Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
…And then came man* …alone and unarmed; naked and defenseless. But only at first. Later he evolved from cave-man to a “state of civilization” – one filled with privileges. If the World were referred to as the veritable stage, then the last actor to unfold in the drama of life, was man. Man came, he saw, and he conquered … and when he indiscriminately exploits his own fellow men and also the environment and the fragile balance in nature; then it is time to defend the defenseless. When man manifests his irrational need either to dominate other innocent men/children or nature; or with his greed; or his selfishness in his quest for power, then the innocent lives have to be saved and defended against further losses and casualties.
It is possible that those who are strong carry around with them an invisible knapsack containing privileges, many of which may have been unearned. This strength is derived standing on the shoulders of giants so the privileged few can look further, grow stronger, maybe even more controlling.
Whether it is the opium wars, or human trafficking and child abuse, there is an underlying theme of destruction and suffering it brings in its wake. Destruction of innocence by the influential few; who primarily act out of ignorance. In his ignorance, man festered hatred rather than love, co-operation, compassion and kindness. In his need for continuous growth (which he considered synonymous with “progress”) he has haphazardly exploited the earth’s resources, be it wood for fire or other human beings for power; plundering nature in his urgency to control it and that has led to the whole context of the defenseless needing to be defended.
One of the ways to defend oneself against this onslaught of ignorance and maybe also help the defenseless is to learn the art and technique of self observation attaining a clear state of mind sharply aware of the impermanence of nature; where atrocities are placed in appropriate context of time and space. According to Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, “Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, but mastering oneself is true power.” Man has since time immemorial wanted to master others, be it nature or other men. If he sought instead to master himself and his mind, there probably may not even arise a need to defend the defenseless.
Multi-cellular beings like ourselves are alive because we experience sensations. They are the deepest mind-body experiences that one can have. But of all the multi-cellular organisms, only man is capable of observing and being aware of sensations. By using body sensations as tools, to signal disturbances within one’s self, one is aware that one has become agitated and as such can initiate appropriate action conducive to one’s own real progress and that of society. When each man becomes free of ignorance and thus enlightened of his own drivers that propel him to behave in greed or hatred; he will be persuaded to desist from acting irrationally.
..and then came man … forgetting that he is strong and powerful because of unearned privileges. Forgetting that within him lays the strength and the power to attain his own enlightenment; his own freedom from destructive habit patterns. And whilst resting this case for the defense, man is sought to be made aware of all that he has forgotten in his hurry to reach perfect “civilization”.
Sunita Masani, India
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2013 Session
* “Man” here includes women and children