Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review — Peaceful Revolution

The following was originally posted by Tom Pope as a reviewer for

Author Paul K. Chappell
ISBN: 978-1-935212-76-8
ISBN: 978-1-935212-75-1 (Ebook)

Crowds of chanting protestors screamed in Tahrir Square, but armored units behind them supported their demands against Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Those images are part of the overall question writers like Paul K. Chappell pose on how humans can have a peaceful change in society. His book, Peaceful Revolution, examines the ways humans seek violence, or find ways to avoid taking the gun and seeing the Other as a barbarian.

Why is it possible for some changes in government to happen like in South Africa where De Klerk peacefully handed over power to Mandela? Is the pressure and potential for violence part of the human makeup or rather the structure that surrounds the person?

Chappell takes the reader on a spiritual journey through the human psyche to see what he calls as muscles of hope, empathy, curiosity and conscience among others. Yet those muscles are aligned against powerful forces like propaganda that divides people and techniques that dehumanize so that the average person thinks of violence. Chappell fills his book with specific examples of how he suffered, then developed a strength to counter those forces. He describes the value of those strengths, which allow empathy to occur.

However, Chappell takes the reader only part way in viewing the obstacles that prevent most peaceful revolutions. His focus shows the value of breaking down barriers. Yet his key emphasis could be strengthened by a more complete organization. The qualities he mentions are explained in individual interaction terms. But the concept of the book deals with how the individual can affect society as a whole. That requires some glimpse of the direction solutions would take.

His sub title states, “How We Can Create The Future Needed for Humanity’s Survival,” and that would imply examples of solutions to weaken the problems of propaganda, misinformation and dehumanization. However, Chappell fails to offer such answers. He only mentions possible solutions near the end of the book to indicate he will deal with those in a following book.

One example of disorganization can be seen by Chappell missing a connection of vital links. He wants to show that oppression arises from factors like conditioned inequality, superhumanization, and misinformation. But he doesn’t fully show how they lead to oppression in society. And he doesn’t relate how oppression can be countered by the quality of an individual’s hope or curiosity, which he mentioned earlier.

He explains the importance of empathy and then shows examples of empathy at work. But the real strength would be to show how that ability would help the conflict resolution process. Conflict resolution requires listening techniques that break down barriers. That would appear to be crucial in his conversation about empathy.

Chappell mentions a dependence on a discipline he claims helped him from attending West Point. While he has also shown the dangers of a military mentality that stops hope, and curiosity, he advocates the discipline from such an establishment.

To follow this path, he probably would want to explain when an individual would divide the positive qualities from the negative ones from such an institution. That discussion would also need some attention to the strong discipline held by members of the Civil Rights Movement, which arrived without the military structure found in West Point. Chappell doesn’t address either.

One specific that would go beyond Chappell’s generalizations would be to view a model to show how to counter oppression or propaganda. For example, how does the discipline he desires lead to a person defying an authority figure within a military structure?

How does a Captain Picard of the Enterprise ignore the social pressures or authority above him when the character should fight a propaganda that leads to oppression? Chappell uses references from fiction’s Star Fleet, but he missed a chance to mention that a model could be applied to real life. One major Star Fleet code called the, “Prime Directive” stopped any interference into another society that was not on the level of the Federation. When Captain Picard defied an admiral in the movie, “Insurrection,” Picard wanted to stop an oppression of another society. Picard relied on a system that existed — the Prime Directive.” Chappell could extrapolate that system to show how a model could be used in reality.

Chappell’s work is needed and his spiritual quest of finding values in defying violence can be a major tool in guiding society. However, society requires specific models in order to apply those tools. And society needs a direct message that connects comments on the value of peaceful approaches to structures that hinder people. Chappell has started the process, and further work is needed to detail specifics so models can set up systems that make the tanks disappear from a future Tahrir Square.

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