Archive for October, 2007

Making peace more compelling than war – by Rohit Patel – Salt Lake Tribune

Posted on October 21, 2007. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace |

We want to share with you a great article that calls for making peace more compelling than war. It was authored by Rohit Patel and published in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Making peace more compelling than war by Rohit Patel – 10/13/2007 – Salt Lake Tribune

“People try non-violence for a week, and when it ‘does not work’, they go back to violence which hasn’t worked for centuries.” – Theodore Roszak

Ever since I was invited to give a public lecture on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday in 2002 while the United States was gearing up for war in Iraq, this question has nagged me: Is non-violence really relevant in today’s world? Or is humanity doomed to ever recurring cycles of violence with brief interludes of what we call “peace”?

Although the events of 9/11 were so dramatic and so shocking to all of us living in the United States, the facts show that the past century was undoubtedly one of the most violent in human history. During the past century alone more than 100 million people have perished in warfare and 70 million have died through political violence.

A glance at the political realities in the world would suggest that the beginning of this century gives little cause for hope of a different outcome. So much for progress.

So, are we humans inherently violent, after all? Or do we have the capacity, the will and the skill to live peacefully? Some idealists throughout history have tried to brush conflicts under the carpet. Conflict persists, but it does not have to result in violence.

Research in the natural and the social sciences has shown that we are capable of both destructive and constructive responses to our differences. Conflict and peace are therefore both part of human nature and socialization. So our objective should be to devise sustainable means to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Unfortunately, war has become the means of first resort for some nations, and the embrace of violence as a legitimate means to pursue goals by one group conflicting with others seems to be on the rise nearly everywhere. But it is clear – as was impressed upon the world as the Treaty of Versailles officially ended World War I – that retribution of various sorts breeds more retribution and violence.

In the recent history of the Middle East, a former ally quickly becomes an enemy of the United States in the never-ending spiral of violence. War is not working, so why do we continue to invest our hopes, our dreams, our precious young lives and our other treasures in it?

A sinister development of the advanced technological age is that the mass violence is more widely available, easier and faster than ever before. In addition, we have many means of “marketing” violence, including in our popular culture; yet most of us remain distant from it when war occurs.

So, war can appear much like a giant video game to those lucky enough not to be in the midst of it.

Thus, another question is: How do we make peace even more compelling? Let us look at a few examples.

In Northern Ireland nearly four decades of violent conflict could not settle anything. Sheer exhaustion, the vision of a few leaders, and the intervention of third parties has now brought some hope of lasting peace. The genocides in Rwanda and Burundi of 1994 made reconciliation seem hopeless; yet, a new culture of peacemaking is emerging there today.

Now let’s examine the alternative of non-violence outlined and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and then later on adopted by many throughout the world such as Martin Luther King Jr., Lech Walesa, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Cesar Chavez and many others.

At the core of Gandhi’s approach is an unshakable trust in the strength of the human spirit as opposed to brute force. In any conflict he tried to understand the enemy and put an implicit trust in the opponent’s human nature, “seeking to put an end to the antagonism, not the antagonist.” Gandhi rejected the doctrine of retaliation: “If we follow ‘an eye for an eye’ then soon the whole world will go blind.”

Wherever this method has been applied – from achieving the independence of India, to the African American civil rights movement in the United States, to forgiveness in post-Apartheid South Africa, to the overthrow of the dictatorial regime in Chile – non-violence has proven not only realistic but sustainable.

But, practice of non-violence has in too few cases been given a chance. So, what can we do here and now?

– Urge our political leaders to use restraint and wisdom even where force is contemplated.
– Become immune to fear-mongering from political leaders.
– Refuse to demonize the enemy or to confuse a leader for his/her entire people.
– Challenge the spread of violence in our lives, wherever we see it lurking.
– Challenge the assumptions underlying every temptation to use brute force to resolve conflicts.
– Refuse to be identified along a single dimension whether it is by race, religion, culture or nationality; reaffirm love of humanity.
– Whenever possible, engage in dialogue with those who are different or even thought to be adversaries.

* ROHIT PATEL is a retired business executive living in Utah. He was born in India and grew up during the years when India gained independence. His father lived and worked with Mahatma Gandhi for many years.

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