Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
“War is all around” – so if you really care come on and let peace show….
I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
War is all around me
And so the fear grows
It’s written on the faces
It’s everywhere I go,
So if you really care
Come on and let peace show
Nowadays when turning on the news we are often confronted with terms such as peace building, the promotion of peace and human rights, building new democracies and similar terms. However, are our societies at their core really promoting peace or is it actually still unconsciously and or indirectly promoting war?
This question came to my mind during last week’s module on peace journalism versus war journalism, as well as the section on non-violent intervention. One of our tasks was to identify news articles that were written from a peace journalism perspective addressing positive aspects and the identification of solutions to solve the conflict rather than a sensational and negative approach to the conflict. What was in my opinion quite stunning during this exercise was that it is not all that easy to identify news articles in the big well-known newspapers that have this peace journalism approach. It rather seems that even the big well-known newspapers that one believes to be of certain quality are very much embracing a sensational approach when describing the various ongoing conflicts in the world. Why is that? Is it because humanity rather reads about all the horrific things that are happening in the world to people that live far away from them with a clear ‘bad’ and ‘good’ guy figure? Are we readers just not interested in reading about how a conflict can be solved? And do we realize that most news articles we read are war focused, as I had not consciously realized until my attention was drawn to it last week? One then wonders why the media and our societies are feeding us with these negative stories.
Do our societies promote peace or war? When looking back at my childhood, I remember that we played “war games” when we were little. My brother had a number of toy guns that later became ‘illegal’ bb guns obtained during holidays in Spain. He was enrolled in combat classes throughout his childhood. We played board games such as Battleship as well as simple, not as visual as in these days, war computer games. In school we played similar games and we at times were either the subjects of bullying or we were bullying others. On Saturday night we would jointly watch the old James Bond movies on our black and white TV and were allowed to stay up until late to watch the ‘good’ guy destroy the ‘bad’ guy. There were and there are still very few blockbusters that have a win-win ending. Of course every now and than we would also go to a football match that occasionally would result in fighting between the supporters of the different football clubs, but oh well that was sort of normal.
When my brother turned18 years old he went on to study at the royal navy academy to become a navy officer responsible for ensuring that the technical system of the weaponry (!) on board a navy ship was properly functioning. He also learned to shoot guns and what to do when in (real) combat. Other youth of his age had, at that time, to undergo at least 1 year obliged military services.
I remember as a teenager that my parents were very proud of my brother entering the military academy, because it meant that my brother had successfully passed through a very competitive selection process and he would get a very good, state funded education. Nothing against my brother, but should we really be proud of those in society who are not necessarily promoting peace (arguing that peace-keeping is not really the promotion of peace) or who are actually not trained to promote peace? My parents were not the only one to be proud, in many societies military personnel is often honored and regarded with a lot of respect and
Just to turn back to childhood, are schools actively promoting peace and peaceful coexistence? One of the major problems in schools has been and still is bullying. I am not a psychologist and do not know enough about the causes of why people bullies others or why a particular person is targeted to be bullied, but may it come from the fact that small children are taught by parents to be strong and to be ‘better’ than others. Have schools really been actively promoting peaceful coexistence in both primary and secondary schools? In my home country these days we have a special day against bullying (like the 16 days of activism against SGBV). And what about parents? Are parents conscious enough of the (in)direct affects of the war video games their children are playing, the violent programs they are watching on TV and the real live examples they are hearing about on the news. And what about conflict within the family? Violence and war are embedded in our daily lives from the moment we wake up until just before we go to sleep.
So lets move on and say once one passed through primary and secondary school without too much bullying, then in many countries most men and in some countries also women have to undergo obligatory military service. Military service during which civilians are trained to become combatants so they can be called upon in times of war. For those who are strongly against forced military subscription, in some countries they are able to do alternative community service. However, where available, in many countries this alternative service is often a lot longer than the actual military service. Are we saying that choosing not to be a combatant and assisting a community this is actually less noble? Are we punishing people who wish to serve their community rather than being trained to be a combatant and kill other people in the name of defense instead of finding solutions?
Then, after having finished either the obligatory military service or the alternative community service, most people continue to college or university. Some of us would opt for medicine, psychology, law and in some cases either war or peace studies to know more about the art of warfare or, on the contrary, about making peace. What is quite stunning though is why someone would need to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree in peace studies? Should we not, from when we are very small, be able to promote peace and live together with others in harmony? Would the world not be a better places if instead of competing over things and talking in terms of win-lose we would actually always aim for win-win outcomes and be compassionate with others? Is that not one of the core aspects of all existing faiths?
This list of examples can go on and on and this blog is not necessarily using the peace journalism approach (sorry Jake Lynch!). This blog just provides some food for thought about if we are all really promoting peace in the world or if we are actually still (unconsciously) promoting war in the 21st century.
Let us be aware of all the violence that we are unconsciously accepting and promoting and instead try to engage in more peaceful and positive behavior in our every day life and be the change we want to see in this world!
Marije Mellegers, The Netherlands
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2013 Session
PS: please do not forget to listen to the original song of “Love is all around us” by Wet Wet Wet to return to a more positive state of mind!