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Some Reflections on the Quest for Peace in our World Today

Solomon Kumar Follow


We live in a world today that is riddled by wars and violence. Peace often seems to be elusive. Are we chasing an
unattainable target? Can humans ever learn to live together in harmony? What are the factors that lead to violence
and war? The march to achieve peace hasnto be marked with a paradigm shift from security to safety and has to start
atnthe grass root level of our society. Children have to be adequately taught about the perils of violence and the need
for peace in our world today.


Today violence seems to be escalating globally from warfare, looting and neglect. Consider the

countless victims of violence from Syria, South Africa, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Nepal, and beyond.

Amelia Gentleman states, "Since the conflict in Syria began in 2011, around 12 million people have

been displaced by the fighting and almost 4 million people, including 1.6 million children, have fled

the country." Amelia writes on social affairs and is the winner of the George Orwell prize 2012 and

Feature Writer of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2011. She worked in New Delhi as a

correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, and Paris and Moscow correspondent for the


The death toll estimates by different organizations caused by war are either directly or indirectly

linked to the deaths of military personnel from battles or other military wartime actions. Wars not only

have an immediate death toll but include post-war effects through pollution, spread of epidemics,

scarcity, corruption, crime, tyranny, famines, genocide, xenophobia, decease and denial etc. The

reasons for violence and wars are not limited to any religion, country or ethnic group. They are a

universal malady. These are some of our main Achilles heels that will bring about the downfall of

humans. Many of us today with our heads in the sand, filling our minds with sports statistics,

shopping, wedding plans etc, ignoring death knolls ringing all around us.

People living in violent sections of our society invest in things that can keep them more secure like

burglar alarms, panic buttons, concrete walls, electric fences etc. Governments tend to take a hard-
line approach, putting more police on the streets to control crime within the country and seeking to

have diplomatic relations with "hostile" countries or groups in order to maintain peace.

Our global heritage has been the victim of countless abuses. Is peace in human society illusive? Are

we chasing an unattainable target? Can humans ever learn to live together in harmony? What are

the factors that lead to violence and war? What needs to change is the emphasis from security to

safety. While security means the protection against a known or perceived threat, safety on the other

hand refers to living without threat or fear.

Dennis Dalton aptly sums up this issue in his book entitled, Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in

Action (1993) when he states,

Violence is a product of hatred and fear, and its use only creates more hatred and fear. Governing

through violence requires a continuous and ever-escalating use of violent methods to keep all

opponents at bay. A violent perspective casts your opponent as your enemy, making them seem

less than human, and unlike yourself. In contrast, non-violence requires a fortitude and strength of

character that is the true wellspring of power. Non-violence is based in the belief that all people

share an innate humanity, from which it follows that all people deserve to be treated with respect and

love. Conflict resolution must begin by recognizing the shared humanity of all parties, and finding an

approach to the problem that will benefit all sides. While a person may act in violence out of

weakness or fear, non-violence requires a person to have great strength and courage in order to

maintain an attitude of love and compassion even when faced with mortal threats.

What makes People Violent?

Political Causes of Violence

Inadequate Voter Education

The election commission has the major task to educate the voters about the dos and don'ts before,

during and after elections. The voters need to be adequately educated to use their franchise within
the ambit of the law.

Lack of internal democracy in political parties

Most political parties in different countries have failed in their primary duty to re-orientate politicians

in their respective countries to play by the rules. Worse still is the fact that electoral violence is

consciously or unconsciously encouraged at the party level.


Corruption is a menace that has crept deep into our society. The Election Commission is not from

this menace. Bribery is not unusual during the electioneering period to induce, silence or influence

the process as the case might be.


Majority of the mass number of unemployed youths are easy prey that plays into the hands of

unscrupulous politicians. Desperate political class uses them as their pawns for their unscrupulous

political gains.

Inadequate security

Often there is inadequate security to stop the spate of political violence that has been witnessed in

the society over time.

Misinterpretation of politics

People often equate politics and see it is a norm. Unfortunately this is based on what people have

observed too often. This mindset of a large number of public and politicians is purely based on


Lack of democratic culture

Decades of military rule in some countries has "brainwashed" them into thinking that it is the norm or

the absolute. The lack of democratic culture is evident at all stages of the electioneering period in the
form of party wrangling, lack of communication between the contesting political parties and the

interactions between politicians and the public.

Socio-psychological Causes of Violence

Perhaps it would be helpful to mention the three theories postulated by Professor Robert Agnew

from his pioneering work on the causes of crime. He is the pioneer of General Strain Theory, one of

the leading explanations of crime and its causes, which recently earned him the American Society of

Criminologys highest honor. Sociologists later have elaborated on these theories.

Strain Theory

While most individuals cope with strains in a legal way, strains (or stressors) increase the likelihood

an individual will commit crime. Strains that are most likely to result in crime include

harsh/excessive/unfair discipline; child abuse and neglect; negative school experiences; abusive

peer relations; work in bad jobs; unemployment; marital problems; criminal victimization;

discrimination; homelessness; or failure to achieve certain goals.

Social Learning Theory

This theory suggests that an individual learns behavior (including criminal or violent behavior) by

observation. People learn how to act from their environment. Elements of the social environment that

impact behavior include its values, beliefs, nature and operation of the family, school, church,

community, and peer groups.

Control Theory

This theory asks the question why do most of us not commit deviance? Societal social control

mechanisms in society dissuade people from being deviant. These relationships may be between

individuals or the community at large. Peoples relationships and values encourage them to follow

the laws of their community. This theory explains why people do not always act on their deviant

Professor Agnew concludes, "... serious violent offenses are often the result of a combination of

these factors."

Another factor in violence is that of poor mental health and upbringing. Aggressive behaviour can

drive a person to harming oneself and others. It could range from mere verbal abuse to physical

abuse. Occasional aggressive outbursts can happen in normal individuals. Frequent and regular

aggressive behaviour can cause physical or emotional harm to others. It violates social boundaries.

How Can We Prevent Violence?

Security and safety of the people is not confined to the head of the state or community alone. It is

everybody's business. There is no simple answer as to why people are violent. Sociologists have

linked violent behaviour of people to complex interaction of different factors that these people face.

To begin with, violence should be treated as a public health concern. We need to use campaigns

and technology to reach every child and family in our societies.

Violence and You

You need to understand the nature and dangers of violence before you can educate others or

attempt to plug it. Check for warning signs of violence among children like the sudden lack of

interest, obsession with violent games, depression, talking about death frequently, violent behaviour

toward pets and animals etc.

Anger Management and Conflict Resolution

The emotion of anger is natural but can be detrimental when it is not kept in check. Sudden outburst

of anger could lead to violence. One way to do this is to give a child or an adult the time to "cool off"

when angry. This gives the person a chance to reflect on the conflict level headedly and come up

with solutions that might resolve the problem.

Building Relationships

It is important for children, as they grow up, to build good relationships with a group of people
besides the parents. These could include uncles, aunts, grandparents, counselors etc. This would

give the growing children a wider perspective on life and enable them to grow in an ambience of

love. It is important to expose your children to compassionate and ethical environment. Research

has shown that when violent prisoners are facilitated to live with others of their kind, it breeds


Conscience and Ethics

Everyone born into this world has a conscience. It is a part of the total person and enables one to

distinguish between right and wrong. Right from childhood, people have to be taught to be in tune

with their conscience. No parent is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes but an open admission and

apology in such incidents to children goes a long way.

Exercising Empathy

Sympathizing simply feeling sorry for someone while empathy goes beyond it. It is the act of putting

yourself in the shoes of someone and understanding their pain. It is important to say "sorry" but more

importantly, it is necessary to indulge in a healing dialogue with children or adults when confronting

an issue. Cultivating empathy in someone will enable him or her to understand what it really means

to hurt somebody. The San Francisco prison system used this strategy and found out that it reduced

criminal re-offenses.

Understanding the interplay of different factors contributing to violent behavior

The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the ecological model to explain violent behavior. This

model identifies the risk factors at four levels: individual, relationship, community and society. WHO

claims that "The more risk factors a person is exposed to at different levels, the higher the probability

that he or she will become involved in crime and violence either as victim or perpetrator." This

model can serve as a useful guide to understand the violent behavior of people, the influence of

environment on people's lives and thus formulate preventive measures against violence.

Looking at the Total Picture

In situations of conflict, especially between two states, it is important to understand and interpret the

events objectively. For example, a deadly breakout of violence in Brazil can be merely played down

as a gun battle between cops and criminals. The fact of prevailing poverty is one of the key elements

for outbursts of violence. This distortion of the total picture is often created by the local and

international media.

Drawing up well-targeted programmes

The next task is to draw up programmes that reduce violence in a section of our society. If the

specific goal of a programme is the reduction of homicide, then the programme has to be designed

to target the group that most likely commits violent crimes. A thorough study of the target group

needs to precede the plan of the programme.

Rethinking about repressive policies

Policies that escalate further violence and are repressive should be discussed by the state

authorities. An example of this problem can be seen in the mano dura tactics in Central America.


Do you believe peace is possible? The answer is "Yes". But it calls for everyone in the society

coming together and working toward a peaceful society. Creating a peaceful society is everyone's

business. The result of stopping violence would save lives and heal shattered communities. It may

be apt to close with a poem from Gitanjali written by the famous Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free.

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.

Where words come out from the depth of truth,

where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it's way

into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.

Where the mind is led forward by thee

into ever widening thought and action.

In to that heaven of freedom, my father,


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Sunny Koul
Brilliant work.