Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Peace and Politics: an unlikely synergy

As I think, "What does peace mean to me?", the words, “A peaceful world is one where everyone has equity in access to opportunity and where every child has equity in access to education, nutrition, and love” ring in my head. But, the ringing of these very clichéd words stops as soon as it begins. I feel the realistic and practical need to question if peace comes from this need for equality or education and nutrition.

Considering the margin for imperfection: disparities, crimes, wars and violence will always exist in society.

So, what really determines peace? 

A good starting point to question the dynamics of peace in society should definitely be politics; after all, our leaders and their policies determine the environment of our surroundings. 

Let’s begin by looking at the three forms of governances – Monarchism, Communism and the (Western Capitalist) Democracy – and see whether peace prevailed in either of the three.

It is a well-known fact that the Maurya, Gupta, and Chola kingdoms of ancient India were considered the “Golden periods” of our history. People not only prospered, but were happy, peaceful and content with their lifestyles under their Kings – a reason why India was the envy of the entrepreneurial European sailors. In monarchies such as these, people never had an equitable access to opportunity. The caste system then in prevalence, assigned the Shudras, or in today's terminology the lower-class, the jobs of the farmers, cleaners and service-men. The business-folk and the warriors were Vaishyas and Kshatriyas respectively. The Brahmins, or teachers, imparted knowledge to the people as well as advised the Kings on how to rule their kingdoms. No one ever tried to switch their "career-paths"; everyone stuck to their duties. And back then, according to our government sponsored history books, things were good. 
So why didn't this sort of a system work? The power wielded by the monarchs most often ended up being misused by the lethal combination of corruption, influence and greed. Repetitive trends made mankind brand the system of monarchism as “un-progressive”. At the center of this unbalanced equation, lays the answer to the most recent Arab world uprisings: in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya.

Then, there were/are the communists of Eastern Europe, Russia and China, who believe(d) that a system of governmental control and dominance yield both, prosperity and peace. In theory, there is no reason not to believe that such a system would create a happy society. For instance, the Native Indian American society was built on the community-based model of living. There was no sense of ownership, yet the people lived peacefully content lives.
However, in recent communist regimes things have changed for the worse. Governmental oppression led to the human-induced Ukraini Holodomor famine. It also led to revolutions in the Soviet Union and its' post-Cold War collapse. Meanwhile China’s forceful centralization of everything - from farmlands, education, media, business, to the economy - shows nothing but a hazy picture of happiness in that society.

Fast forward to the 21st century era – a small and globalized world dominated by democracy and capitalism. Today, people have the freedom of thought, speech, movement, and most importantly freedom to access every opportunity possible. 
However, today's vicious cycle of buy, throw and buy, is not only fostering the infamous greed is good principle, but is also hurting the middle and poor classes of people. Even though the absolute measure of poverty has improved (the percentage of people living under a $1/day, as per 1970 UN Metrics, has reduced), inflation-adjusted relative poverty has increased. Let’s not forget the damage tribal groups, and the repeated rape our environment and planet have undergone.

When one looks at a country that has excelled in providing all fair and democratic services to her citizens, the United States of America, the current speaker of her Congress, John Boehner, comes to mind. A janitor in his teens who lived the American Dream to become the top-boss of the World's most powerful democratic body. How more peaceful, according to those words that rang in my head, can a world get?
Not really much, right? 
But when we look at this piece from the average plane, we see that average Americans work all throughout the week on things that they dislike (according to a survey by Market Watch, 53% of Americans said “I hate my job”, even before the economic crises crippled the luxury of opportunities), and then, get drunk, drugged and wasted on Friday nights. As an indirect result of which, homicides, violent crimes, rape, assaults, robberies, have ensued into swollen American prisons. This somehow doesn't look more than an illusion of peace.

In all the three governing models, the end results are theorized to hover very closely around peace. The actual results are stark and diametric opposites of any such projections.

So how does one work around this? Do we lose hope in the harsh reality that a greedy race of men can just never create a peaceful environment?

There are no definitive solutions to this. Activities occur in our world in random, multifarious and incredulously large volumes. Integrating solutions and ideas into the invisible forces of activity would end up being a bigger problem than being the solution. 

Whom we need most today, for the most effective change, are social entrepreneurs; those entrepreneurs who are not driven by individualism. 'Cause while greed maybe good, its only so for the individual, not for the society in entirety. The greater the inequality, the greater the masses are disadvantaged. The greater the masses are disadvantaged, the greater the loss of peace. 

We need social entrepreneurs to change the current linear system of consumerism, which is nothing but out-of-control capitalism, of extract resources, produce, sell, and throw to a sustainable cycle that would repeat itself - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. How we manage our resources is a critical factor that would influence the random order of activities that occur simultaneously in our world. This would ultimately influence peace.

We also need the more privileged people to adopt a socially responsible mindset. To help undo the damage done on our poor. Instead of having debt-laden governments' - except China's - try to organize education at the grass-roots level, which they anyway make a mess of, the educated urban folk should come out more often and help the lesser privileged sections of society as part of voluntary social service. With due credit, there are salutary examples of such existing groups of people: Teach for America, Times Group's Teach India, YUVA Unstoppable, The Joy of Giving Week, and so on. Such groups now need to expand, infect and reach out to as many members of society as possible.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? "Its all about converting the straight lines (that go to nowhere) into efficient cycles." But it requires heaps of effort and determination. With that, I leave you to the sound of your thoughts: are you doing your bit?

1 comment:

  1. mm hmm. Don't agree as much with your conclusion. Not most practical.