Friday, September 15, 2006

Is education the key to world peace?

"The highest result of education is tolerance."
- Helen Keller, 'Optimism,' 1903

As odd as this quotation may sound, I believe it has merit.

In this case, "tolerance" has many meanings. Among them are tolerance of the opinions of others, of their different religions, skin colours, cultural identities, family histories, even hair colours, tatoos and pierced skin jewelry.

Tolerance, however, also includes those differences which cause many to go to war. Some wars are motivated by greed for what another has that they want and for power over the others. Modern wars concern themselves more with defeating concepts which some find vile.

This latter could include the so-called Cold War. The Cold War, ostensibly one that did not involve fighting, but competition over political ideologies and for dominance in space, was indeed a violent one as the two opposing sides sponsored acts of violence (including supplying weapons) and murder, even genocide, in what the western world called Third World countries. In the First World, these were considered by many to be more skirmishes and revolutions in small countries where power was all that mattered.

When disagreement must be settled with weapons that kill, civilization is but a hollow concept. To those who are motivated by greed or revenge for real or perceived offences, words alone may not turn them back. But a physically powerful opposition that refuses to use its overwhelming brute force to defeat a relatively meager enemy would be a satisfactory first step toward opening dialogue.

In today's world, where no country threatens to take over world domination by force, no reason exists to use superior force. Words would do in many cases. This supposes, of course, that the more powerful force wants to use words rather than weapons and that it knows the right words to use in a dialogue.

Words will also stir up those who seek to use any excuse for violence. We might want to consider the motivations of the Pope of Rome in his recent attacks against Islam, attacks which were supposedly based on facts, but which any student of Islam could have told him were blatantly false and clearly inflamatory.

It's hard to convince people to beat their swords into ploughshares when their leader encourages making more swords.

Words work both ways.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to use words to encourage those who want peace and to defeat those who want war.
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