Human Nature and the Peace

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Human Nature and the Peace
On April 5, 1945, there was released to the press a Statement signed by 2,038 American psychologists. This statement had its origin during the summer of 1944 in informal conversations among psychologists, about twenty-five of whom contributed to its formulation. Although at no time was the Statement officially sponsored by any psychological organization, the funds for printing and mailing were supplied by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the recipients of the Statement were the 3,803 members and associates of the American Psychological Association listed in its 1944 Yearbook. The covering letter soliciting endorsements was signed by the following group of psychologists: G. W. Allport, R. S. Crutchfield, H. B. English, Edna Heidbrader, E. R. Hilgard, O. Klineberg, R. Likert, M. A. May, O. H. Mowrer, G. Murphy, C. C. Pratt, W. S. Taylor, and E. C. Tolman.

While many mail solicitations bring only 25 percent response and while many psychologists were abroad in war service and hard to reach, the result of this call brought more than a 50 percent response. Among those replying more than 99 percent subscribed to the Statement. Included among the signers are 350 clinical psychologists, 230 industrial psychologists, approximately 250 in other fields of applied psychology, and approximately 300 in the armed services. The remainder are in universities and colleges. Minor comments and suggestions were received from 92 individuals. There were only thirteen refusals to sign.

Besides being printed in newspapers, the Statement was sent to 535 representatives and senators in the United States Congress, and to many organizations and individuals prominently concerned with peace-planning and international cooperation. The Statement likewise is printed in the recent Yearbook of the SPSSI, Human Nature and Enduring Peace, edited by Gardner Murphy. The full text of the Statement follows. —Gordon W. Allport

A Statement by Psychologists
Humanity's demand for lasting peace leads us as students of human nature to assert ten pertinent and basic principles which should be considered in planning the peace. Neglect of them may breed new wars, no matter how well-intentioned our political leaders may be.
1. War can be avoided: War is not born in man (sic); it is built into men (sic).

No race, nation, or social group is inevitably warlike. The frustrations and conflicting interests which lie at the root of aggressive wars can be reduced and re-directed by social engineering. Men can realize their ambitions within the framework of human cooperation and can direct their aggressions against those natural obstacles that thwart them in the attainment of their goals.

2. In planning for permanent peace, the coming generation should be the primary focus of attention.

Children are plastic; they will readily accept symbols of unity and an international way of thinking in which imperialism, prejudice, insecurity, and ignorance are minimized. In appealing to older people, chief stress should be laid upon economic, political and educational plans that are appropriate to a new generation, for older people, as a rule, desire above all else, better conditions and opportunities for their children.

3. Racial, national, and group hatreds can, to a considerable degree, be controlled.

Through education and experience people can learn that their prejudiced ideas about the English, the Russians, the Japanese, Catholics, Jews, Negroes are misleading or altogether false. They can learn that members of one racial, national, or cultural group are basically similar to those of other groups, and have similar problems, hopes, aspirations, and needs. Prejudice is a matter of attitudes, and attitudes are to a considerable extent a matter of training and information.

4. Condescension toward "inferior" groups destroys our chance for a lasting peace.

The white man must be freed of his concept of the "white man's burden." The English-speaking peoples are only a tenth of the world's population; those of white skin only a third. The great dark-skinned population of Asia and Africa, which are already moving toward a greater independence in their own affairs, hold the ultimate key to a stable peace. The time has come for a more equal participation of all branches of the human family in a plan for collective security.

5. Liberated and enemy peoples must participate in planning their own destiny.

Complete outside authority imposed on liberated and enemy peoples without any participation by them will not be accepted and will lead only to further disruptions of the peace. The common people of all countries must not only feel that their political and economic future holds genuine hope for themselves and for their children, but must also feel that they themselves have the responsibility for its achievement.

6. The confusion of defeated people will call for clarity and consistency in the application of rewards and punishments.

Reconstruction will not be possible so long as the Germans and Japanese people are confused as to their status. A clear-cut and easily understood definition of war-guilt is essential. Consistent severity toward those who are judged guilty, and consistent official friendliness toward democratic elements, is a necessary policy.

7. If properly administered, relief and rehabilitation can lead to self-reliance and cooperation; if improperly, to resentment and hatred.

Unless liberated people (and enemy people) are given an opportunity to work in a self-respecting manner for the food and relief they receive, they are likely to harbor bitterness and resentment, since our bounty will be regarded by them as unearned charity, dollar imperialism, or bribery. No people can long tolerate such injuries to self-respect.

8. The root-desires of the common people of all lands are the safest guide to framing a peace.

Disrespect for the common man is characteristic of fascism and of all forms of tyranny. The man in the street does not claim to understand the complexities of economics and politics, but he is clear as to the general directions in which he wishes to progress. His will can be studied (by adaptations of the public opinion poll). His expressed aspirations should even now be a major guide to policy.

9. The trend of human relationships is toward ever wider units of collective security.

From the caveman to the twentieth century, human beings have formed larger and larger working and living groups. Families merged into clans, clans into states, and states into nations. The United States are not 48 threats to each other's safety; they work together. At the present moment the majority of our people regard the time as ripe for regional and world organization, and believe that the initiative should be taken by the United States of America.

10. Commitments now may prevent postwar apathy and reaction.

Unless binding commitments are made and initial steps taken now, people may have a tendency after the war to turn away from international problems and to become preoccupied once again with narrower interests. This regression to a new postwar provincialism would breed the conditions for a new world war. Now is the time to prevent this backward step, and to assert through binding action that increased unity among the people of the world is the goal we intend to attain.

NOTE: Now, 1976 — our bicentennial year — we can look back and see how little we have done that would be in keeping with these principles. And how much graver our situation has become. Perhaps it is not too late.

Anonymous psychologist

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