On Establishing Peace Journalism

by Mayumi Futamura

What speaks loudly? What do people want? A retirement savings plan that would guarantee a life "without a care"? A gas guzzling SUV so that you can carry anything you want and drive into the wilderness whenever you want? A great investment opportunity to sit back, relax, and watch your money "grow"? One TV commercial after another announces, "When you buy things, you will gain freedom and you win."

Political commentators warn that there is a widespread passive or apathetic attitude among people; we need more engaging, active citizens to keep democracy alive. Why are so many members of the young generation disengaged? The young generation is not interested in engaging in politics because of the value system upon which they are based. The young generations' rejection of the political process is rejection of the current values that are so engraved upon us.

The current lack of civic engagement in politics comes from the society's inability to focus on the core issues that are essential to the human family and the survival of the earth. Most young people know that we, as a human family, are not heading in the right direction but are unable to communicate their view in economic terms, and therefore their voices fall on deaf ears. They are frustrated because they are not sure what it is that they have to identify in order to help evolve society and the new generation.

What needs to be done in order to change the current value and our state of life from its reliance on material wealth? The society is longing for a leader who can envision the new value that is needed-- something that is so crucial to future generation but not yet articulated-- and then communicate it so as to inspire us on how to work towards what they are looking for. The society also needs social dialogue in order to fundamentally change the current value and norms. We as a human family need to adapt our focus on material wealth to incorporate the inner experience and spiritual well being.

In order to create this kind of dialogue, I would like to look at the potential of journalism. Journalism already plays a key role in identifying important issues for people, but it can be used as a tool for creating value in people's lives only when the motivational forces behind it focus on the value of human life before financial gain. Journalism can make people apathetic, powerless, or fearful, but at the same time, it can inspire people, make people reflect, and help people learn about others.

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, a Japanese peace activist, poet, and educator, writes: "We are faced with a 'new isolationism,' an identity crisis sparked by people's confusion and unease as the tide of globalization sweeps our world. ... What needs to be addressed is the underlying identity crisis, an understanding of the universe that explains the intrinsic nature, worth and potential of human life."

One might wonder what kind of journalism it is that would create waves of dialogue about the meaning of life and how a human family can live together harmoniously. I call it "Peace Journalism."

In the current news industry, newsworthiness means rare and unusual, controversial and/or provocative. In Peace Journalism, a news worthy subject is an event, person, or natural phenomenon that would communicate the value of life, and illustrate an indescribable world of inner experience to share. The mission of Peace Journalism is to inspire people and help them deepen the understanding of the meaning of life. Journalists and leaders in media outlets themselves need to grasp the unlimited potential of life and deep respect for life, for they cannot convey what they cannot see. In order to make Peace Journalism possible, we also need new vocabularies to validate the inner experience. Once such vocabularies established, they would offer a response to the prevalent economic vocabularies and enrich the discourse over what values to ground society upon.

In his 2004 Peace Proposal to the United Nations, Dr. Ikeda talks about a quality of self-mastery that grows from the effort to consider and understand the position of the "other," and how the self-mastery enables us to engage with others in an productive manner. He writes: "No efforts will gain the wholehearted support of people or succeed in bringing about lasting stability and peace without a spirit of self-mastery based on an acute awareness of the humanity of others--something that I consider to be the very essence of civilization. What is needed is not simply to repeat universal principles--that freedom and democracy are the fruits of civilization, for example. Our words need to be grounded in the spirit of self-mastery--the willingness to learn from the example of others and correct our behavior accordingly."

I am a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism and member of Soka Gakkai International. Buddhism teaches me a deep respect for life and about the unlimited potential of life. My Buddhist practice is my driving force to develop my inner-"self" as a person while encouraging others to do the same. "Laws and institutions are created by human beings. If we neglect the work of deepening and developing the inner character of individual human beings, even the finest system cannot be expected to function," writes Dr. Ikeda. I studied at Soka University that Dr. Ikeda founded. I am deeply influenced by Dr. Ikeda's work on peace, culture and education, thus I am motivated to work on peace and self-development.

I believe that one day, it will become a norm for organizations or corporations to have a peace consultant as society begins to recognize the need. And big media outlets, too, will soon need to have peace consultants to direct content to ensure coverage focused on peace creating, not money making.

Today, more and more the younger generations are seeking for the meaning of life and new values that help them understand it. I see many like-minded individuals who have natural concerns for others and desire to help others. The following is an excerpt from a poem written by a young musician, titled A Wealth of Information.

for surely our experience
must be addressed
when we try to plan out
what to do next

and by taking our experience
into account
we think of experience
in terms of amounts

now, considering all those
who'd like to be rich
and what would happen
if they all made the switch

from material wealth
as their aim and goal
to a wealth of experience
and a beautiful soul

I am confident that when the media start discussing important questions essential to one's spiritual fulfillment, many of the apathetic members of the young generation will respond.