Century Marks

Century Marks

Trying peace

Between 1900 and 2006 nonviolent campaigns against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to be successful as violent ones. Nonviolent campaigns also increase the likelihood that a peaceful, democratic government will emerge. Three characteristics of successful nonviolent campaigns are that they draw widespread and diverse participation, they elicit defections from the regime, and they employ flexible tactics. Spontaneous nonviolent campaigns are rarely successful; planning and coordination are required. Outside countries are often at a loss to know how best to support nonviolent movements for change. People within those movements know best what, if anything, from the outside could be useful (Foreign Affairs, July/August).

The prudent life

The quest for fame, fortune, and sexual variety is like getting hooked on drugs: once you have a little of it, you want more, and getting more leads to less happiness. Numerous academic studies are underscoring what religions have touted for millennia: it is better to give than to receive, and satisfaction doesn’t come from extrinsic benefits like material wealth but from intrinsic ones, such as better relationships with others. “Declaring war on these destructive impulses is not about asceticism or Puritanism,” says Arthur C. Brooks. “It is about being a prudent person who seeks to avoid unnecessary suffering” (New York Times, July 18).

Elder brew

To support its aging population, the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in central Massachusetts have built a brewery producing a light ale. The average age of the monks in the monastery is 70; the oldest is 90. A third of their community’s expenses goes to health care, and its 12-room infirmary is almost always full. The ale is based on a brew made by Trappist monks in Europe. The brewery is highly automated, since the aging monks aren’t able to do much manual labor (Reuters).

Unwanted message

President Obama continued the tradition of inviting Muslims to the White House for an iftar dinner, the meal with which Muslims break the Ramadan fast. Unlike in previous years, when the president made comments in solidarity with America Muslims, this year he turned to the conflict in the Middle East and underscored U.S. support of Israel’s right to defend itself—offending some in the room mindful of Palestinians, including many civilians, being killed in the war in Gaza (Al Jazeera, July 26).

Learning to care

A study conducted by Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd found that 80 percent of youths said their parents were more concerned about their achievements than whether they care for others. Weissbourd says children can and must be taught to be caring. He’s developed a five-point process for parents to teach and model caring for their children. Learning to care for others is like learning a sport: repetition helps. He recommends a daily ritual at bedtime, dinner, or while driving that expresses thanks for people who contribute positively in our lives. It’s also important to find ways of widening the circle of care to include people of other cultures and communities (Washington Post, July 18).