Hot Reading for Cold Winter Nights


Constructive Conflicts: From Escalation to Resolution, second edition
Louis Kriesberg, Roman & Littlefield, 2003, paper

Anti-war activists would do well to better understand the dynamics of conflict, struggle and war. Peace activists would do well to learn how a war can be prevented or transformed into a peace. In his recent book Louis Kriesberg provides a comprehensive analytic framework for preventing war and for moving through war and other spirals of violence to peace.

Kriesberg is professor emeritus of sociology at Syracuse University. He was the founding director of the Maxwell School’s Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts (PARC). He’s the author of numerous books and scores of articles. He has extensively revised and updated this second edition of “Constructive Conflicts.”

In his preface Kreisberg writes, “I wanted to develop an empirically grounded understanding of how people prevent or stop destructive conflicts but instead wage relatively constructive conflicts….[M]any potentially destructive struggles never happen and even when they do, many become transformed and even resolved so that they do not recur. Furthermore, recognizing the inevitability and at times the necessity of struggle if injustices are to be overcome, I believe that more knowledge is needed about how conflicts can be pursued constructively. I want to improve people’s understanding so that they can wage their struggles more productively.”

Kriesberg’s 429-page book is a systematic and scholarly study, the fruit of years of observation, research and reflection. Although the study focuses on conflicts entailing immense violence, its framework provides constructive ways of conducting all kinds of conflicts through their stages of escalation, de-escalation and settlement.

Ed Kinane wields a mighty red pen on the Peace Newsletter editorial committee.

Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism
second edition
Joel Andreas. AK Press. 2002, paper

Addicted to War is a great example of a text that uses history to make a point. As an illustrated exposé, it uses pictures and a lot of crazy cartoons of politicians and warmongers to tell its story. So what’s not to love?

This book is a great way to spend your afternoon, and the ending is magnificent. It’s all about the US’ habit of making war, and how those habits are shaping, and destroying our country. The ending is about the domination of military interests over human interests in recent times.

While I enjoyed the ending, the somewhat constricted viewpoint of US history was troubling. However, I do understand that much of the world’s history is heavily dominated by the interests of a few, and that the author is using history to make his point. It’s clear that an illustrated exposé needs to simplify complex ideas to get its point across, and that in the process, things will inevitably be left out. While I found no factual errors, the author’s points weren’t supported with persuasive evidence. This made me a bit skeptical about his arguments’ validity. I don’t suggest you ignore his points, but rather that you not accept them without doing some other reading of your own.

Read this book to complement the knowledge you already have of US history. Don’t ignore what this book is trying to tell you – its’ message is valuable and especially pertinent to the present. Finally, read the ending twice; it’s an incredible eye opener, and a great call back to the reality of where most of our money really goes.
Happy Reading!

Tina Musa is a senior at Manlius Pebble Hill, is active with SPC’s Youth Empowerment for Peace and serves on the SPC Steering Committee.

An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire
Arundhati Roy, South End Press, 2004

“Debating imperialism is like debating the pros and cons of rape. What can we say? That we miss it?,” Roy writes. As she does so, she cuts deep into the heart of an argument with deadly accuracy and effectiveness. Roy has an uncanny knack for weaving together many different strands of the global imperial project in language that is direct, poetic and incisive. She is able to show us how a grossly unjust, inhuman exploitative system works, the tools it uses, and what we can do to dismantle it. Read it -- you will no longer confine your resistance to wringing your hands in despair.

Hari Chathratti

The Enigmas of Easter Island, second edition
John Flenley and Paul Bahn, Oxford University Press, 2003

Most people know of Easter Island as the home of many huge statues facing the coast. These tower 12 to 25 feet above their grassy base. This small remote Pacific island, once a lush tropical forest, now has very limited flora and fauna and no trees.
For those looking to learn more about the island, Enigmas provides up-to-date scientific analysis of what went wrong, and when. Its authors sort out the different theories and present the consensus view of what led to the present condition of the island.
The picture is bleak, but the lesson is valuable and gives insight into our disregard for our earth. Technically precise yet readable, Enigmas makes you think even more about how we all contribute to the despoilation of the environment and what the catastrophic consequences of this might be.

Sam Sage

Ferdinand the Bull
Munroe Leaf, Viking Press, 1936

As the season moves over us, a timeless story to share with your children is Ferdinand the Bull. This story’s decisive words and simple illustrations never fail to reinforce the crucial themes of peace, courage, and the importance of one’s own individuality in a world where those traits seem to be slipping away.

Ferdinand is a Spanish bull who shares his quiet manner, his love of nature, and his desire for peace, even within a society that celebrates and ritualizes violence. This story is a perfect way to talk to your children about bringing peace to their world.

Krista Williams

Growing Up Palestinian
Laetitia Bucaille, Princeton University Press, 2004

Laetitia Bucaille in Growing Up Palestinian provides a rare look inside the Occupied Territories where she lived for more than a decade, months at a time. A former journalist and French political scientist, she tracks several men caught up in both Intifadas. Laetitia Bucaille then analyzes what unites and divides Palestinians and what deepens the chasm between Palestine and Israel.

Laetitia explains how Palestine became mired in corruption, class conflict, political tension and opposing liberation strategies. From Hamas’s rejection of the Oslo Accords to the inability of the Palestinian Authority to create a democratic government, and from Israel’s overwhelming power to its destructive search for security, she paints a bleak but illuminating portrait.

Aggie Lane

Citizens Of The Empire: The Struggle To Claim Our Humanity
Robert Jensen, City Lights Publishers, 2004

I highly recommend Citizens of the Empire to those who are just thinking about getting involved, as well as to those who need a shot in the arm after a long, difficult time of struggling to make a difference. Jensen’s book on current policies and the workings of power and government shows the reader, in an engaging way, that we do make a difference in this world and that it’s our duty to understand and act on our being a part of this country. In this time of frustration and suspicion, it’s refreshing to come out from reading a book with a boost of energy and a desire to get right back into the struggles!

Martha Cassady

Free to Be…You and Me
Marlo Thomas, Running Press, 1997

This classic collection of stories, songs and poems should be on every family’s shelf. The book was one of the first works of children’s literature that taught about individuality, self-esteem, gender equality, multiculturalism and friendship. Included are works that teach children about different kinds of families, togetherness, belonging and the balance of independence and attachment. Entertaining and educational, this was one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me when I was a child and one I’m overjoyed to pass on to my own children.

Melissa Hyman