PEACE: A New Definition
A transcript of Rinaldo Brutoco’s acceptance speech, UNA-SB Peace Prize. October 24, 2017
RINALDO BRUTOCO: I thank you all for coming tonight and supporting UNA. I really appreciate it. I’ve been involved with this actually at the national level for more than two decades. It’s really great to connect with the local level of it, and to have friends like Emeliano, who I know well, to be up here with me is really an honor. Thank you, Emeliano.
Two things, one, the name Maryanne Kelly came up earlier tonight. For those of you who don’t know Maryanne Kelly, she was a very special lady. I didn’t know, Barbara, that we had her in common. She was a very special lady, and we all miss her deeply. I did not know that you and I had her in common. It’s kind of like she had these different lives. I was the person she picked to try and help her husband’s technology get deployed through the World Business Academy. Amazing man, her husband.
The second thing I want to just observe as we start tonight, the men’s choir sang that song, He’s Just A Boy, from Les Miserables. Les Miserables was written by Victor Hugo. Victor Hugo is also extremely well known for having observed that nothing, nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. That’s sort of where we ought to start tonight. Peace is an idea whose time has come. I’ll tell you a short story about Winston Churchill. In the Battle of Britain … And I’m sharing this with you because I think there’s a lot of darkness around the edges of not only US society, but increasing global society. Since I’m an optimist at heart, I’d love to share this story with you about Winston Churchill.
In the middle of the Battle of Britain, which as you recall was when the bombs were coming down, and Luftwaffe was literally destroying the town, and buzz bombs and V2 rockets were hitting, and London was on flames. Hitler actually had all of his troops poised on the channel to invade. You forget that that’s how the war started for the British. At one point, Churchill, who was a very famous alcoholic, you could tell the time of day by the bottle on his desk. Literally, that is not a joke, because he finished one fifth a day. So if you knew where he was in the bottle, you knew what time it was. Some people say that’s why he was as equanimous about the idea of perhaps defeating the Germans, even though there was no possibility he could do that, or so it was thought.
In the middle of this flaming mess called London, Churchill emerges out of the rubble, and a reporter runs up to him with a microphone. “Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister, what shall we do? Hitler stands poised on the channel to invade. Rockets are destroying the city. London is in flames. What shall we do?” Churchill looked at him and said, “We shall be victorious, of course.” We shall be victorious, of course. “Mr. Churchill, how could you … Mr. Prime Minister, how could you say that?” He said, “The opposite conclusion’s absolutely unthinkable.” The opposite conclusion of peace is absolutely unthinkable. That’s why there is a UNA, because the opposite conclusion is unthinkable. We have to have peace.
Pope Francis, in his famous May 24th, 2015 encyclical, Laudato si, which means praise to you in Latin, but the subtitle was On Care For Our Environment. What he wrote in that was, he said that the environment is now a moral issue. How do these two tie together? How does Pope Francis, who by the way based his encyclical on the work of St. Francis many centuries earlier, how does that inform who we are today? The answer, I think to that is, he correctly identified that environmental crisis that we’re going through absolutely impacts the poorest of the poor the worst. The people who pay the biggest price for environmental degradation are usually the people on the very bottom of the socioeconomic scale.
Here’s a number: 6 plus million people today are displaced in Syria alone. That started, if you don’t know it, from an environmental crisis, well documented now by the World Press, that that’s how the rebellion started against Assad, was because he wouldn’t let them have enough water in the third year of a drought. The farmers took up rifles, and that’s what started the Syrian conflict, and 6 million people are displaced today. An additional five to seven million have been displaced in Myanmar, Africa, in fact, the Middle East, of course, apart from Syria. 198,000 children unaccompanied by an adult alone came to Europe this year, 2016, actually. 198,000 unaccompanied children. Millions fled as refugees because of climate crisis.
How does that inform what we’re doing here tonight? I think the way it informs it is, we have to recognize that we need a new definition of peace. The definition of peace, which we would’ve been willing to settle for a decade or two ago, was peace is the absence of armed conflict. But we now know that’s not true. We now know that peace is not just the absence of armed conflict, peace is something much, much bigger than that. Peace is the ability to live your life, preferably in your homeland, undistressed by warring nations, marauding … In this case that would be Isis … Marauding bands of warlords. It would be the ability to live from your heart, connecting with the hearts of others without the threat of personal or collective violence, and with the belief that tomorrow will in fact be a better day. That’s the new definition of peace.
It can’t happen in a world which is on fire, literally, which is why I say why Pope Francis is so critical to this logic, to this thinking. I’d like to share with you an observation about what I think we can do in the business academy and in this room. I believe that two things have to happen. Number one, we have to embrace this broader definition. I am an optimist. How many people in the room receive the Optimist Daily, just show me by hands, a few. Okay. You’re all allowed to get it for free, which is the right price. Barbara told you I work for free. Nobody underbids you when you work for free. Anybody who wants, please write email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send you a free subscription to the Optimist Daily.
What is that? It’s a publication that comes to your desk every day, with five short lines of stories that actually are so positive, you didn’t know they were happening, or you didn’t pay attention. One of them today was about Jon Kabat Zinn, who happens to be a good friend of mine, and about how in the last 40 years, Jon has basically created the concept of mindfulness. That work he has done has now imbued every major corporation in the world with a different definition of how they hold what they do and how they do it.
The World Business Academy is about taking that level of awareness, that level of consciousness out into the world and helping things happen that business is uniquely capable of doing. That’s how I got involved with helping to start the National Peace Academy, that’s how we got involved with starting Just Capital, and a dozen other organizations that the Academy helps for free, and spins off, and they become their own thing. The reason for that is because if business takes its talent, its skill, its training, and applies it to the most fundamental questions of society, and does it from a point of view of service to society, we all win. Frankly, we shouldn’t accept anything less. We shouldn’t.
We’ll be publishing again on December 12st. Forbes will be publishing the next issue of the Just Capital index. What we’ve done is we’ve ranked the 1,000 largest companies in America by public stocks, and we’ve ranked them in 7 categories of what makes them just or not just, based on what 74,000 Americans told us they thought just was. What we’re trying to do with that listing, and we’re delighted that Forbes has signed on again this year. Fortune magazine has signed on this year. What we’re doing, is we’re trying to come up with a new definition of what business does, which runs parallel to this new definition of peace.
You see, if peace is about more than the absence of conflict, business is about more than the making of profit. They’re parallel. I really hope that as we think about these themes, these twin themes, that we don’t give business the pass any longer of saying, “Well, they’re just there to make money, and that’s not what they do.” That’s not right. We don’t have time tonight, but I would love to take you through a conversation of how corporations came to exist, starting with the salt monopoly under Louis XIV going through the Virginia Company that did Jamestown, all the way through to the current corporate environment we have, and how each iteration has become a further distortion of the original premise that a corporation exists to serve society. Any corporation that does not exist to serve society, in my definition, is illegitimate.
It doesn’t mean you got to be at the front of every parade, but it means if you don’t pay your employees a livable wage, that’s not legitimate. It means the rest of us are paying for those employees. If you aren’t willing to look at the damage you do to the environment, that’s not legitimate because then we are paying with a planet that literally is on fire. My suggestion and my hope is, that not only can we see that this is what business has to be about, because frankly our political institutions simply can’t keep up with the speed of change. Without attacking the current administration, because it doesn’t really need to be attacked, it does a good job of attacking itself. Without looking at the appalling lack of integrity in the Congress, or frankly the fact that only 6% of the American public trusts or likes the Congress, which is an interesting statistic in a democracy.
Without looking at any of that, if you say, “Okay, where can we go if we’re going to change this mess? If we’re going to take and re-stabilize the biosphere.” This new definition of peace is about how we integrate with each other as humans, how we resonate, and how we integrate and resonate with the biosphere. That’s the new definition of peace. Business has an absolute responsibility to lead that because it deals best with change, and change is the thing that’s killing us. Not that it exists. Since Heraclitus, change has always existed and been observed. It’s the speed of the change. We’re having trouble staying up with the speed of the change.
What we need to do with this new definition of peace, and with this new responsibility from business, is we have to say, “Okay, we are up for this.” I mentioned the Optimist Daily because I’m an optimist. I’ve said this for 25-30 years as I’ve studied some of the most intractable problems on the planet, and I’ve looked at stuff that you really wouldn’t want to even think about. As I look at it, I keep coming up with the same conclusion. We could solve that. Oh, we could solve that. Oh, we could solve that. I concluded awhile back, there is no single challenge on the face of the earth I’ve ever heard about, read about, or seen, and I read a lot. I’ve never heard, read about, or seen any challenge on the face of the planet that we cannot solve with today’s technology and resources. Period.
For example, the Academy developed a thing four years ago, where we said to the highest levels of the California State government, “We can get to 100% green energy in 10 years or less at no additional cost to the rate payers,” that’s you and me. When we said that four and a half years ago, we got laughed at. Three and a half years ago we got curiosity. Two years ago we got, “Is that possible?” Now, the California Energy Commission, as recently as three weeks ago, said, “Sounds right to us. Let us see how you can do that.” Why is that important? Well, the Academy stopped Ellwood Peaker Plant. We took that on because it was frankly a social justice issue. How can you put on a peaker plant, that’s basically a giant jet engine on concrete blocks, that spews noxious gases and particulate matter as it’s exhausting, 800 feet from a grammar school? How do you do that?
I went to San Francisco, I saw this, people from Southern California, I said, “How can you do that? How do you sleep with yourself at night if you do something like that?” I got the answer back two weeks later. “That’s not our responsibility.” I said, “Wait a minute. Do you have kids? Do you have nieces, nephews, grandchildren? Anybody you like that’s under 12?” It’s a grammar school for god sakes. They said, “Well, but you see it’s not our responsibility. We supply electricity, and that’s where the plant is so it’s going to keep running.” We stopped it. I got to tell you, when we started that case I did not think we could win. I really thought what we were just doing was living up to that old Spartan adage “Come back with your shield, Or on it.” I thought we were going to come back on our shield. We won that case. We got the PUC to stop it.
Then we went after the Puente Peaker Plant. And for those of you who don’t know what the Puente Peaker Plant, this is another social justice issue. The city of Oxnard is 73% people of color. Can you imagine the state of California attempting to build something that would last for 30 years, which is going to burn fossil fuels and putting it here on Stearns Wharf? We don’t do that to white people. That’s the truth. We don’t do that to white people. We do it to brown, yellow, and black people. We stick it in their neighborhood, and that’s why it’s a social justice issue. People were willing to walk away from that, is absolutely immoral and to me, the definition of the antithesis of peace. You cannot have peace in your heart and walk away from that just because you’re white.
We won’t have peace among nations if we walk away from those things. We have to embrace these challenges. We fought Puente, we lost. We fought, we lost. We fought, we lost. We finally won three weeks ago when the California Energy Commission said, “You know, it sounds right. Maybe we can do this without fossil fuel. Maybe there is a way with the combination of photovoltaic and storage, you could replace 263 megawatts.” That’s a big amount of power, which we had represented to the commission. We could replace 350 megawatts if we need to and do it all with photovoltaic. What keeps that from happening? Unfortunately, mostly business. Why I’m intertwining these two thoughts is because I want you all to know that what we’ve come to expect of business is too low. We have to raise the standard. We have to demand of the business community that it act not only with competence, but with a compassion for the communities within which it operates. It is absolutely essential.
When we do that, what happens is you not only get to stop a Peaker Plant here or there, or in our case San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, and Diablo, which now will close within seven years worst case. Yesterday, literally yesterday, we filed the final brief on Diablo to try and close it next year. Don’t know if we’re going to win, but we filed it. Kirk Boyd, is he here? Kirk is our chief lawyer on this case.
The reason I’m mentioning this, and why I’m going to this length, is to try and weave a new awareness that you can hold that if your expectations of business are higher, they will rise to meet them. If you change your awareness, your consciousness, of the definition of peace as the place within you that resonates within the place within me, where we all are divine, where we’re all conscious, where we’re all just one. If you can expand that definition, what happens is not only peace among each other, or in the case of Oxnard and Ellwood, peace amongst communities. Or in the case of California, peace amongst an extended group of 37 million people. You actually get to peace amongst nations.
You won’t get there, I’m afraid, I believe, if we wait for the politicians to lead us because they’re so confused. They really aren’t capable of leading in a period of rapid change. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said it best. “You never step twice in the same stream,” meaning, when you step in it, it’s a new stream. Change, he observed, has always been here. That’s not the problem, as I noted earlier. The problem is the speed of change. That speed of change is causing our entire political system to basically go into catatonic reaction. It is frozen. So, we cannot expect them to lead us. We must lead them.
The best way to lead them is to lead through business because if we can push on the business community, to create the outcomes we know are just, to create the outcomes which we think are the new definition of peace, if we can do that, if we have the courage, and the tenacity, and the staying power to do that, we will turn this around. That’s why I’m an optimist.
I’m going to read you a quote from Albert Schweitzer. I think he said best what I’m trying to suggest tonight. The quote is, “Until…” Forgive the gender bias here, ladies, but it’s how they did it when Albert was alive. “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not find himself at peace.” It’s the compassion to all living things. That includes the biosphere with which we are one.
What can I ask you to do tonight? Well, I’d like to make a couple of requests. Obviously in recognition of this evening and all the work that Barbara’s done, I’d like for you to support UNA. I’d love you to support The World Business Academy. Lord knows there’s too few of us out there in the trenches and we can use all the help we can get.
I definitely urge you to do all the little obvious small things like take out that free subscription to Optimist Daily, and find yourself asking yourself this question every morning. If I embrace the new definition of peace, what would I do next? How would today look? It turns out, that day is a brighter day than looking to see how you can stop violence from occurring. I do believe that as consciousness shifts, violence will become less prevalent. Professor Pinker at Harvard, by the way, interesting statistic, do you know that the violent crime rate in the United States today is about 50% of what it was in 1991? Pretty interesting. By the way, it’s ticked up in the last two years, murder rate in Chicago and some other places have caused that number to go up. But it’s still below 50%.
You don’t think of it that way because of what you read in the newspapers, what you see on TV. But you see, if we shift our consciousness, what they will do, business which includes media, will begin to shift its consciousness. As it does, everything around you changes. We have this saying in the Academy for 30 years, “There’s nothing you can change, literally there’s nothing you can change, but yourself.” It’s remarkable, however, when you change yourself it seems like everything changes around you.
The other thing I’m going to ask you to do, apart from supporting the UN association like I do, and I think it’s a great organization. I think we should, and I really believe that we have to think globally and act locally. I’d like to say that the biggest thing you can do is to make the following promise, which I found many years ago by an anonymous author by the way. I never could figure out who wrote this. I’ve taken a lot of consolation over the years, again and again I’ve read it. Let me tell you what the promise says. Here’s an interesting promise to take.
“Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind, to take your health and happiness and prosperity to every person you meet and share it. To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. To think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of the past, and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give everyone you meet a smile. To give so much time to the improvement of yourself you’ve no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” That’s peace.