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Peace and Tech: Part 6
Nemesis—Messenger of Justice, Dispenser of Dues
  • Humanity has unlocked five technological powers that people in the ancient world seemed to think only gods could possess.
  • For humanity to make sustainable progress toward peace, justice, survival, and prosperity in the twenty-first century, our five god-like technological powers must be recognized as critically important peace issues.
  • Metaphors from Greek Mythology show how the ongoing escalation of these technological powers requires an even greater escalation of our Peace Literacy.


Messenger of Justice, Dispenser of Dues

We use Nemesis as a metaphor for the need to counterbalance our technological powers with greater Peace Literacy.

Plato called Nemesis a messenger of justice. She and Hypnos have the same mother, Nyx, the goddess of night. In Greek mythology, Nemesis is a deity who restores balance by dispensing and collecting dues. In fact, her name in ancient Greek means "dispenser of dues.” She dispenses dues in the form of adverse consequences. But a person could also pay their dues, in the form of responsible behavior, so as not to invite her wrath.


Nemesis is an increasingly relevant metaphor in the 21st century. An example of Nemesis would be the dues we are required to pay when we have experienced psychological trauma. If we don’t pay these dues by working to heal our trauma, then Nemesis will try to extract these dues through a variety of signals that we  ignore at our own peril. Nemesis will also dispense consequences for not paying our dues. The consequences of unhealed trauma can assume many shapes and sizes, and can be very painful.


Nemesis requires dues in the form of personal responsibility, such as our personal responsibility to address our own trauma, but also in the form of societal responsibility, such as our society’s responsibility to take the epidemic of trauma seriously.


We live in a society where there is so much unhealed trauma, and most people are not given any tools for navigating the labyrinth of trauma.


The dues that our society owes to Nemesis involve creating an education system that empowers people to reduce the root causes of trauma, and sets them up for success in the challenging journey to heal their own trauma.

When our society and education system merely address the symptoms of trauma, rather than the root causes, the consequences of these unpaid dues can take many forms, since trauma has the power to fuel extremism, violence, polarization, addiction, racism, suicide, and destabilize families, communities, and democratic systems.

Nemesis also requires dues in the form of our broader responsibility as human beings. When we are not behaving responsibly toward our planet, this can result in many disastrous consequences. We must pay our dues through greater responsibility, greater understanding, and greater ethical evolution, which Peace Literacy helps us achieve.


Nemesis is often mischaracterized as a metaphor for mere angry vengeance. She is better understood as a metaphor for the need for responsibility, the balance created by responsibility, and the consequences of irresponsibility. According to philosopher Charles E. Scott, “Nemesis, in early myths . . . was not at all a flattened image of mere angry vengeance. She was a much more subtle sensibility of connection with measured consideration, knowing that offense carries consequences.”



Humanity Nemesis Acceleration.jpg

Nemesis is a metaphor for the gap in this diagram that shows the level of our Peace Literacy lagging far behind the level of our technology. Nemesis is also a metaphor for the consequences of this gap. To use the word with its more conventional meaning of "adversary," this gap and its consequences are humanity's greatest nemesis.


Our technological powers will continue to escalate in the coming years, and we must bridge this Nemesis Gap by escalating our Peace Literacy to an even greater extent, which will help us achieve greater responsibility, greater understanding, and greater ethical evolution. If we don’t pay our dues by increasing our Peace Literacy, the Nemesis Gap will be a debt that has increasingly significant consequences. If we don't counterbalance our god-like technological powers with Peace Literacy, the potential consequences include human extinction, along with forms of existence that are arguably worse than extinction.

© 2021 Paul K. Chappell

Note on Self-Compassion:

Because the human condition makes us fallible and vulnerable to shame and self-loathing, one of the dues that we have to pay is self-compassion.


Being human is like a road, and self-compassion is one of the tolls that we have to pay as we journey along this road. 

You can download a Discussion Guide for this series, here.

To learn more about how we can all work to escalate our Peace Literacy, some places to start include

  • our curriculum on developing our metis, named for Metis, the Greek goddess who symbolizes wisdom, discernment, and strategic thinking

  • our lessons on Aggression, Calm, and Respect

  • our series The Constellation of Peace

These and more are available for free on our curriculum page.

The Garden of Strong Community: An Allegory and Pictorial

Did you find this series illuminating?

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The Peace Literacy Institute designs curricular materials that anyone can download and use for free to support Peace Literacy in their schools and communities. We also provide education rates for our workshops so teachers can make the most effective use of the curriculum.

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Your contribution will sustain our work to spread Peace Literacy during a time when humanity needs it the most.

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