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Beyond War: Movement Takes Disarming Approach to World Tensions

September 15, 1985|KATHLEEN HENDRIX | Times Staff Writer

The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. --Albert Einstein, 1946

The people involved in Beyond War--A New Way of Thinking are working to correct that. They are out to change themselves. They are out to change you. By so doing, they think they can save the world.

They hope to do all this through education. They believe that if they can persuade enough people that all war is obsolete and that all life is interconnected, people will rise to the challenge that this new knowledge brings and act accordingly. Such a population will put an end to the arms race and prevent any government from warring.

Seems vague, abstract and idealistic to the extreme? Consider that in three years this movement has grown from about 60 or 70 people in Los Angeles and Palo Alto involved in Beyond War's predecessor, the Creative Initiative Foundation, to today's staff of 400 full-time unpaid workers and 8,000 active supporters devoting large amounts of time to the organization. They are at work in 12 key states, and have targeted another 12 "start-up" states.

With no dues and an operating budget of $2 million, most of which they say comes in contributions of less than $100, they are only now getting started on fund-raising, soliciting tax-deductible contributions to the nonprofit educational foundation as "investing in a world beyond war."

Their International Task Force has taken their message abroad, including a trip that 11 Silicon Valley executives took last November to the Soviet Union and Hungary.

They established a Beyond War Award in 1983, appointed a prestigious selection committee, commissioned Steuben Glass to sculpt a representation of the world, and awarded the first one to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for its 1983 pastoral letter on war.

Last December, the second Beyond War Award went to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. It was presented simultaneously to its co-presidents, Dr. Yevgeni Chazov of the Soviet Union and Dr. Bernard Lown of the United States. Chazov was in a Moscow television studio; Lown was in a San Francisco auditorium. And Beyond War was in both places by means of a televised space bridge that connected both cities by satellite, only the sixth such time the two countries had been hooked up.

With live audiences in both cities and links to several American cities, including Los Angeles, the award ceremony was witnessed by 100,000 people. Speeches, music, children's choirs and emotional greetings between the Russians and the Americans--it was a visibly moving, at times joyous, experience for participants and spectators.

Television producer Mel Swope (with his wife, Judie, a devoted Beyond War activist) made an hourlong documentary of the ceremony. The documentary is being aired during September on 268 public television stations across the country.

Last January in New York, 72 ambassadors to the United Nations attended a special Beyond War presentation on the effects of a "nuclear winter," where testimony was given by American scientist Carl Sagan and Soviet scientist Segei Kapitsa.

At the core of Beyond War's activities are the presentations it makes, followed by orientations.

"We're not looking for members," said Jim Burch, with his wife, Wileta, coordinator for Southern California. A former senior executive with the Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn advertising agency who left to work full time for Beyond War, he explained, "We are not looking for people to join anything. We just want them to change their lives."

The presentation:

It is a balmy Sunday evening in Westwood and a dozen or so people are milling around Edith and Ray Wallenstein's living room, drinking mineral water, lining up for the buffet, introducing themselves to each other. The mood is pleasant, friendly but somewhat subdued.

This is often the scene at the Wallensteins. She is a sculptor and he an attorney. One way they can involve themselves in Beyond War, they said, is to give their Westwood home over to such gatherings, providing not only the place but a buffet supper or refreshments.

On this particular night, health-care professionals had been invited. Kent and Marilyn Pelz would be making the presentation. Kent is director of advertising for California Federal Savings and Loan. Marilyn quit her job as a mathematics teacher at the Marlborough School last year so that she could volunteer full time for Beyond War.

Warning Reiterated

Supper over, guests settle on couches, Einstein's warning is reiterated. Kent Pelz, a man who seems both calm and full of energy at the same time, stands in front of the brick fireplace, a zinc wash tub at his feet, holding a plastic canister filled with BBs.

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