As we compiled our research for this book we had a chance to speak with people tackling social crisis at all levels, from world leaders and local community activists to CEOs and local NGOs. A pattern quickly became evident. The more dire the crisis - the higher the violence - the more progress came out of nurturing and understanding, not retaliation or policing.
In Israel, we met Major General Orna Barvivai, the first woman to be appointed as head of the Israeli Defense Force’s Manpower Directorate. Advances such as drones and satellites give soldiers lethal options that were once the stuff of science fiction. This power makes careful, informed decision-making all the most essential. As Maj. Gen. Barbivai pointed out, officers especially “have to have a broader perspective than what you see looking through a gun sight.” She told us that she often stations female soldiers at the front lines, as she believes they more readily use respectful communication and negotiation to avert violence. She advocates change with communication and forethought, not weapons.
On the other side of the world in Medellin, Columbia, a city long renowned for violence of every sort, citizens are reclaiming their city. To bring the city back together and connect poorer, crime infested neighborhoods to richer ones, officials designed and built a system of cables and gondolas that would shuttle people up and down the mountainside. They first line of the Metrocable, promoted with a code of behavior called Metrocable Culture, opened in 2004. The gleaming stations and cars became a source of civic pride, and hours-long commutes were reduced to minutes. Better still, the “culture” of cooperation and respect seemed to rub-off on people. At the stop for the J line, officials designated concrete walls to showcase an ever-changing mural of graffiti. They haven’t had a problem with graffiti on the Metrocable since it opened.
Two very different places with violent pasts are making progress through communication, empathy and forethought. Neither in Israel nor in Medellin would anyone think that armed guards at school would be a solution to anything.
We, of course, need to control the access to weapons. New York is paving the way by imposing tougher assault weapons bans and creating provisions to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who have expressed violent tendencies. But, as a society, we also need to take a deeper look to understand and address what fears and emotions are making people feel they need to own guns at all.