Sunday, January 13, 2008

How To Achieve Peace

First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.
- Thomas a Kempis, German ecclesiastic (1380-1471)

Those who live without peace in themselves will not acknowledge the truth of this quote, cannot understand the concept, will scoff at those who use it and teach it.

Could US President George W. Bush, the self-acknowledged "war president," have peace within himself? He believed that beginning a war in Afghanistan would bring peace to his own country. Is his country more at peace today than it was in 2001?

He was going to "liberate" the oppressed people of Iraq, to bring them peace after a generation of living under Saddam Hussein. There were no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam is dead and many of the citizens of Iraq look back longingly at the maybe-not-so-bad old days of Saddam's dictatorship.

Though Mr. Bush seems to have settled his differences with North Korea's Kim Jong Il (the memory of neighbouring Vietnam lingers strong in the memories of American people), it remains to be seen if he will find some excuse to invade Iran before the end of his term of office. Imagine the distinction he would have in US history if he were able to launch three wars within two terms of office!

Nobody wins a war, neither the loser nor the winner. Bush's wars have cost the US so dearly that the country has all but lost its status as having the currency against which other countries compare the value of their own. China will soon pass the US as the most powerful trading nation on earth. The people of every city in the United States live under a constant alert warning in preparation one knows what.

As the US primaries leading up to the vote in November progress, debates, backbiting and infighting are much as expected, but the level of emotion in ordinary conversations daily has risen as people anticipate the possibility that their once-great nation may be reduced to a second level power, with all of the anxieties of the homeland of an empire but little of the wealth it had in the past.

Thomas a Kempis was of course interested in the peace of individuals. But individuals collectively make nations. Nations that teach the values of war and violence to their children are nations that engage in war and violence.

The only way to have peaceful individuals and a peaceful country is to teach peace to the children. India, for example, is a nation that teaches peace to its children. Though India has its share of violent incidents, the amount of violence in the country of one billion people is far less than that in much smaller countries. India has not invaded another country in the past 1000 years (though it did step in, by request, to stop the slaughter of the people of East Pakistan--now Bangladesh--by the army of West Pakistan in 1971).

Teach right. Teach good. Teach peace. When these become the structure within which children are given their education, they become the guides for living once those children become adults.

Good and peaceful people are seldom aggressive. However, when they leave the running of their country to the aggressive and violent people, the country becomes aggressive and violent because the leaders teach the need for these "to achieve peace." It's a lie. It doesn't work. It has never worked. So wars have become the means for seeking peace. So the warriors say.

All it takes is for enough people to talk about this concept of peace and to vote accordingly in elections.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, when and what to teach children, including the concepts of peace, good and right. The book includes practical guides for teachers and parents.
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