Posted by: chrismaser | September 23, 2009



Rethinking the Future


Chris Maser


FOREWORD: As a colleague of Chris Maser at Oregon State University and as a participant in his conflict resolution program, I came to understand his passion for environmental issues. I also came to appreciate his integrity as he confronted the conflicting claims of different parts of society regarding the need to protect our environment. I had previously read two of his remarkable books, Forest Primeval and Global Imperative, and I recently read his classic The World is in My Garden, written with his wife, Zane. In these books, I have admired his scientific expertise and his deep concerns for the critical issues of the human population and social-environmental sustainability.

When I saw the manuscript for this latest book, I was impressed by the way he was able to combine a lifetime of scholarship in diverse fields in such a readable, contemporary, and insightful book. For this book, he turns to one of the most basic human problems: the origins of fear and the relation of fear to violence. He then goes on to provide a unique analysis of the problem.

Setting the problem of fear in a global context, with an exploding human population and increasingly limited natural resources, Maser shows how fear enters the human psyche. As adults, we pass our fears to our children. Feeling insecure about ourselves because of anxieties over material possessions and control of our lives, we often turn our rage on our children. Hence the growing problem of child abuse: physical and psychological abuse, as well as neglect. We cripple young lives who want only our love and joy in life. Working with dysfunctional families, I have witnessed the cycle of violence continue when abused children became parents who, in turn, became abusers. As Maser show us, the consequences are formidable for a society that does not forthrightly and directly address this critical issue.

The cultural problems discussed years ago by C.P. Snow, in his book Two Cultures, continue to dominate the universities and our society. Snow distinguishes the two cultures: the Scientific and the Humanistic, each with its own methodology and epistemology. Clearly, the Scientific culture tends to dominate in our time with massive funding from large corporations and government. The Humanistic culture, on the other hand, which deals with questions of meaning and value in literature and the arts, is regularly and severely limited in its monetary resources.

What Maser does in this book is to unite these two cultures in a new synthesis, seeking a more holistic view. The section on “Hunter-Gatherers,” for example, illustrates his scientific approach with its analytical detachment. This leads to his reflection on the problem of fear and its social consequences. From this, one is forced to consider a host of issues regarding human values.

As a scientist, Maser is not afraid to deal with the question of human values and to discuss basic human concerns, such as love, trust, forgiveness, human rights, justice, and equality. Ultimately, these are the values that must prevail if society is to avoid the chaos and conflicts that result when we allow fear and violence to prevail.

Underlying this humanistic outlook are deep spiritual concerns and interests. Since peace is the good to be obtained when fear and violence are overcome, there are a host of references to writers in this tradition: Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Tolstoy, Jr., and the Taoist Lao Tzu, as wall as a text replete with Biblical imagery. If, as Tillich suggests, one’s religion is a expression of one’s ultimate concern, Maser’s concern is to bring into being and actualize his vision of a peaceable world, a new quality of life and relationships.

If I understand him correctly, his vision is similar to Martin Buber’s, which is to replace the world of “I-It” with a world of “I-Thou,” and to have people relating to one another as persons and equals, rather than as objects to be manipulated and used. An “I-Thou” world would be a community of individuals who have confronted the alienation from nature and one another, who have rejected fear and violence, and who have experienced the healing power of love. Such a love can cast out fear and bring about a “reunion of the separated.”

Universal peace, he believes, will result when individuals all over the world respond to this vision, to their own inner peace, which, in turn, will enhance the peace of the world. Self-knowledge, and what the Greeks call Sophrosyne or “balance,” is necessary for the reformation of character. When this happens, we can begin to sow peace and kindness, one deed, one day at a time. Peace will occur when we come to realize, as Menninger suggests, that we are here to dilute the misery of the world, to create peace and reduce violence and hatred. Or, as Einstein simply put it: “We are here for the sake of others.”

Because our legacy to our children will determine the nature of our society in the future, Maser emphasizes the need to begin to incorporate transformative conflict resolution in the classroom so that children will learn peaceful techniques for settling differences at an early age. It is interesting to note that some of the mainstream Protestant churches have already incorporated these techniques into their curricula.

A quotation from Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, regarding Human Rights precedes the text, and the book concludes with a statement of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This seems highly appropriate: both of these statements reflect the author’s basic goal. However, to achieve this goal, America must do its part to support the United Nations and pay its fair share of dues.

C. Warren Hovland,

Professor Emeritus,

Religious Studies,

Oregon State University, Corvallis.


“For those who have been appalled as I have been by our politician’s program to end violence with war and violence, Chris Maser’s book will come as a great relief. He shows how fear insidiously works its way into almost every part of our lives and in doing so corrupts our decision-making. It’s fear that makes us believe violence is a solution. Our media is now obsessed with making us afraid, and we need strong, positive books like this one in order to think our way through fear toward beliefs about society and other people that lead to peaceful relations. The humane and moral response to the tragedy of September 11th is what Maser offers in his book; it’s a courageous statement given the social climate that now prevails. I recommend this book as a means to productive dialogue and a way to begin to think outside the non-productive cycle of violence that defines our lives today.”—Susan Sarandon, Actor/Activist

The Perpetual Consequences Of Fear And Violence: Rethinking The Future by author, lecturer, conflict resolution facilitator, and social visionary Chris Maser is a moral and ethical response to endemic problems and social issues embedded in contemporary American society ranging from the September 11th attacks; to the widespread phenomena of child abuse as the root cause of human violence; to the problematic issues arising from the rapidly evolving science of genetic engineering upon plants, animals, and even humans; corporate dominance in shaping human political and social milieus, and so much more. A deeply introspective and serious warning of what social ills can bring if left unchecked, ‘The Perpetual Consequences Of Fear And Violence’ is an impressive and highly recommended addition to personal and academic Philosophy Studies, Social Science Studies, Ecological Studies, Political Science Studies, and Peace Studies library collections and supplemental reading lists.”—Midwest Book Review, WI.

“Non violence is a way of life. It requires a complete transformation of one’s life from the time one wakes up in the morning until one goes to bed. It is a way of life that can save the world from the violent course it is travelling towards its sure destruction. ‘The Perpetual Consequences of Fear and Violence’ helps us understand this clearly, but the ultimate test is whether people will change and take on responsibility, not just for themselves but for the generations to come. Gandhiji made the commitment, we too can make the commitment!”—Ela Gandhi, Granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, South Africa.

The Perpetual Consequences of Fear and Violence:  Rethinking the Future. 2004. Maisonneuve Press, Washington, D.C. 373 pp.

If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.

If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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