By Matthew Legge. New Society Publishers, 2019. 354 pages. $24.99/paperback or eBook.
Matthew Legge, peace program coordinator for Canadian Friends Service Committee, has created a most complete peace studies program in book form.
Don’t assume that this is all about international peacework, though some of it is. Rather, it is focused on interpersonal peace and the changes we each need to make in ourselves to become real peacemakers.
So don’t read this book if you’re not willing to examine your firmly held beliefs. Because here you’ll learn how your attitudes can be influenced by things you don’t consciously notice—things as simple as the temperature of what you last held in your hand—and your ego will be challenged. You may think you are a rational human being, competent at discerning truth. Legge clearly reveals how all of us behave irrationally at times and how refuting misfounded beliefs often makes people hold more firmly to them. He has us examine how we know what we think we know for sure.
Also, don’t read this book if you think unarmed civilians can’t save lives, de-escalate conflicts, or promote local and international peace. The author offers us inspiring examples.
Each of the 24 chapters is summarized at its conclusion. You could skim through the chapters just reading the “Tips from This Chapter,” but don’t. The chapter examples, drawn from thoroughly documented research, are poignant stories in themselves: compelling and clearly told. As you absorb the information and apply it to your own experience, you will find numerous ways you may act differently and avoid increasing the misunderstanding present in the world. However, you won’t become guilt-ridden, because as you examine the ways you were duped, you will be encouraged to be compassionate toward yourself as well as others.
It took us a while to write this review because of the density of the information. The extensive scholarly notes, references, and follow-up activities are valuable as resources for facilitators. We recognized many of the activities are similar to exercises used in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). Are We Done Fighting? could be the text for a semester-long course in helping people become more effective advocates for peaceful change in the world. We agree with Legge: “I really encourage using this book in a facilitated study and action group. Doing the exercises in a group will create an incredible chance to share the [peace] virus.”
Tom and Sandy Farley are members of Palo Alto (Calif.) Meeting, storytellers, AVP facilitators, volunteer booksellers with EarthLight, and co-authors of the curriculum Earthcare for Children.