Summary of a speech by Prof. Joseph K. Alexander at “Towards establishing a Department of Peace in Sovereign states” discussion on 3rd March 2006 at Press Club Hall Trivandrum organized by Indian Institute of Public Administration and Gandhi Media Centre and Centre for Gandhian Studies, University of Kerala. He is an Economist and chairperson of IIPA Kerala Regional Branch
Pre- Society man.
Man is a social animal. Individually he is a bundle of unlimited material and immaterial wants: a self-seeker, a fighter with any to satisfy his wants. His whims and fancies drive him to many escapades. So his life in the Pre-society stage was “brutish, nasty and short” The cave man used to do whatever he thought was good to him. Hazlitt in his essay “On going a Journey” says that if you are alone in a train compartment, you can do whatever you want: to go naked, to dance or even stand on your head. But if there are others in the compartment, you cannot do these things. There are hundreds / thousands in the society including the environment demanding opportunity for self expression, protection and preservation.
When one becomes a member of a society, there are a lot of rules to obey. Basic nature of social life is desoverignised individual. He gives up a part of his absolute sovereignty or freedom to the society, so that the society can be formed and man can live peacefully together. The Social contract theory of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau highlight this aspect. Man in his different facets of life is a member of different social organizations. As a political animal, he has to obey the laws of state, as member of the religious group he has to keep the commands of the religion, as a member of the club he has to keep to the rules of the club and so on. In other words peaceful existence in social life warrants self-control and obedience to the relevant rules and practices of the organizations of which he is member. Self controls make man a free animal to do whatever he wants inside his orbit. So he escapes even inadvertently hitting the neighbor’s nose with elbow.
With the onslaught of information technology and modern methods of mass communication the whole world has shrunk to a tiny ball. We come to know whatever and whenever anything happen in any part of it. In this globalised world, peaceful existence demand obedience by all States or nation states to the rules of co-existence. In other words each nation has to have self-control and respect for other entities. Thus world peace can come about only when each individual, each family, each society, and nation-state impose self discipline, respect the rights of other similar social and political units and keep the rules of the game of world peace.
It is the imperfections and inadequacies of the present day social life that led many visionaries to dream about alternative ideal society and how to organize it. It is the concept of perfection inherent in human mind juxtaposed to his imperfections that prompted thinkers to imagine about a better social structure to lead homosapiens to a happy, prosperous and peaceful life. These dreams were social, political, economic, religious and whatnot.
Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia, Plato’s Ideal State, Marx’s Communist society, Gandhiji’s Grama Swaraj, Buddhism of Guthama Budha, Maha Vir’s Jainism, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount and God’s (Moses) Ten Commandments and love thy neighbor as thyself, Bhgawat Githa in Ramayana are all examples of these dreams..
Self-restraint is the precept.
All these dreams have this basic approach. Man must restrain his instincts of absolute sovereignty for the sake of peaceful existence with others. Respect and recognition of the rights of one’s neighbours is the essence of social life.
Attempts to bring international Peace started lately with the Peace Bureau originated by the peace Congress in Rome in 1891. A number of pacifists groups aspired for a peaceful existence
But the militant imperialists brought the First World War. At the end of it the World agreed to create the League of Nations to end the World war forever. The old Peace Bureau was given a decent burial in this League of Nations.
Even the League could not bring peace. Various peace movements that sprang up to counter the spirit of militarism even before the First World War specially spearheaded by the socialists also professed the peace move. But these very socialists were forced to abandon their professed ideal during the Second World War when they aligned with allies to defeat Germany and its Axis powers.
UNO. The end of the Second World War brought about a number of international organizations like the World Bank, IMF and The United Nations Organization to end the War forever. USA led the world in these organizations as champion of world peace.
Meanwhile the cold war between the West and the East led by Soviet Union ended with the dissolution of USSR under the leadership of Gorbechov and his glasnost and perestroika.
The question was must the post -cold war international system evolve according the play of power and interests of the nations? Would the bipolar world eventually end in uni-polar world led by UNO or would it fragment into a multi-polar-system with new threats and issues on ethnic and regional terrorism and violence?
If we look at the world after 1996, the prospect of world peace in a uni-polar system is bleak enough to create disbelievers.
In the Middle East the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains unsolved. In the former Yugoslavia wide scale fighting between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1998 later forced Milosevic to accept a peace plan. But the issue still simmers, though he was extradited to Netherlands.
In Northern Ireland the Belfast agreement in 1998 was signed by Ireland and Northern Ireland. The issues of decommissioning the para-military groups continue to undermine the agreement. The British Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 on a formula of “one country two systems’. But now China is forcing Taiwan to endorse one China policy. In 1998 India and Pakistan started a series of nuclear tests despite the opposition of nuclear powers. On the other hand the two Koreas have agreed to cooperate
Economic globalization brought benefits and cancers. The IMF, WB and WTO are now considered by the underdeveloped countries as machines to exploit the weaker nations of the world.
These all show how difficult it is to bring about peace.
A mere opening and operating a special department of peace in U N O or wherever else cannot do much in bringing world peace. It can serve at best as an educative process towards world peace.