The abolition of nuclear weapons and achieving cultural disarmament - the hidden objectives in the fight for peace

Rafael Grasa
ICIP President

From now on, it will be impossible to recount any history as if it was the only one. There cannot be just one history, because there are numerous points of view (John Berger)

Prevent the ship from sinking while we build a ship of the new generation (Otto Neurath)

Raimon Panikkar, the most influential Catalan thinker in the history of Catalonia since Ramon Llull, died in Tavertet in late August (see the ICIP blog). His work, like his way of life, gives us lessons and ideas that can be very helpful in the construction of peace, and very useful in the year which commemorates the 65th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fortieth anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which saw its eighth Review Conference in New York in May 2010, which was preceded by an alternative conference. This is why he is the central feature of issue number 4 of Peace in Progress, with articles by Jordi Armadans, Rafael Grasa and Rebecca Johnson.

Font: Wasurerarenai Anohi

Source: Wasurerarenai Anohi

All three articles, and the theses of the leading academic experts and civil society, are in agreement: the NPT was and is essential for managing nuclear non-proliferation, but it has benn insufficient for resolving the problems caused by nuclear weapons in international politics, which is an important and central issue on the agenda twenty years after the end of the Cold War. Indeed, if it was insufficient forty years ago, it is even more so today, as the three pillars of the system, non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, are increasingly weak. This inescapable problem is common in the construction of international peace and order: the old system is necessary, but is insufficient; the new one has yet to be established. So how can we improve and strengthen the NPT, which is today essential, and move simultaneously towards a future that overcomes the shortcomings of NPT, beginning with a convention that abolishes nuclear weapons?

Raimon Panikkar, whose ideas were very similar to what research for peace has called conflict transformation, gave us some clues to clarify the problem. As he said on several occasions, much of his life and work focused on the subject of interculturalism and peace, and he emphasised two ideas. The first is that solving the problems of peace requires courage, thought and new types of action, as well as a comprehensive overall vision, the ability to overcome the struggle between conceptions and visions, to seek new paths. The second is that it is necessary to accept - as Berger said in the quote that begins this text - that the modern world has changed, and in fact different worlds are clashing. Panikkar talks about this subject in Peace and interculturalism, when he mentions a crisis of "cosmologies", of global approaches or paradigms that come into conflict, and to overcome the problem, it is necessary not to choose between them - while eliminating the others - depending on which one is the most truthful or useful, but instead to overcome differences, while building something new. To do so, it is necessary to open up to the other, to cultural disarmament, while accepting the material nature of interculturalism, i.e. to start from the foundations, because, to quote literally, "cultural differences are human differences and we cannot remove them or ignore them when we are dealing with human problems".

In this case, it is not a question of choosing between a focus on the NPT or on a future convention in the campaigns led by the peace movement, but rather a question of creating a programme that makes it possible to fight for both things, which enable various phases and visions, while facilitating alliances between them. And in a longer timeframe, to accept that the abolition of nuclear weapons is not incompatible with non-proliferation and managing arsenals while they still exist.

As for how to do this, perhaps it is necessary to adapt the metaphor of a little-known antimilitarist, and a member of the Vienna Circle and an advocate of positive logic, Otto Neurath, who talked about the continuous work of revising scientific knowledge as a result of the series of conjectures and rebuttals: prevent the ship from sinking, because you have to continue sailing; it has to be repaired while you are building a new ship at the same time, without having a clear plan for the end result.