimized. In appealing to older' people, chief stress should be laid upon economic, political, and educational plans that are appropriate to a new generation, for older people, as a rule, desire above all else, better conditions and opportunities for their children
3. Racial, National, and group hatreds can, to a considerable degree, be controlled.
4. Condescension toward 'inferior' groups destroys our chance for a lasting peace.
6. The confusion of defeated people will call for clarity and consistency in the application of rewards and punishments. Reconstruction will not be possible so long as the Germans and Japanese people are confused as to their status. A clear-cut arid easily understood definition of war-guilt is essential. Consistent severity toward those who are judged guilty, and consistent official friendliness toward the democratic elements, is a necessary policy.
7. If properly administered, relief, and rehabilitation can lead to self-reliance and cooperation: if improperly, to resentment and hatred. Unless liberated people (and enemy people) are given an opportunity to work in a self-respecting manner for the food and relief they receive, they are likely to harbor bitterness and resentment, since our bounty will be regarded by them as unearned charity, dollar imperialism, or bribery. No people can long tolerate such injuries to self-respect.
8. The root-desires of the common people of all lands are the safest guide to framing peace. Disrespect for the common man is characteristic of fascism and all forms of tyranny. The man in the street does not claim to understand the complexities of economics and politics, but he is clear as to the general directions in which he wishes to progress. His will can be studied (by adaptation of the public opinion poll). His expressed aspirations should even now be a major guide to policy.
9. The trend of human relationships is toward ever wider units of collective security. From the caveman to the twentieth century, human beings have formed larger and larger working and living groups. Families merged into clans, clans into states, and states into nations. The United States are not 48 threats to each other's safety; they work together. At present moment the majority of our people regard the time as ripe for regional and world organization, and believe that the initiative should be taken by the United States of America.
10. Commitments now may prevent postwar apathy and reaction. Unless binding commitments are made and initial steps taken now, people may have a tendency after the war to turn away from international problems and to become preoccupied once again with narrower interests. This regression to a new postwar provincialism-would breed the conditions for a hew world. Now is the time to prevent this backward step, and to assert through binding action that increased unity among the people of the world is the goal we intend to attain.