Daisaku Ikeda’s partner in this dialogue is the peace scholar and activist Dr. Kevin P. Clements, foundation chair and director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Clements has served in key positions in several international peace research and conflict resolution institutions and as an adviser to various governments on conflict prevention and security issues. Subsequent to the completion of this dialogue (it was initially serialized in the Japanese monthly literary publication Ushio in 2013 and 2014), he was appointed director of the Toda Peace Institute, which was founded by Ikeda in 1996.
Near the beginning of their discussion, Ikeda suggests that he would like, together with Clements, to outline a program of action by and for people that “is effective in overcoming the barriers presented by the harsh realities that [humanity is] facing.” Their discussion over twelve chapters provides ample inspiration for such action as well as for reflection.
Similarly, Clements early on perceptively remarks that what is missing from much of the current international political debate about how to deal with global challenges “is a vision of what a just and peaceful world might look like.” In the course of their discussion, the contours of such a vision become increasingly and inspiringly clear—both with regard to a vision of necessary social change, as well, and perhaps more compellingly, with regard to a vision of how, as individuals, we can and must take action for and embody peace. Such a vision arises as much from the life examples of the authors as what they focus their discussion on.
Clements was born in New Zealand directly after World War II. During the war, his father conscientiously objected to being conscripted in the belief that “evil could not conquer evil.” As a consequence, he was imprisoned and for some time after the war his family experienced active discrimination, with local shopkeepers refusing to serve them. As a boy, Clements joined his father in peace rallies and recounts their searching discussions on questions of peace and social justice.
As a teenager during the Cold War, Clements resolved to travel to the UK to join Bertrand Russell’s anti-war organization. He was dissuaded and instead left school early to enroll in university, where his strong intellectual curiosity about the dynamics of social life and cooperation led to PhD in Sociology. His descriptions in several places of figures in his academic and professional life and what he learned from them are a substantive aspect of the wisdom imparted by the book.
New Zealand has been a pioneer in many aspects of peace and social justice. It was the first country to adopt women’s suffrage, the first Western bloc country to officially adopt a nuclears-weapon-free policy and is pioneering with regard to its social welfare and human rights policies. Several of the chapters begin, at Ikeda’s prompting, with an exploration of the particular socio-cultural or historical circumstances of the country that fostered these outcomes. The conversation, however, usually quickly branches out into broader or more personal questions of peace, with each chapter illuminating various facets of peace.
A discussion on relations between New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people and the non-indigenous Pakeha becomes a lens through which to consider education for global citizenship.
The chapter titled “The Bonds Between Pacific Neighbors” begins with a brief consideration of the role and potential of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) governmental forum before segueing into a point on Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s view on the socio-political influence of oceans. From here, it becomes a conversation about preventing war that takes in New Zealanders’ cultural perceptions of Japan, the Japanese war tribunals and the brutalizing effects of war. It includes a poignant wartime experience shared with Clements by the Nobel scientist and anti-nuclear activist Dr. Joseph Rotblat, and Clements’ recounting of his own father’s grappling with pacifist beliefs in the face of Hitler’s death camps. US Senator J. William Fulbright’s motivations for establishing the famous academic exchange program in the wake of the atomic bombing of Japan are highlighted and Clements movingly recalls a memorable all-night conversation in his youth at a Japanese hot spring.
The dialogue, never dry or academic, and neither frivolous nor superficial, is always strongly grounded in the lives and experience of the authors and the genuine passion for peace and justice that they share.