Observe your surroundings and you will find all sorts of cacophonous sounds emanating around you and exploding right in your ears and polluting each bit of space in your vicinity, noisy streets, yelling people, blaring music and what not. People cursing and swearing at each other either in friendly banter or serious parleys, a situation you least wish to find yourself in. As if this was not enough, unsavoury clangour from day long construction activities in the neighbourhood, loud horns of vehicles in the bye lanes, barking dogs in the night, play a constant spoilsport if you wish to cultivate a peaceful demeanour or indulge in a hobby like reading. The scene is no different at a hypermarket, in an overcrowded metro train or in the serpentine check-in queues at the airport. Isn’t it a reality that people today are short tempered and irascible, ready to bite off your ear at the drop of a hat at the slightest of provocations? Don’t you find that peace is the most fragile thing in the world today? Something that shatters by a mere wave of a hand. You have always believed that articles made of glass or bone china and electronics were the only things that were fragile and you handled them with care. If you happened to mishandle and break them, your mom or grandma would scold you to no end, forbidding you to ever touch them again. Is it not true that in today’s times most of us are constantly searching for peace and happiness and in this quest of ours we keep gobbling thousands of bytes of written material of all sorts on the internet that promise a sure way to inner heaven? It’s not a fallacy but a conundrum, the more we chase happiness the more we find ourselves drifting farther away from it.
Not so long back in time, life as well as people’s demeanour used to be so tranquil and easy going as if nothing could unsettle the ubiquitous state of peacefulness and bliss that permeated the air. Unconditional peace used to prevail within family, community, village, town, city and country. There seemed to be an infinite inertia in the atmosphere as none of us seemed to be in any great hurry to achieve all that there was to be achieved. Peace prevailed in the environment no matter what come may. Lovely daisies would continue their dance in the dazzling sunlight. Children indulged in day long outdoor activities unhindered, parents never caring too much about their whereabouts as long as they returned just in time for dinner. Little islands of hope flourished in the form of dreams of young children against the backdrop of their parents’ aspirations. Feeling of universal brotherhood and social camaraderie was always charged with bonhomie and affability. There were frequent occasions of socialising and people to people interactions where we could talk our hearts out. Since we were not cramped from within, therefore we were just plainly and simply happy even though we did not have access to luxuries in life. Words like intolerance, bigotry, lynching, mobocracy, fanatism, vandalism, jihad etc were not yet in regular use and potent enough to pose any grave threat to humanity to be taken seriously. Nefarious and ominous dark clouds of terrorism had not yet become commonplace and there prevailed a long period of calm and peace. But who would have predicted that the seeds of destruction had been sown whose vicious consequences would be felt decades later?
[ Also Read: The evolution of Indian ethos and society – part 1 ]
Terrorism, communal riots and violence are a few scourges that have come to threaten world-peace in an unprecedented way in the recent past. These have acquired humongous proportions in the present. These scourges do everything to destroy fragile peace built over centuries of hard work of communities. Communal riots, vandalism and violence are prevalent in almost all the parts of the world, one community nursing feelings of hatred against others. Until oppression, injustice and persecution continue to occur somewhere in the world, peace will always be a fragile commodity. White versus black, rich versus poor, natives and immigrants etc. There are long swathes of land where persecution and oppression are still the ways of life. The persecuted communities have grown up harbouring feelings of hate and loathing for their oppressors and in turn wish to wreak and perpetrate violence against them in vengeance and retribution. Will peace prevail in these circumstances?
Religious flashpoint is another reason why peace remains threatened. ‘My religion is better than yours’ is the common refrain that people use to perpetrate violence. Some vicious elements try to propagate their religion to an unholy extent by trying to convert others by force and violence. Many wars have been fought in the middle centuries whose sole purpose was to establish a particular religion and thereby achieve supremacy. This is an inverted view of what a religion is all about. Feeling unnecessarily stressed and taking upon oneself the onus of saving one’s religion is absolutely uncalled for. Each of us is free to follow and practice a faith of our own choice. There should be no force or coercion either from another individual or the state into adopting a religion except by one’s own free will and volition. Religion is something that is to be practised within one’s heart without putting up a big show or an outright exhibition and least of all, getting into a fight or an argument about whose religion is superior. I am sure all religions teach basically the same message of harmony, peace and universal brotherhood. If one tries to create violence in the name of religion, he has never understood his own religion in the first place. Does religion have the power to bring us closer together and cultivate feeling of bonhomie? Can religion be instrumental in achieving universal brotherhood and show us the way to achieve world peace?
In today’s times, surreptitiously or otherwise, we find our lives thoroughly invaded by the technological advances of the modern world. We may or may not like it but this is the reality. On one hand we have made our lives much simpler and comfortable by adopting modern technology and on the other we seem to suffer from much displeasure and stress due to overexposure and overuse. One remarkable feature of the technological lives that we have come to embrace is that it is fast paced. Just a decade back, simple tasks used to take agonisingly long times, say days or even weeks. But now even complex tasks can be accomplished in a matter of few minutes if not seconds. Therefore, what takes longer tends to upset us beyond limits. Look at how we book a cab, hotel room, order food, call for a garment, buy shares, book an appointment with a doctor, call for groceries, medicines etc. We have learnt to receive quick gratification and get disappointed it this does not happen. Quick results and gratification have fostered our desire as well as pushed us into living an instant life that seeks instant results in whatever we do, be it picking up and dumping a hobby, an item, a service or even girlfriend or boyfriend. We get demotivated if we do not get desired number of likes on a picture or a post. Quick and fast delivery of results has hastened as well as heightened our expectations as well. If this is how we have learnt to live our lives then constant anxiety and fear are our companions forever. Should you give yourself a dose of peaceful bliss once in a while?
There is a vast majority of people who have been left behind in the journey to prosperity. No development has touched their lives and they continue to live on the bounties of nature as well as face all its fury. No health or education has come to rescue their situation and alleviate their plight. These people are still in the throes of disease, death, ignorance and illiteracy. What about these people, who would care for them? Do you think peaceful and pleasing times would dawn upon us if half the race is malnourished or illiterate? A few of the foundations, like the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and Michael & Susan Dell foundation, are doing a lot of good work for the upliftment of deprived and down trodden communities around the world. By no means we may claim that our fight is over. The more the good we do, the more we realise that there is so much more to be done. We also realise that it is not a one-time job but a constant pursuit that will herald good times. The governments have to be sensitive enough and work relentlessly and on a continuous basis towards extricating their citizens out of poverty to give them a decent life and a livelihood by careful & mindful planning and provisioning of resources. Would social entrepreneurship and socially responsible work help us achieve human developmental goals?
[ Also Read: What young India wants ]
Another threat to the world peace is quite a modern phenomenon which did not exist till sometime back is that of climate change and over exploitation of our natural resources. Of late, it has turned out to be potent enough to pose a grave threat to our own existence. You might be wondering how could these pose any threat? Overexploiting the resources (beyond the natural rate of replenishment) like overmining, rampant and mindless deforestation, reducing tree cover, over reliance on fossil fuels for our energy needs have already started wreaking havoc in the form of frequent incidents of extreme and unpredictable weather conditions such as tsunamis, cloud bursts, flooding, forest fires, extreme temperatures etc. It is surprising that most of us including our governments do not see any correlation between them. When all of us change our attitudes and convert that into credible action, will the catastrophe wither away. No effort or insufficient effort on our part will not bring the desired results. We need concerted and positive action on part of all the people of the world to reverse the adverse effects of changing climate. It will surely require each bit of effort such as caring for the environment, minimal consumption, shunning single use plastic, conserving the flora and fauna, planting plants & trees, using public transport, moving to renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and tide. We need to understand clearly that no nation will ever escape the adverse effects of this catastrophe, all nations are sure to get adversely affected by it. The only question is of degree, some nations will be affected more than the others. What we do in Asia will have far reaching effects in North America, Australia and New Zealand. How would peace prevail when we keep losing lives to climate change that is the result of our unwillingness to care for the environment?
Tune in to any news channel around the world and you are sure to get some nasty glimpses of the ongoing trade war between the two major economies of the world, America and China. Each trying to erect new trade barriers that seem punitive in nature followed by retaliatory steps from the other, supposedly stating its own national interest as the reason. What we might not understand is that this bilateral trade war has far reaching impact on every other nation in the world, throwing them in adverse imbalances of trade. If their trade war becomes a fight of supremacy and their inflated egos, the entire world would have to pay the price. There will be nations that get drowned in the huge burden of debt as they cannot cut their expensive imports, consequently its citizens lose their livelihoods and their living standards take a plunge. Elsewhere in the world anomalous commercial terms of trade exist that threaten to derail the process of economic prosperity. Let’s hope that good sense and wisdom prevail and the parties resolve their differences through peaceful means sitting across the negotiating table otherwise it could spiral into another world-war like none other.
Will peace prevail in the present circumstances?
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