Education in our mind, peace in our hearts
Human beings at their core are social beings. Society moulds us. We like shaping people and dividing people, beginning with multiple entities called nations, then down to the states and provinces, the cities and so on. Although these boundaries exist to make political rule and control easier, the restrictions across borders have created a divided feeling among us. Apart from geographic boundaries, humans have created cultural, religious and racial boundaries among themselves. We are even categorized on the basis of gender, castes and ethnicities. But then, at the core of this, the biggest separation that makes us come together, that differentiates us from other species is that we are all humans.
If this is what binds us, why do we still fight?
Why do wars take place?
There are immediate and underlying reasons.
Tracing our historical road, the World Wars, the Cold Wars, the various Civil Wars and territorial wars have a lot to say. If there are 10 people who are told to live together for a few days, come back a few days later and you will see they would have dissented over one issue or the other and may have even turned violent because of it. It seems that it is innate in humans to not live peacefully. We always have differing opinions and views which cannot make us coexist together. Those are the underlying reasons.
But there are two immediate reasons why wars take place i.e. Resources and Power.
History has the record of several wars, conflicts, many of which emerged due to greed of resources and money. Sometimes, there wasn’t a need for dispute for war over resources, when empires or nation-states thought it would be more economical to gain resources by war instead of getting them through fair trade. For example, the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait over oil resources quickly turned into a war in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait to gain control of its oil reserves. Even in the modern world, there are several disputes and conflicts over resources such as oil, water, money, gold and other precious metals. In the coming years, it is expected that water will be a major reason of international and intranational conflict due to the predicted shortage of potable water. In my country, states like Haryana and Delhi have had disputes over the supply of water and control over river flow.
Another reason for wars is power, and the greed for supremacy and others’ oppression. Humans demonstrate their supremacy and will to gain power and control over people of different caste, race, culture or religion. Even though they have been historically very common, such wars and conflicts still occur often in the modern world. The best modern example is that of the war with the Islamic State in Iran and Syria, where countless lives have been taken by Sunni jihadists over differences in beliefs. The death toll only tells a small fraction of the story. Millions of people in these affected regions have to undergo physical torture, mental trauma and sexual abuse.
We rarely notice something that is around us every day.
One of the most striking examples is that of politicians who exploit the fact of their voter pool not being educated enough. In India, and in most Commonwealth countries, the literacy levels are extremely low compared to other developed countries. The residents of Uttar Pradesh (UP), the most populous and one of the biggest states in India recently elected their Chief Minister as Yogi Adityanath, a man who is under the the party that has been elected at the central level in the nation. Since 1998, the leader has been amassing leaders in Eastern UP, and now has followers not only in UP, but many around India. His speech can only be described in terms of his hate. He is openly hostile to Muslims, where in one his speeches he claimed, “If they kill one Hindu, we will kill 100 Muslims.” Not only Islam, he also mocks Christianity and claims, “ Christ’s philosophy of offering another cheek if slapped on one.”
And he did not even leave women untouched. In one his rally speeches, he shouted these words at the top of his voice and was greeted by cheers and claps.
“If men acquire women-like qualities, they become gods but when women acquire men like qualities, they become demon like.”
According to him, the only role of a woman is to be a wife or a mother, and is staunchly against feminism because it will “hamper the creation and stability of the home and the family.”
Even after this, he still has three women in his cabinet, but that only feels like him trying to put up a front he cannot carry off. He also vehemently opposes the LGBTQ community and denies them their constitutional rights.
This is just one example from India that shows that just because many politicians that have the power to sway people and they do so on wrongful pretences. People are incited in the name of religion and these people are the ones who are uneducated and blissfully influenced by these leaders. Had they been educated, they would have formed their opinions and known that people of different beliefs need not always fight.
This is exactly what leads to religious extremism, riots, bloodshed, communal violence and hence: an establishment of war in the minds. Education frees people from such religious and cultural extremism.
Education teaches a person to rise above racial, cultural, and religious differences and understand how each one of us deserves equal rights, equal privilege and equal treatment. Activists like Malala Yousafzai have proved that the struggle against terrorism and violence is in fact just a struggle against illiteracy and that education reigns supreme over guns, ammunition and weapons of mass destruction.
Thus, education and literacy is empowering in itself. During the times of wars, the literacy rates in Commonwealth countries were staggering. If we compare the 20th Century (times of the World Wars) and 21st Century (Minimal peace with no major outbreaks), according to the National Assessment of World Literacy, Bangladesh’s literacy rates in 1960 was dangerously low at 21.6%, while in 2010 it drastically increased to 56.8%. Sri Lanka’s literacy in 1900 was 26.4% while recently in 2010 it has been 93.9%. Similarly, South Africa’s literacy rates in 1950 were only at 42.5%, but 50 years later in 2000 it rose to 83.6%. This supports the fact that literacy can indeed bring about a change in thinking, beliefs, opinions and outlooks.
This brings us to the conclusion that war is not a necessity anymore, and peace is being more accepted and welcomed in the world now.
Wars are a thing of the past
We can think of four major reasons why countries are not attacking each other anymore, are peaceful, and hot wars have become a thing of the past.
First is globalization. Wars were more effective at achieving economic goals. Now, it is always more viable and cheaper to buy resources on the international market than to take them by force. Moreover, people are more important to us alive than dead.
Second, borders are now mostly fixed. The reason wars occurred was to expand occupied land and gain more territories. That is not only illegal but also not feasible anymore.
Third, democratization. More and more countries find it better in the overall interest of their people to switch from autocracy/monarchy/dictatorship to a democracy. Democracies hardly ever engage in battles. Of all the state wars since 1900, only a minority were fought between democracies.
And lastly, legal constraints. World wars was seen as something inevitable, part of the human experience, a valuable tool which one could use to achieve goals when diplomacy seemed like a far cry. Presently, we have rules that declare such acts of aggression illegal and state that armed forces are only justified in self defence or with the authority of the UN Security Council. Although those rules are still broken today, waging a war against another is even harder now that we have the International Court of Justice to adjudicate on such international disputes.
‘Education is peace building’ – Kofi Annan
Malala Yousafzai once remarked, “Why is that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard?” Obviously, making child soldiers and suicide bombers is so much relatively easier than the governments spending money and providing education free of cost. Right?
This is exactly the change in outlook we need to bring. Global peace is not a non existent, ephemeral term but an achievable one. If nation states realize this, then Kofi Annan’s dream is not far away. The way to our peace is through education.
Let us pick out our books and notebooks and pens and colours, and lend them to others too.
Let us travel to school together and help each other in listening to our teachers.
Let us come together, discuss ideas, fight peacefully, debate, discuss, dissent and form new and novel problems to which we find solutions.
Let us bring ourselves as humanity closer and lead to a harmonious peaceful coexistence.
This essay won the Silver Award (Senior Category) in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2017. You can read more about the competition here.