A human approach to world peace
is a week when we as a nation face another defining moment in our
history. Some of the most ‘powerful’ nations of the world have chosen to
‘judge’ us and our elected leaders, on our own chosen way in seeking to
examine and move ahead placing conflict, insecurity and fear behind us.
Some of us see this move, its intent and timing as being ‘irrational
and hypocritical’, while others see it as an attempt to deliver ‘due
process of justice and accountability.’ These views determined by which
side of the fence of judgement one stands is without doubt self-serving
and calls for some meditative reflection.
Today, my column is intended to be such a call for reflection of what
happens around us. It is a call to all, to wade through the cobwebs in
our own minds and of our thought processes to take a true back to basics
look at it all with due diligence. To do this, I drew my column title
and much of its content from a message His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
delivered on world peace some time ago.
Salt on wound
No matter what systems of religious faith we belong to, there should
be no doubt at all, that following the basic needs of water and food,
living without fear in a peaceful environment, to be the other most
vital need in human existence.
Ironically, it is that very need that seems to elude us, for there is
conflict created by humans themselves, when nations, societies, and
communities driven by their leaders, choose to set themselves against
each other with no regard what-so-ever for the suffering, anxiety,
sorrow and pain such creates for those without the ability or power to
determine its design or outcome.
Where there should be the four immeasurable virtues of loving
kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity guiding us, we see thriving
among us; hatred, intolerance, fear and mightiness. Conflict seem to
serve those who create it, much like the lucre gained described in the
idiomatic expression of 'rubbing salt into the beggar’s wound.'
Fear and tension
The Dalai Lama began his message with the observation “when we rise
in the morning and listen to the radio or read the newspaper, we are
confronted with the same sad news: violence, crime, wars and disasters.
I cannot recall a single day without a report of something terrible
happening somewhere. Even in these modern times it is clear that one's
precious life is not safe. No former generation has had to experience so
much bad news as we face today; this constant awareness of fear and
tension should make any sensitive and compassionate person question
seriously the progress of our modern world.”
The world indeed boasts of the rapid development and advancement seen
in our midst in the post world war period and he sees it being “ironic
that the more serious problems emanate from the more industrially
advanced societies. Science and technology have worked wonders in many
fields, but the basic human problems remain.
There is unprecedented literacy, yet this universal education does
not seem to have fostered goodness, but only mental restlessness and
discontent instead. There is no doubt about the increase in our material
progress and technology, but somehow this is not sufficient as we have
not yet succeeded in bringing about peace and happiness or in overcoming
The innovation and development of the nuclear bomb he says is “by far
the greatest single danger facing humankind - in fact, to all living
beings on our planet - is the threat of nuclear destruction.
I need not elaborate on this danger, but I would like to appeal to
all the leaders of the nuclear powers who literally hold the future of
the world in their hands, to the scientists and technicians who continue
to create these awesome weapons of destruction, and to all the people at
large who are in a position to influence their leaders: I appeal to them
to exercise their sanity and begin to work at dismantling and destroying
all nuclear weapons. We know that in the event of a nuclear war there
will be no victors because there will be no survivors! Is it not
frightening just to contemplate such inhuman and heartless destruction?”
In spite of promises made to create a weapons free world, we still
observe that the world’s most powerful nation has allocated 57 percent
(as per US President’s proposed discretionary budget for 2013) for
spending on the military. While due to pressure from Russia, new nuclear
missile launching capabilities to have been established in Eastern
Europe were withdrawn, the threats from Israel on pre-emptive strikes on
Iran, the unsettled conflicts and disputes in Iraq, Libya and many other
countries in the region seem to only indicate that we live in dangerous
times. China, in this backdrop has also chosen to increase its defence
spending for the upcoming budget year by 11 per cent.
A better future?
No matter what may happen around us, I am sure that most among us
would want to retain feelings of hope we have for all human-kind and at
a more intimate level for each of us, the new-born and the to-be-born.
Yet, what has already happened around us, happening now and may
happen in the future, should keep us in constant vigil. It is
encouraging that we see such vigilance demonstrated on a daily basis on
social media on the Internet, where hundreds of thousands participate on
dedicated Blogs and Groups, sharing their knowledge of what we do not
usually read, see or hear on conventional media. They help by keeping a
watchful-eye on wrong-doings in our midst and go on questioning what is
accepted to be conventional wisdom.
Following Dalai Lama’s words, I would like to revisit the wisdom of
the Native American Chief Seattle when he had these inspiring words on
the value of being one with nature. “Man did not weave the web of life -
he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to
himself”, he said. He went on to add “You must teach your children that
the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that
they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich
with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our
children; that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth
befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit
upon themselves”. He added “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth
of the land? The idea is strange to us (the American Indian nation). If
we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how
can you buy them? Every part of the earth is sacred to my people” and
made the plea “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”
I am also reminded of a line John Steinbeck wrote in his 1954 novel
‘Sweet Thursday’, that says a lot about us humans and our imprudent
ways. He wrote “Man is the only kind of varmint who sets his own trap,
baits it and then steps into it”. There were many others who had similar
sentiments and thought I must share some of them with you.
In Rachel Carson’s words “The more clearly we can focus our attention
on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall
have for destruction.” Mark Twain warned that “Civilization is a
limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities”.
Mahatma Gandhi’s words “Speed is irrelevant if you are going in the
wrong direction” focused on choosing the right way and Arthur
Schopenhauer opined that “All truth passes through three stages: first
it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted
as being self-evident.”
In 1982, US political activist Ralph Nadar said “The use of solar
energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the
sun” and US bureaucrat James G Watt said, “They kill good trees to put
out bad newspapers.”
In a true human endeavour of seeking world peace, each of these words
of wisdom has a definitive influence. It is for each of us as
individuals and in collectives as community, society and nations to
reflect on them to seek true reconciliation, justice and peace.
Peace devoid of hatred that begets more hatred but a peace based on
loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.