“The greatest gift is to give people your enlightenment” – Lord Buddha.
Even as the world gets more sophisticated and much smaller due to the internet and increased connectivity, violence and conflicts continue to rage on, if not deteriorating by the day. Tune in to CNN anytime of the day, and the broadcast is not that much different from the war updates of the world wars era.
Of course, topping the list is a conflict that has its origins from the end of World War II. Since the end of the British mandate and the formation of the state of Israel, both Palestine and Israel have been at each other’s throat at the smallest opportunity. To the millions of Palestinians, the very existence of Israel is unacceptable, whilst to the Israelis, neutralising Palestine is the only way to ensure their own survival. There is no middle ground, nor any middle ground possible in the near future, despite all the calls for a peace ‘process’. Adding to the mix is Iran’s nuclear programme, which threatens to ignite a deadly war between Iran and Israeli, while the situation in Iraq is far from peaceful.
Across the Indian Ocean, the deep-seated resentment between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India has led to countless deaths of innocents. And closer to home, the political situation in Thailand remain volatile, with supporters and opponents of disposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra irreconcilably poles apart.
We are caught up in so much historical baggage, that even if we could resolve the religious difference and muster the political will to end these conflicts, there are still enough pockets of resistance and hatred to ensure these conflicts continue well past our lifetime. Sadly, the only international forum that could have the mandate and moral right to mediate and end these conflicts have more or less lost the moral right if not the mandate to do so. Even the UN itself is inundated with it’s own conflicts, as reflected in the highly political and volatile negotiation at Copenhagen.
CONFLICTS IN OUR LIVES
Whilst many of these conflicts were rooted in perceived injustice – of stolen lands and honour, and of lost opportunities and resentment; many of the conflicts in our daily lives have a different cause altogether. Lest we think that violence can only take the form of war and street protest, we are also seeing an increased amount of road rage and domestic violence locally. Divorce rate is at an all time high – with some experts projecting a divorce rate as high as 45%, and that one-third of all marriages will fail in the first two years. We’re also seeing more incidences of rape, kidnapping, murder and other violent crimes. There is no denying that there is now more conflicts and violence in our lives. And the police are not to be entirely blamed.
How many of us can claim that we have not raised our voice more often than a year ago. Or that now we tend to vent our anger and frustration with work, family and life in general on others – usually those close to us? Are we tolerant of drivers who cut into our lane, or customers who jump queue? Or maids who refuse to take instructions?
In the age of the internet, where the only god many of us believe in is the god of prosperity, we are all racers in a track that has no starting or finishing line. Two decades ago, we had our richer neighbours and wealthier relatives to envy and aspire to outdo. Today, with Facebook, real-time news, reality TV and instant millionaires, we have millions of people to envy and aspire to outdo. As we measure ourselves in that endless chart of success, and see us close to the bottom, we vent our frustration and loss of Alpha-male status on everybody else. If we consider greed, lust and jealousy as the tools of the Devil; then he is certainly winning the war.
In Bhutan, they continue to measure national progress by Gross National Happiness (GNH) as opposed to GDP. And until recently, internet and television was banned from this tiny Himalayan nation. Perhaps they have discovered a winning solution – as crime is almost unheard of in Bhutan, and people are genuinely happy. The former king abdicated at the age of 51 in favour of his then 28-years old son; which fly in the face of our own politicians who still refuse to retire past their 70s.
While you can’t stop this cycle of violence and hatred, you can stop it from consuming yourself. Knowledge and enlightenment is indeed the key. Start by believing that there’s a solution to every problem and you only need to read it up somewhere. After all, it’s the age of wikipedia and I’m sure there’s an entry in it on conflict resolution.
Note: If this sound dated, that's because it first appeared in my column in SME Magazine March 2010 issue.