Dr. Choichiro Yatani , professor of Psychology in the Social & Behavioral Sciences Department at Alfred State, recently attended the Oxford Round Table, a five-day international conference at The University of Oxford, England. Entitled “The Enemy Manufactured: Nationalism, Religious Fundamentalism and Nuclear Weapons,” he presented his peace psychology research, an empirical and theoretical study of “the deadly cocktail” of the three variables, to the forum on public policy. His conference trip was funded by an Alfred State Faculty Scholarship Grant and SUNY’s United University Professions’ (UUP) Individual Development Award.
The reception and opening dinner began with remarks by Canon Brian Mountford, Vicar of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, for 25 years, and Dr. Charles Mould, the former secretary of the Bodleian Library (c. 1320) and Fellow, St. Cross College, Oxford. The facilitator of the forum, Dr. Mountford, has just published Christian Atheist – belonging without believing.
Seventeen experts and scholars selected by the forum organizers introduced themselves along with their specialties of religion, education, linguistics, law, political science, cultural anthropology, psychology, biology, and business administration. The topics ranged from “Arab Spring in North Africa,” “Iran and the World Order,” “Israel’s and Palestine’s Futures,” “Religion and Politics,” “Religion and Public Schools,” “Religious Fundamentalism and Nuclear Power,” and “Interfaith: Art and Belief.”
Yatani’s paper first reviewed Americans’ nuclear disarmament movement in the early 1980s. He briefly summarized four variables: nationalism, anti-Soviet/Russians, knowledge of nuclear weapons (the lack thereof), and powerlessness, as responsible for the discrepancy between high anti-nuclear sentiments and low anti-nuclear actions; and, he also indicated a turning point of American politics under the Reagan presidency in the 1980s which characterized the Americans’ strong nationalism coupled with anti-Sovietism/anti-Russians and the military buildups, conventional and nuclear weapons, as best symbolized by the height of the Cold War. Yatani argues, “Psychologically speaking, the nationalistic, anti-Soviet/anti-Russian sentiments were politically convenient and powerful not only to mobilize hostility abroad but also to undermine progressive social policies and suppress labor unions and peace movements at home as ‘liberals’ opposed to ‘conservatives,’ those against Reagan presidency inspiring the strong America. This Cold War mentality still permeates in our national politics even after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
“The rise of religious fundamentalism was another characteristic during the Reagan presidency. Ronald Reagan’s presidential election campaigns were supported by fundamentalist preachers and their congregations (e.g., Moral Majority, The Christian Coalition, and The Christian Right). In return, it appears President Reagan used the religious terms for the “enemy” Soviet Union, “’evil’ empire,” in his speech to the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983. Twenty years before, the US Supreme Court had prohibited state-sanctioned prayer in public schools in 1962 and mandatory Bible reading in public schools in 1963 while the US was at Vietnam War abroad and faced anti-war and civil rights movements at home. It is of little doubt to affirm that the United States witnessed a strong association between religion and politics during the Reagan presidency despite its long-time Constitutional commitment to the separation of church and state since the founding of the Republic.”
Through his peace research and his teaching psychology for over 30 years, Professor Yatani suggests internationalism over nationalism, an emphasis on global studies and diversity in practice, and encourages pursuit of academic excellence in higher education, which he believes would be a formidable force against anti-intellectualism deeply associated religious fundamentalism. At the end of his presentation at the Oxford Round Table, he pointed out a salient phenomenon in the Republican presidential campaigns between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, a revival of the 1980s in which both candidates admire President Reagan and his economic policy—Reaganomics and their strong suggestions toward the US military intervention over Iran’s nuclear threats while the US is still haunted but has not solved what A Nation at Risk by the US Department of Education (1983) revealed during the Reagan presidency. The United States’ educational system is failing to meet the national need for a competitive workforce and the foundation of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.
Dr. Yatani’s first forum appearance was at its 20th anniversary in 2008 on “Civilization at Risk: Seeds of Strife” and gave a talk entitled “American Images of the Enemy: With Us or Against Us.” His paper was published in 2009 in K. Alexander (Ed.), Terrorism and global insecurity: A multidisciplinary perspective (New York: Linton Atlantic Books, Inc.).
Find out more about the Oxford Round Table at http://www.oxfordroundtable.com/ .