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The Crippling Desire to Win


Opening Statement -- The Crippling Desire to Win

I have been to the mountaintop. Thanks to the Northeast Asian Regional Peacebuilding Initiative (NARPI), I have seen the error of my ways.

   Vince Lombardi reportedly said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” On another occasion he said, “Winning isn’t the most important thing. It’s the only thing.” Lombardi was coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, so it was his job to win. Besides, sports competition takes place within a strictly limited time and space under an extremely detailed set of rules enforced by highly trained, impartial referees. Plus, Lombardi won the Super Bowl a couple times, so we Wisconsinites instantly forgave Lombardi for abandoning “good sportsmanship” in favor of intensifying his players’ desire to win.  

  We shouldn’t have. In hindsight, knowing what we know now about climate change, fossil fuels, the military-industrial-penal-Congressional complex, and industrial agriculture, all Wisconsinites should have immediately called Lombardi on the phone and explained to him that “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” We should have said, “Take it back, Vince. You’re walking us down the slippery slope. What’s more important, the Super Bowl or human survival?”

   Setting aside sports, TV quiz or reality shows, and the various national “we’ve got talent” competitions, show me a winner, and I’ll show you an enemy of humanity. Though most winners are blissfully unaware that the world has passed them by, winning has recently, as of August 6, 1945, become the root of all evil.

  All (well, most of) the world’s problems could be solved easily if it weren’t for winners. From nuclear weapons and climate change to police brutality and schoolyard bullying, problems like these are not the real problem. The problem is, the people responsible for solving our problems are more interested in winning. In the US, problems are never solved because Democrats and Republicans are 1) devoted above all to winning the next election, and 2) winners working for winners who only give money to winners.

   In the days and weeks that follow, I will take all (or most) of the world’s problems and explain exactly how winners are screwing up a perfectly manageable situation. My goal is to give winning a bad name. Winning is obsolete; winners are Neanderthals that threaten human survival on this planet.

   Again, I’m not talking about sports or games with rules and refs. I’m talking about winners who take things from losers without caring how the losers feel or what the losers are going to do without whatever the winners take. Winning or taking without caring about the person you are winning or taking from is the start of all (or most) violence. If you are a winner, you should be ashamed of yourself. I want you to stop it, right now! What you need to do instead is sit down with your rival or opponent or wife or husband and talk, then keep talking until you come up with a solution that satisfies everyone, that is, something that really makes everyone happy. The goal is everyone being happy.

   You think I’m an idealistic moron? What planet am I living on? Peace is not possible? The pie is a certain size and if you get more, I get less, I should face it? Your low-level consciousness is based on never having attended a NARPI workshop. That and never having tried to make everyone happy. Or, never having tried enough, that is, never having brought your full creativity to the solution. In fact, my bet is, you base your pessimistic assumptions on experiences of negotiating to win with others who are also negotiating to win. Two winners coming up with a creative solution that satisfies both of them is like Luke Skywalker coming to a mutually satisfying agreement with Darth Vader. Winners can’t solve problems. All they can do is win (or lose).

   So pay attention. In the weeks to come, I will help you graduate from being a winner to being a decent human being enhancing the chances of human survival on Planet Earth. 

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Nassrine Azimi's Great Article

Not just apologies but repentance

by Nassrine Azimi


Year after year the question arises. Will Japan apologize sincerely for its violent, cruel, fascist intrusions into other countries? Or will it continue to appease its right wing hardliners with semi-apologies that just irritate everyone?

   Japan should apologize, of course. It has plenty to apologize for, and apologies are a crucial technology in peace culture. However, this issue is far deeper than some leader saying, “I’m sorry,” and far broader than Japan, Korea and China. 

   Nassrine Azimi, co-founder of Green Legacy Hiroshima and the woman who built the UNITAR office in Hiroshima, has written the best article on this topic I have ever read. Azimi is an Iranian-born Swiss citizen who lives partly in California and mostly in Hiroshima. She is a career UN diplomat with a thoroughly global, remarkably objective view of international relations. Read this article and I’m sure you’ll agree that we, human beings on this planet, would do well to draft her to serve as our queen.



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Peter Kuznick Interview

The Shadow People Project is about far more than nuclear weapons, but part of our inspiration was the shadow people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in May we witnessed an amazing failure by the international community to do anything about this truly horrific threat to our continued survival. So I've been writing about nukes. And before moving on, I would like to share with you an interview. The interview was done by Masato Tainaka, a reporter with Asahi Shimbun, one of the leading nationwide newspapers of Japan. The interviewee was Peter Kuznick, a professor at American University in Washington, DC, and the world's leading expert on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

   This interview covers key questions I am often asked about the bombings. Were the bombs necessary? Did they end the war? If not, why were they dropped? Who was for and against those bombings? It also addresses the implications of those bombings for human survival. The answers may surprise you, so I hope you will visit this link and read carefully.


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Deterrence is Obsolete

dreamstime_s_34609881.jpg“The only thing worse than a world with nuclear weapons is a world without nuclear weapons.” Look around. I’m sure you’ll find this statement in a number of articles by guys (mostly men, in my experience) touting the necessity of nuclear deterrence. The premise here is that nuclear weapons are the only thing preventing a disastrous WWIII between Russia, China, the US, Europe and others. If these countries did not have nuclear weapons, they would be fighting with other weapons, which would be not quite as devastating as a nuclear war but would be far worse than WWII. The people who make this argument believe that nuclear weapons are necessary as a deterrent—to deter other nuclear weapons, of course, but also to deter an attack with conventional weapons.


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NPT Fails


Yes!! The treaty is dead. Long live the treaty.

    I know, the NPT is not exactly history—yet. Many of the States Parties took pains to emphasize how terribly important it is, but the poor thing is not much more than a piece of paper now. Two out of the last three review conferences have ended in failure (no final document), and more importantly, the decisions taken by 100% consensus in the 2000 and 2010 review conferences have pretty much been ignored. So what’s the point?

   The two main points for the nuclear-weapon and umbrella states (including Japan) are 1) to keep everyone else from getting nuclear weapons and 2) to help sell nuclear electricity. From their point of privilege, Article VI (the commitment to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons) is pie in the sky to be discussed in 10 or 20 or 50 years, after the world has become completely peaceful.

   But this was not the bargain. The non-nuclear-weapon states agreed to foreswear nuclear weapons in return for help with peaceful nuclear technology and a sincere effort to eliminate the weapons. Now that everyone who wants (or can afford) peaceful nuclear technology has it, now that this extremely expensive, difficult and dangerous technology is looking like a game for suicidal idiots, and now that everyone can see for sure that the nuclear-weapon states aren’t about to let go of their nuclear advantage, the non-nuclear-weapon states are saying, “To hell with this shit.”

   Of course, the immediate problem is Israel. The only country in the Middle East with nukes is too nervous to even admit having them. That rules out civilized conversation, so the Israelis avoid the whole topic by stating flatly that they can’t possibly think of discussing nuclear weapons until the Middle East is perfectly peaceful. (If they didn’t have any, why would they be so adamant about not discussing them?) So this leaves Arab leaders with a choice. Allow Israel to keep on keeping on as the only regional member of the Nuclear Club, which makes Arabs look like lily-livered, incompetent, second- or third-rate ne’er do wells, or get some nuclear weapons of their own, which will piss off the US, scare everyone, and possibly cause Israel to bomb their nuclear facilities.

   The US is doing its best to blame the failure of the 2015 review conference on Egypt, but the failure lies wholly and entirely with the nuclear-weapon states, especially the US and Israel. All they had to do is say, “OK, you’re right. Nukes are dangerous, let’s all sit down and talk about them,” and the NPT would be sitting pretty. But no, the US and Israel are led by war-culture Neanderthals seeking to establish that they are alpha and don’t have to talk to anyone, so the NPT is finished.

   Now, the human family can go in one of two directions. The civilized thing, of course, would be to set forth a treaty clearly and definitively banning the possession, development and use of nuclear weapons. This would lead to a fabulous and wildly successful international campaign to get countries to sign that treaty. Because nuclear weapons are so unbelievably dangerous with not a thing to recommend them, that campaign would quickly make them the universally hated, global public enemy number one. That, in turn, would make it impossible for any nuke-loving politician to get elected. The whole world would see clearly that the only good nuke is a dead nuke, and that would be the end of them.

   What we are more likely to do, unfortunately, is keep flimflamming, mealy mouthing, and bullshitting around until Saudi Arabia is forced (by its own people) to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan, which will force Iran to get one, which will force Egypt to get one, which will spread the virus like Ebola, only more dangerous. The US and Israeli elite will be shocked! shocked! that their alpha status is being challenged, so they might actually attack Iran (to get its oil), leading to a huge war in the Middle East, soaring oil prices, food riots around the globe, degenerating to total economic and social meltdown.  

  If this happens, we could actually find ourselves in serious danger because war-culture Neanderthals would rather be dead than peaceful. So let’s all keep talking about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. That might raise consciousness just enough. Then, when that first nuclear weapon levels Damascus or Jerusalem, the human family will react with sufficient speed and horror to prevent the end of the world the hibakusha have been warning us about all these 70 years. Hope springs eternal. 

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Yes!! The NPT Might Fail


The NPT review is in trouble. The conflict between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states has never been more obvious and intense. According to Susi Snyder of PAX, a group of 159 countries have made it clear they consider any use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances whatsoever to be unacceptable. Why? Because of the humanitarian consequences.

   Meanwhile, France is insisting that the final document say nothing at all about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In fact, they are objecting to any use of the word “humanitarian”. France is so 20th century, but for now, I hope they hold firmly to this insanity.

   I’ve read two reports about the Middle East Nuclear-free Zone and still have no clear idea what Egypt is up to. However, they do seem to be pushing the States Parties very hard to push Israel to agree to abandon its nuclear weapons and join the NPT as a non-nuclear state. And the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is stating very clearly that they will accept no final document that does not mandate some sort of progress toward disarmament.

     I love this! Go France! Go Egypt! Go NAM! I always knew there was a chance this review would end in failure, like the one in 2005, but I pessimistically assumed that everyone would bend over backwards to make sure it didn’t. Looks like I might should have been more optimistic. Too early to tell, of course. Maybe they’re all just putting on a show to convince onlookers that something is happening, but here I go getting my hopes up again.

   By all rights, this 2015 review should fail. The nuclear-weapon states are saying, “We are not going to disarm or even talk about disarming any time in the near future, so stop whining about all that end-of-the-world bullshit.” The non-nuclear-weapon states are saying, “Come on, you assholes, throw us a bone here. After 44 years you’re still saying disarmament negotiations are ‘premature’? Since you’re still threatening to kill us all, let’s at least start talking about it.” This conflict should not lead to a 100% consensus document in the next week or so.

   Still, I fear they will somehow snatch some sort of patched-over, meaningless victory out of the jaws of honorable defeat. So every night I pray, “Dear God, please fill the worst of them with passionate intensity. Don’t let the center hold. The NPT has been fun. Please, please, let it die with dignity.”

   I pray this prayer because I am so interested to see what happens next. Might we see a real revolution? Might the nuclear have-nots finally stand up to the haves on behalf of collective human survival? Might we get a chance to campaign for a nuclear weapons ban treaty? Might we get some serious money and a chance to persuade the global public that nuclear weapons are public enemy number one? Hope springs eternal.

   So what is Japan doing? The country of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini, and Fukushima, the country that should be leading the revolution against the nuclear haves, is arguing with China about something irrelevant, very busy selling nuclear power, and making sure we all talk about Fukushima in the past tense. 

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Free Speech and Violence


Free Speech and Violence

   On Feb 16, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein attacked a free speech seminar and a Jewish synagogue. He was a Muslim. He’s now dead so we can’t ask him, but everyone seems to believe his target was a cartoonist who insulted the prophet Mohammed. Then, of course, he was also targeting Jews since he attacked the synagogue.

   Just before the gunfire began, Inna Shevchenko was on the stage at the freedom of speech seminar saying we should all be free to laugh at anything we think is funny.

   Shevchenko is right, of course, and Western society has pretty much adopted this attitude. In Europe, the US and Japan, the vast majority of us now agree, and our laws indicate, that a husband is not allowed to hit his wife, no matter what she says. We are not allowed to beat spouses, children, or even animals.

   This was not always the case. When I was young, well into the 1970s, it was widely acceptable for men to beat women, children and animals to force them to bend to their will. After all, the man was supposed to be the king of his home, and everyone else was supposed to obey him. If they did not, he was given some latitude to enforce his rule by violence.  

   This rule by men and violence is still accepted in some countries and in some parts of nearly all countries, including the US and Japan. But in general, most societies now believe that words are one thing and hitting (or stabbing or shooting) is another. Words, any words, are not an excuse for violence.

   On the other hand, violence begins with not caring how others feel. In fact, this has recently become my definition of violence: doing something without caring what you are doing to someone else. 

   When you make fun of another person’s God or prophet or mother or sister or face or handicap or skin color or gender identification, you are hitting first. You are starting it. If the person you are making fun of knows that you love him or her and takes your teasing in good fun, no harm done. But if your words really hurt that person, and words can cause real pain, you have just started a potential cycle of violence. If it escalates, you are morally, if not legally, responsible.

    Westerners make cruel fun of Muslims for many things, not least of which is their tendency to kill people over insults to their Prophet. In this context, we should remember that it wasn’t long ago both in Europe and the US when insulting a man’s honor meant a duel to the death. Insults were well known to carry the risk of physical retaliation. In fact, if a man was insulted, or if his mother or sister or wife was insulted, and if he did not seek revenge, he was a coward.

   This honor-revenge reflex is classic war culture behavior, and thankfully, we are slowly evolving toward a peace culture in which violence is supposed to stop with words. The Middle East is quite backward when it comes to peace culture, but this is not the fault of Islam. It is the fault of European colonialism followed by US neo-imperialism and an endless series of bloody events provoked, funded and armed by the West.

    People do not graduate easily to a peace culture when they are watching their friends, relatives, cities and countries blown to bits by bombings, drone attacks, night raids and suicide bombers. The high-minded Europeans and Americans who flood the streets to protest Muslim violence live in the relative calm and safety of so-called “advanced nations,” these advances having been purchased with the blood of literally millions of people all over the world, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

  I am not in any way condoning the killing of cartoonists or anyone else. I am an American who lives in complete safety here in Japan, so, of course, I firmly believe that words are no excuse for shooting. But if we really want folks to stop killing us for making fun of them we should 1) stop making fun of them, 2) stop killing their friends and relatives, and 3) stop destroying their countries. The only way to stop violence is to stop it in ourselves.    



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Where it all began...


August 6, 1945. The people of Hiroshima experience the end of the world. The world ends for the Urakami Valley of Nagasaki on August 9. Since then, an increasing number of survivors have been telling their stories in a desperate effort to keep the human family from using the “new type of weapon” to off itself.

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