Conflict is inevitable, but, if we create a proclivity towards peace in people around us, we naturally choose peace and prioritise it.
It was January, 1999. I was in class VII. Of all the books we had that year as part of our coursework, the one I enjoyed the most was a compilation of short stories called One World. Over the winter break, before school began, I devoured every story in the book and committed them to memory, in the hope that I would someday act on the messages in them.
One of those stories remains with me even today — ‘Chief Seattle’s Letter’. The government of the USA in the 1800s wanted to purchase the Salish lands. In response to the government’s attempt, Chief Seattle wrote this letter, in which he speaks about how we, as humanity, are common inheritors of the earth’s offerings — as the earth doesn’t belong to man, it is man who belongs to the earth.
Seventeen years after I read that story, I sat in a digital classroom along with Ziauddin Iqbal, my student from Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. In our weekly exchanges, Zia and I spent time sharing and learning from each other. Zia once spoke of something very powerful and moving. He told me that we tend towards war only because our minds are bent in that direction. As humans, we have plenty to offer back to the world, but we are predisposed to taking, demanding and expecting, while we seldom give back or do anything for the world around us.
Zia’s words made me think of how we really are war-like in our thought processes. Our communication is laced with violence. If we spend a moment just reflecting on our relationship with the world around us, we will easily be able to find the number of times we make ourselves the centre of the world. I did this. I said that. I want this. I need that. I must. I deserve. I. I. I. Add to the mix generous dollops of assumption, warped ideas of history and borrowed hatred. The end result? War.
The current education system is lacking in this very area — creating empathy-driven individuals. We are not focusing on what really matters - the element of humanity. Everyone in today’s generation is fighting a war on borrowed hatred. War is deemed good for business and the coffers of a select few enablers. The world is burning with hatred that is only kept alive through incorrect education.
Conflict is inevitable, but, if we create a proclivity towards peace in people around us, we naturally choose peace and prioritise it. Be it a bully in a classroom or two nations seeking ownership over territory. It’s really all in the mind: war, disease, assumption. If only we spend a moment each day to dust these cobwebs away!
The author is an Indian Women’s rights activist, a peace activist, artist, lawyer and writer