Are We Done Fighting? Building Understanding in a World of Hate and Division
By Matthew Legge
Summary written by Linda Taffs
Citation: Matthew Legge. Are We Done Fighting? Building Understanding in a World of Hate and Division. (New Society Publisher, 2019)
Legge wrote this book to help people counter the rise of polarization and hate in their lives, relationships, and the world. Grounded in research, the book is also practical, offering activities and tips for creating more peace both within and outside of ourselves.
Matthew Legge, is the Peace Coordinator for Canadian Friends Service Committee, the peace and social action arm of Canadian Quakers. He believes we are living in a moment where polarization and hate movements are on the rise, so there is an urgent need for peace. He has written Are We Done Fighting? for anyone who is wanting more peace in their lives, in their relationships and in the world. It is written in an easy-going style with tips at the end of each chapter that summarizes the chapter’s key ideas. Although Legge draws many examples from Quakers, he does not primarily speak from a faith- based perspective. Are We Done Fighting? highlights the complex and emerging basis of conflicts and doesn't propose any one simple solution.
Legge has incorporated his years of research in neuroscience, social psychology, behavioural economics and anthropology along with many real-life examples. Therefore, this book is unique because it not only gives the reader well-founded evidence-based research with hundreds of citations, it is also designed for action--whether reading it on your own or using it in a facilitated study group seeking a more peaceful world. Within each chapter there are powerful, well-tested activities which offer chances for reflection and change to enhance our inner peace and interpersonal peace.
Are We Done Fighting? is arranged in five sections based around key themes with short stimulating chapters that have real-life stories, tested studies, exercises and practical tips:
Section One, Peace and Power, explores what peace is not, divisiveness, and forms of power. Skills offered in this section enable the understanding of problems and give tips for transformation. One of the tips in this section reminded me of how important sufficient rest is and the effect that it has on our moods. For example, research shows that how much sleep a judge had the night before makes a big difference in his ruling. “Becoming aware of what motivates us can help our work for positive changes, making it more realistic and effective.” Legge also says, “The evidence is clear that all of us are changing to a surprising degree all the time. This means that we're ever-vulnerable to a positive infection but also that peace must be continually built.”
In Section Two, Communications Skills, are examined from a peace perspective. Within this section, Chapter 8 discusses how we fail to discuss openly what our needs are. We are more likely to speak in terms of judgments. Using examples from studies and exercises, readers can learn to move beyond the judgments of the person we’re communicating with to identify their needs. Chapter 9 discusses different styles of conflict, for example, competing, collaboration, avoidance or compromise, and the reader learns that there is not one “right way” because each depends on the situation. We are given real-life examples as to why this is. As Legge says, “Whatever style we choose, exploring the beliefs and assumptions present, paying attention to the process, treating emotions with care, and using the communication skills we’ve learned, are all fundamental”.
Section Three, Violence and Interpersonal Peace, explores violence more deeply and reveals entry points where peace can flourish. Chapter 10 points out that we are surrounded by violence here and abroad such as the rise of hate groups, mass murder, and structural violence, which is delivered to us daily in an endless stream through the media and the Internet. However, I found it empowering to discover that there is still much to be grateful for. In fact, this chapter shows that by working for social change, engaging in pro-social and helping ways, we boost our own sense of happiness.
Section Four, Inner Peace, gives us tips and exercises to help us work on ourselves to have a great sense of connection to people and nature, and ultimately enhance our sense of gratitude. For example, one of the tips in chapter 17 says, “Being active and spending time in nature makes us healthier, happier, better at problem solving, and less violent. Even a few minutes can make a significant difference, as can just having a view of nature or watching a nature documentary. A sense of awe at just how small we really are can be fostered very quickly and make us more ethical and generous.”
Section Five, Structural Peace, looks at how international crises might be transformed. Although wars are complex, Legge found through his research that most of the wars in the world have been civil wars, and between 1989 and 2004 more civil wars ended through negotiations than in the previous two centuries; whereas, 'one fifth to one third' of those civil wars that were settled by violence regress back into war within five years. Also, we learn about the growing movement of unarmed protectors and peace cells. These are unarmed women and men who are willing to go into areas where there is unrest such as Palestine, El Salvador and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help bring peace by being a witness and building relationships.
Finally in the appendix, for anyone looking for tips on how to facilitate a group, there is 'The Basics of Facilitation'.
Legge says that peace happens at different levels, so if you’re looking for tips to understand yourself and your own feelings, improve your relationships with others, and/or work non-violently for social change, this book will have something for you.