Peace and the modern world
By Syed Mustafa Ahmad.
Human history appears to be a long story of wars, one after another, with almost no break in between. Prior to the 20th century, war was a necessity. But from the 20th century onwards, following a revolution in human affairs, war has become totally unnecessary and redundant. War has now become a complete anachronism. All that for the sake of which in the past people would go to war, can now be obtained without war and in a much better way. Compared to the violent means that were used in ancient times, peaceful means are much more effective and result-oriented in the present world.
Why did so many wars happen in ancient times? The reason for this was that the ambitious people could not see before them any way other than waging war against others to obtain their objectives. They went to war because it seemed to them that they had no alternative to war in order to secure their goals. This was the mindset of the people of that time. They were at the lower rung of the ladder of the civilization. They couldn’t think above this. For them, it was necessary to get what they wanted through the wars, even though there was bloodshed on the large scale.
In ancient times, monarchy based on family rule carried on for centuries. For a politically-ambitious person, the only way to wrest political power was to kill the ruling monarch or depose him and capture his throne. In this way, political power changed hands – from one family to another in a chain that extended over many thousands of years.
In the modern age, major revolutions took place. Family-based monarchical rule came to end and a system of democratic governance was established across major portions of the globe. Political leaders began being chosen through periodic elections. In this way, every person got the opportunity to obtain an outlet for his/her political desires. At least in theory, it is now possible for anyone to obtain a position of political power through democracy. The common will of people prevails.
Another very significant change occurred in the economic sphere. For thousands of years, almost the entire economy was dependent on agriculture. In other words, it was a land-based economy. Those who owned land were considered wealthy and powerful, while those who were landless, were considered poor and powerless.
Further, under the ancient political system, the king and those whom he had granted lands, were considered to be the actual owners of the land. In such a situation, for a person with great economic ambitions, fighting the landlords seems the only way to satisfy his desires. A person with no land had just two choices: either to remain content with being landless or to fight against the owners of the land and try to grab it.
In the modern age, a major development completely transformed this situation and that is what is called the Industrial Revolution. It is because of this revolution that we have innumerable new economic means and opportunities. Now even without becoming a landowner, one could become economically wealthy.
The changes brought about by the industrial revolution completely transformed the entire political and economic scenario. Things that seemed impossible become possible now. Things that earlier appeared merely imaginary have now become a practical reality. The age of political and economic monopoly has come to a complete and final end.
After this revolutionary change, there is now no excuse left for anyone to go to war. A person or a group or a country can now obtain their economic or political objectives by leveraging the vastly expanded economic opportunities without resort or recourse to coercion or war. War and violence would now only indicate a complex lack of awareness of the ample possibilities that are available for obtaining one’s objectives using peaceful means alone. Today, war has been rendered utterly ineffective and useless in terms of producing any positive results.
The recent examples can make it clear. In January, the standoff between the US and Iran in the wake of the US strike on Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, offers a great lesson. In both countries, the situation became so tense that a destructive war seemed inevitable. It was at the most critical juncture that better sense prevailed on both sides. Knowing fully the calamitous consequences of modern-day war, the heads of both countries unequivocally declared that they do not want to wage war. The US President said “the fact that we have this great military and equipment… doesn’t mean we have to use it. We don’t want to use it.”
This episode makes it clear that the age of war is over. The second example of this optimism comes on February 29 when the US and the Taliban signed one of the most-important deals of the history, to end a 19-year-long bloodshed in Afghanistan. Both the sides are now aware that war is not an option for any kind of peace. Reconciliation and compromise is the best strategy to be followed. The land of Afghanistan is for the Afghan people. They will opt development to violence in the long run.
At the end of the day, it is quite clear that violence gives nothing. Our country, India, is still bearing the brunt of the violence in Delhi. Fifty three innocents were killed. They became the target of hate speech and the result was war-like situation. We still are the champions of violence. If we want to progress, we have to hate confrontation. It is mindless interference that acts as an obstacle in the smooth functioning of the society. This can be an age of peace. Let’s embark on the journey of spreading the message of peace. Through peaceful movements, every objective can be achieved. Overall, all the religions of the world abhor violence. So, the need of the hour is to propagate peace. The discovery of nature can be the best work of the modern times.
(Author can be reached at [email protected])