Barry Weisberg on solutions to urban violence

September 7, 2010

Download Story
(Courtesy of buildthepeace.org)
Chicago celebrates peace day.

Previously as part of our series “Global Cities: Challenges and Choices,” global cities contributor Barry Weisberg looked at violence in urban areas beyond the crime and homicide rates. Today, he addresses some solutions.

The “culture of violence” is woven into the DNA of the state and the inequality required by a market economy. It is not a mere public health problem. While the variety and volume of violence can be curbed and prevented, this alone will not radically change the world of violence. We must promote cultures of peace as an alternative to the Culture of Violence.

In the United States the twins of crime and crime control are big business. The wars on crime, drugs, gangs or terrorism perpetrate violence in the name of public safety. In the attempt to control the toxic consequences of inequality and racism, some local police have become armies of occupation and oppression. Cops, courts and corrections account for half of the budget in some cities. This will never lead to functional families, successful schools or healthy communities. Single focus crime control policies and programs are too little, too late. Youth homicide will not be curbed by “stop the violence” marches or prayer. Groups such as Ceasefire aim to “interrupt” street violence, ignoring the conditions that produce the violence. Nor is non-violence an effective alternative to violence. Individual change unconnected to institutional change will not change the world.

The challenge is to break the intra and inter generational transmission of violence against ones self, against others, and by institutions. The values, behaviors and institutions of violence must be replaced with the values, behaviors and institutions of peace-building in families, schools, businesses, communities and cities. Prevention must be joined with promotion. Cultures of peace must be mainstreamed.

This strategy begins with the mobilization of select violent neighborhoods in a metropolitan area. They are what Eleanor Roosevelt identified as the “small places” of the world. Non-government, business and government stake-holders would participate in an integrated multi-discipline, multi-sectoral, science based violence prevention and peace promotion strategy. The strategy addresses the interplay between violence, crime, poverty, inequality, race, ethnicity and gender. It actively engages every individual, family, school, library, park, healthcare provider, and other service providers in an intensive decade of prevention and promotion. The goal is to insure human needs, development and rights for every neighborhood resident, realizing that the obstacles to such an achievement also reside in the city, state, national and international contexts.

Intensive Build the Peace summer programs in summer schools and parks would mobilize for the school year. Effective policies and programs, drawn from a worldwide inventory, would be applied to local conditions, tested, evaluated, and revised. This is not “best practice,” which does not challenge the intergenerational transmission of violence. This complex strategy is cost effective and results can be gleaned from such an initiative in weeks. A city wide partnership, with an annual mobilization in conjunction with the United Nations annual peace day, September 21, would support and compliment neighborhood efforts.

Peaceful cities are not cities without conflict, even without violence or crime, but places where conflict, violence and crime are addressed in ways that work to eradicate the foundations of such behavior. Cities must transition from Global City policies that breed inequality and delink neighborhoods to embrace a new vision of humanizing, just and ecological cities, of the right to the city and the rights of the city. The opposite of violence is not merely peace but love. This path was described by Dr. Martin Luther King, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” What we seek is a “loving community.”

Information about the implementation of this strategy can be provided by Barry Weisberg: barryweisberg@att.net

Barry Weisberg's commentaries reflect his own views and not necessarily those of
Worldview or 91.5 WBEZ.