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Peace
by Pavalamani Pragasam Bookmark and Share
 

'Peace', in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's words 'is a precious commodity, necessary for any progress'. The problem of maintaining peace in the modern world is a baffling one. Wars and rumors of wars have cast black shadows on the lives of twenty first century men and women. If wars become a permanent feature of international life, if we are to live in this tense atmosphere of constant dread and preparedness, civilization will suffer a permanent blackout. War does not offer solution to our wants. On the contrary, it brings in its train unspeakable human tragedy and suffering.

Some nations are apt to believe that war is an inevitable evil, like acts of God, occurrences in accordance with laws of Nature, something utterly impersonal. But this certainly is not so. War, by no means, is a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake. Very many centuries ago, in the beginning of civilization war was necessary to overcome the barbarians who came upon a nation like a horde of locusts. Later on, in the Middle Ages, it was fashionable for the knights to take up arms and to take part in war for the sake of prestige and chivalry. War was the sport of kings and the game of the upper classes. Their objectives were wealth and honors. This love for excitement is deeply embedded in the social system. The adventure for war still continues to be attractive. When we find that an institution, for which we have acquired a taste, is no longer necessary, we do not like to give it up and so we invent fictitious reasons for following it. Hunting is just another such institution. Man before he learnt cultivation of land, hunted the animals for his livelihood as well as for his protection. But hunting had been such a firmly rooted custom, that men could not stop hunting, even after agriculture came into existence and the animals were domesticated; so we began to pursue it as a sport.

Similarly when war became unnecessary man's nature stood against the uprooting of such an ingrained basic idea. He tried to seek reasons for prolonging his fixed mental habit. He began to worship this military tradition and craved for power and success. Since human nature is essentially plastic, we can hope to shake off this seemingly necessary evil from our social system. Just as cannibalism, head-hunting, witch-burning and duels are regarded as anti-social, war should also be considered as a monstrous evil.

Modern warfare will certainly not settle the differences of opinion among different nations. It will only end in the destruction of the whole of mankind. Once this is constantly remembered by the powerful nations of the world we can move more steadily towards our goal of a warless world. Already civilized nations are beginning to recognize war as an obsolete method of obtaining solutions. The destruction resulting from modern warfare is so much out of proportion to the ends, that arguments and sentiments used in the past to justify wars are no more tenable.

This is clearly brought out in Ernest Hemingway's words:

'They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. But in a modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason'.

Thus war now in the twenty first century does not settle any problem, except which side is the stronger. The values of justice and tolerance should not be subordinated to the power objective. Peace can be maintained when we shun war as a pestilence and resort to negotiation, discussion and arbitration. Our beloved leader Nehruji has said in 'Glimpses': 'Peace cannot suddenly descend from the heavens. It can only come when the root causes of trouble are removed.' Let us look into the root causes.

Aggression is a grave enemy to peace. The aggressive tendencies in the growing nations should be nipped in the bud. The unjust acts of any country must be promptly checked if peace should last. The chief evils we have got to remove in order to ensure peace are political subjection, racial inequality, economic inequality and misery.

Another major cause of wars in modern times is the accumulation of capital in the great centers of capitalism and its urgent demand for exclusive domination of fields for foreign investment, exploitation, raw materials and strategic bases.

The existence of armament firms is also a grave menace to peace. They can incite any nation to raise munitions above the others, causing a vicious spiral of increasing armaments, bringing ruin to all countries. The very existence of armies is a great menace of war. The powerful nations should not misuse their strength. While speaking of strength it is only appropriate to quote Shakespeare's words:

'O. it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.'

So it is very easy for the strong nations to become tyrannical. Strength without prudence and consideration may prove very dangerous. This idea is reflected in these words of Milton:

'But what is strength without a double share of wisdom?'

Let us now consider how wars can be avoided so that the foundations of an enduring peace may be laid. In the first place, there must be created among the peoples of the world the temper of peace. In spite of serious differences, nations should approach their problems with the basic temper of peace and not in a threatening and hectoring mood. No reasonable settlement is possible in the mood engendered by war because war inflames passions and makes men delirious.

India has always been advocating the cause of peace and non-violence. Our war of Independence itself is a clear proof to this. Afterwards, the settlement of the Indo-Pak war by the Tashkent Pact is another magnificent example set up by India. This is the only civilized approach to problems and leaves no ill-will or bitterness behind. On the other hand settlement and compromise arrived at after a victory on the battlefield create tense situations, bring frustration and despair to the defeated nation, exciting it to attack again. In such circumstances lasting peace is not at all possible. To surrender to evil is bad, even in resisting evil, the nations should always maintain the temper of peace and hold out the hand of friendship to those who may be opposed to them.

The present conditions and circumstances we are living in today are very much in need of reform. But as Nehruji, the Light of Asia observed, 'we cannot take the world on our shoulders and remodel it according to our heart's desire; but we can help in creating a climate of peace which is so essential for the realization of our objectives.' In order to produce this atmosphere of peace among the people of the world there must be a regular campaign of educating the masses in such a manner as to inculcate in them the will to peace, and bring home to them the irrationality of war. The agents of education are by no means few. The home educates, conditions of living and work educate, books, newspapers, films and advertisements educate.

Mahatma Gandhi said, 'If we are to reach the real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have to struggle, we won't have to pass idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace for which, consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.' So we must undertake a regular campaign of bringing up children of a society in such a way as to instill a deep love for peace in them.

The family, the school, the church, the state, the press and theatre all have an equal share in moulding the character of the individuals of the society. Character thus formed determines action. The better the units, the better will be the mass. 'The better the people of this century,' as Viscount Samuel remarks 'the finer will be the heritage of the next'. It is true that thoughts determine action. Actions by mere force of repetition grow into habits. If a man has acquired good habits he does good only, that too, subconsciously through a psychological mechanism without the aid of the conscious will. There is literal truth in the proverb that habit is second nature. William James who calls men 'mere walking bundles of habits' also describes habit as 'the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent'. Thus the habits of the units of a society affect the standard and the creative energy of that society and ensure the smooth running of the machine ' the society without any friction.

So in such a society where the individuals in their very impressionable, plastic stage are taught to appreciate and stand for peace, non-violence and good-will, they will grow up to be great peace-lovers and peace-makers and will instinctively abhor anything that is of a brutal or savage nature. We must always remember the veracity of this epigram- 'Habit is capitalized action' and start our campaign of educating the younger generation with all vigor and earnestness. We cannot fail to reach our goal when our children grow up in a healthy atmosphere, surrounded by love and good-will, see, hear, talk and listen to nothing but what is good and enlightening. Let us hope and pray that the agents of education will realize the great responsibility they have in moulding the future citizens of the world, so that our progress towards the achievement of our ideal will be accelerated.

The nations of the world, after the first world war, realized the pressing necessity for a world peace organization. As a result the League of Nations was born. Before this organization could gain a firm standing the second world war broke out and the League of Nations dissolved. After seeing the horror and the havoc wrought by the second world war, people felt more than ever that a strong world peace organization is imperative for the security of the whole world. Then the United Nations Organization came into existence. This has proved to be a boon in all ways to suffering mankind. Maintenance of peace alone is not its aim. It is interested in the welfare of all the various departments of the life of man. It stands for the growth of education, science, culture, health and so many other things.

Great as its service to humanity is, it can prove to be a more effective instrument of peace if certain changes are made in its working. It ought to be improved so as to make the United Nations Organization, representing world public opinion as a whole, relatively more powerful and the member states representing only the opinion of particular nations less powerful. The security council could take the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security only if it is provided with collective self-defence, backed by preponderant power over most of the earth's surface. Also the veto power should be restricted in order to ensure its effective functioning.

Referring to the United Nations Organization as a force for peace in the world, our president and great thinker Dr. Radhakrishnan has said: 'While it should not interfere with the internal affairs of nations, it should protect all nations against lawlessness and aggression from outside. No single nation has the right to police the world, but all nations can contribute their equitable share to the U.N. Force.'

The problem of peace in the modern world is nothing less than the problem of creating a world community. It is only by an enlargement of the communal consciousness that durable peace can be attained. Some modern thinkers assume that since the nation is but a higher rung in the ladder of man's social cohesion from the family upwards, and as men have successfully outgrown the earlier stage of the tribe, the clan, and the race, the transition from the national to the international community would be easy. When we see how our ancient clans with their patriarchal heads have gradually enlarged and reached the stage of national community with a government to administer it, we are induced to believe that the idea of a world community no more belongs to the realm of fantasy. Already the silicon revolution of this era of communication has shrunk the world to a global village. Let us persevere diligently in our efforts to promote international understanding and cooperation so that our advancement towards that One world of Tomorrow where peace and comradeship shall dominate will be swifter.

The most powerful and influential of all the agents of education is public opinion ' the accepted standards of good and evil, of right and wrong. If this perennial, motivating force were properly used, this world would be a much more pleasant place to live in. there should be an international ban on newspaper calumny, anti-propaganda and abuse of other countries; all warmongering should be repressed. On the other hand everything that tends towards mutual understanding must be encouraged. Our interests must be as wide as possible and our reactions to other nations must be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile. As far as possible we must not interfere with the internal affairs of another country. The delegates of foreign countries should be treated with due respect. There must be free intercourse among the artists, students, scientists, doctors, engineers and sportsmen of different nations.

Some of the greatest minds have deeply thought about ways of attaining peace. Dr.Rajendra Prasad considered that the peace of the world is imperiled by the gross neglect of spiritual values. He observed: 'It is a saddening thought that though during the last few centuries humanity has made considerable progress materially on account of the progress of science, our spiritual progress has not been able to keep pace with our worldly prosperity. We could even say that spiritual values have lately suffered woeful neglect. Establishment of peace in the world will be possible only if every individual irrespective of his nationality, faith and leanings, imbibes the spirit of friendship and acts upto it in his daily life'. When we fail to recognize spiritual values our standards go down and our ideals cease to be noble. Nehruji attributed the root cause of all our troubles and the absence of peace to the neglect of the life of the mind, for he feared that the modern world is getting completely out of tune with the life of the mind.

Dr. Radhakrishnan, one of the greatest philosophers of the modern world, in one of his speeches has considered, 'If we want to secure enduring peace, pacts and treaties are not enough. Peace is not the result of an armed truce or a cold war. It is possible only if the nations spontaneously accept the ideals of justice, freedom and decency.' Coming back to our beloved leader Nehruji, he echoes the ideas of Dr. Radhakrishnan adding, however, the virtue of love in these words: 'The present troubles of the world will not disappear with patchwork agreements and compromise, unless the idea of violence is removed from the hearts of the people and they look for friendly cooperation. I have no doubt that the approach of affection and love brings out affection and love from the other country.'

Much of the disorder and confusion and agitation found in the world today is caused by the utter lack of sufficient faith in the Almighty. The youth of the present generation is wandering aimlessly without any fixity of purpose. It finds no peace inside or outside. It tries to satisfy its inner craving by indulging in licentious acts. It lamentably fails to realize that the cause for the emptiness and worthlessness of life is nothing but its lack of confidence in a Supreme Power reigning above. This is a regrettable cause brought along by the progress of science. The young intelligentsia refuse to place implicit faith in God and begin to ask why and wherefore. Our great task now is to remove the scales from their eyes and enlighten their obscure souls. The youth shall have peace. And once youth peps up and its energies properly channeled the world may attain peace.

While recalling Nehruji's words on pursuit of peace, that 'Peace is always an ideal worth pursuing, however tired we may get in the process,' we might as well remember Milton's words on the glory of peace:

Peace hath her victories
No less renowned than war.


29-Feb-2004
More by :  Pavalamani Pragasam
 
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