Paradigms of a Culture of Peace

Confer�ncia proferida por Ravindra Varma, presidente da
Gandhi Peace Foudation, em setembro/2005
p�gina 1/2

This century may well turn out to be one of the most crucial centuries in the life
of our planet. It may turn out to be crucial for the survival of our species, of other
species, of all life on the planet, and for the survival of the culture and civilizations that
humans have built up through the ages. Fears about the survival do not arise from
apprehensions about cosmic accidents or natural calamities or the prophesies in
religious texts. They arise more from what we have begun to see of the consequences
of our own actions. Even some of the natural calamities that we are experiencing or
apprehending seem to be the consequences of what we have done, or are continuing
to do to increase and diversify the production of material goods or to increase and
deploy our capacity to destroy or overpower those who differ from us or those who
have the potential to compete with us in our quest for higher standards of life or
control of resources. No one can hold that these activities of ours in the field of
production or destruction are governed by chance or spontaneity, that they occur, and
have continued to occur for centuries, without deliberate motives. Nor can it be held
that these motives do not arise from what is held as permissible or desirable. The
holocaust that we fear has therefore to be seen as the consequence of our actions and
motivations and the values that prompt and sanctify them, and the institutions that we
have built up on the base of these values. We cannot save ourselves from the
catastrophe that looms on the horizon by a policy of drift. It is only ruthless
introspection and a swift reversal of whatever is injurious that can save us from what
seems like an impending catastrophe.


Perhaps the most powerful and spectacular threat to survival comes from war
and its variants. No one contests the statement that the weapons that big powers
have manufactured and stockpiled are powerful enough to destroy the world many
times over. Technology has transformed the nature of war, the nature of weaponry,
the nature of delivery systems, the canvas of impact, and the scale of destruction.
These in turn have affected tactics and strategy, as well as vulnerability. Weapons of
mass destruction � nuclear, biological and chemical � can wipe out populations, cause
lingering genetic effects, destroy habitats and infrastructure, poison all elements on
which life depends, cause effects that can bring misery and death to unborn
generations. The one who launches may not be able to control the direction or to
circumscribe the area of damage. Effects on the environment may lead to the end of
immunity everywhere. It does not therefore need much imagination to realize that
weapons of mass destruction may turn out to be weapons of universal destruction.

The argument that weapons of mass destruction have to be manufactured and
stockpiled not for use, but to serve as deterrents, seems to be too na�ve to merit
credibility. They can serve as deterrents only if the other side fears that they will be
used; and the theory of deterrence does not write off the need to be ready for a
second strike. It does not therefore guarantee non-use; does not give immunity from
accidents during production, or while in the stockpile, or failures in assessment or the
command system.

Weapons of mass destruction, sophisticated delivery systems, increasing ability
to control the skies and the seas, and to wage wars across continents without the
advantage of proximate bases or bases across land frontiers, and many other factors
have aggravated disparities in the quantum of destructive power available to states, or
to forces that are ranged against each other. This has compelled combatants to
attempt to reduce the impact of disparities by taking recourse to strategies and tactics
that avoid or minimize direct confrontation. Even as those who are weak in
conventional arms and conventional methods of warfare try to offset their
disadvantages by acquiring nuclear weapons and banking on the power of deterrence
and blackmail, those who feel they do not have the comparable strength necessary for
direct confrontation in positional warfare try to offset their disadvantages by resorting
to guerilla warfare, fluid fronts, terrorism, terrorist attacks across continents and
frontiers, and all other variants and tactics that can enable them to defend themselves
or harass and worst the enemy in a war of attrition and a war of nerves, in which
military installations, police installations, economic installations, commercial centres,
public transport systems and above all the minds of common citizens and servants of
the state become targets of attack. Terrorism and variants of guerilla warfare have
become instruments of international, inter-state, inter-ethnic and intrastate conflict.
The attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, the recent attacks on the
Transport system in London, the attacks on Madrid, the attacks on school children in
Beslan, Russia, Kuta in Bali, infiltration and cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and the
Middle East and elsewhere are all manifestations of the new forms that international
ideological warfare have taken. They have demonstrated that wars can be waged from
long distances without the massing of troops at the frontiers and the spectacle of
Parszer divisions crossing frontiers under cover or in human waves. The last few years
have shown how terrorist attacks can lead to an intense sense of insecurity, fits of
paranoia and a regime of suspicion.

Terrorism � intranational or international is a form of warfare. It is an attempt to
use 'terror' as an instrument in the war against an enemy, to harass or subdue the
enemy. It attempts to create terror in the minds of the common citizen as well as those
who are in control of the organs of government or institutions that are perceived as
perpetrators of injustice. It attempts to undermine existing authority, create parallel
authority within the nation and eventually defeat and substitute the authority of the
state that is being challenged. Since it depends on terror as its primary instrument, it
has to choose targets that can generate the most widespread and most intense form of
terror; no one is sacrosanct; guilt or innocence does not determine whether one is
chosen as a target or spared. The sense of immunity should be eroded. So must the
confidence in the power of the State to provide security. Everyone should realize that
he or she is vulnerable. Everyone becomes vulnerable as when weapons of mass
destruction are used or are likely to be used. As with weapons of mass destruction or
indeed any form of modern warfare, the distinction between combatants and non-
combatants becomes increasingly notional, and both get equally exposed to the risks
and lethal effects of warfare. The fear of indiscriminate destruction, the sense of
universal vulnerability and the dread of the endless and diverse kinds of suffering
caused by war have created increasing and widespread, almost universal awareness of
the suicidal consequences of war.

The common citizen has also become increasingly aware of the erosion of
fundamental rights and freedoms that takes place in societies exposal to war and
terrorism. On the one hand, the State claims the right to enter and search houses and
to arrest and detain citizens on suspicion of connivance with the terrorists. On the
other hand, terrorists extract acquiescence or assistance (or silence) at the point of
the gun. The common citizen is exposed to excesses, threats and terror from both
sides. Both sides justify the use of force or violence, and argue that excesses are
unintended but unavoidable, � one in the name of the sovereignty of the State, and its
duty to protect life and property and the 'rule of law' and the other in the name of
'revolutionary violence' to combat 'structural violence' and the denial of fundamental
rights inherent in exploitation or in any system of exploitation. The fear that terrorist
groups may be able to acquire and launch weapons of mass destruction has only
aggravated the situation.

Centuries of warfare, constant escalation in the power of weaponry and delivery
systems, refinements in tactics and strategy, and the astronomical increase in the
power of annihilation that modern technology has put into the hands of combatants
have brought us where we find ourselves today. We are on the brink of self-
annihilation. The distinction between combatants and non-combatants has been nearly
obliterated. Vulnerability has become universal. The number of non-combatants,
particularly women and children affected by war is astounding. (The percentage of
civilians killed and wounded as a result of hostilities has risen from 5 percent of all
casualties at the turn of the last century, to 65 percent during World Ward II to 90
percent in more recent conflicts
1. In the last decade alone, more than 2 million children
have been killed during wars, while more than 4 million have survived physical mutilation
and more than 1 million have been orphaned or separated from their families as a result
of war)
2.* These figures speak only of those who have lost their lives. But millions more
are affected by the death of fathers and brothers or those on whom women and
children depended for their lives, education and protection within the framework of the
family. In spite of the talk of 'targeted destruction', 'decapitation of leadership', clean
bombs, and scientific precision in containing damage to strategic or military targets,
countries have been laid waste, their infrastructures of life have been ruined and
undermined; millions have been rendered homeless refugees living on international doles
in their own countries, often disabled, and exposed to rape and loot and diseases
spawned by pollutants from war, poisoned water, landmines, and destruction of crops
and dwellings. Powerful nations have begun to claim the 'right' to decapitate the
leaders of other countries through targeted destruction to "protect the world from evil",
while the world wants to know how 'decapitation' is different from assassination.

The cost of war � all variants of war � has become incredible. We have referred
briefly to cost in human lives, and the cost in suffering to human families, the social
system and to individual human beings. To that must be added the tremendous cost of
preparing for war, � of acquiring and maintaining preparedness, � the standing defence
forces, equipment, armed fighters and bombers and missile systems and anti-missile
systems, submarines, navies, land forces and so on. It has been estimated that
countries spend approximately $950 billion a year on expenditure related to "defence" or
war preparations. Nor is this all. The effect that war, the weapons, chemicals etc used
in war, production and stockpiling of weapons of destruction etc cause to the
environment has to be computed not merely in terms of money and depleteable non-
replenishable natural resources, but also in terms of the adverse effect on the
environment on which life depends on the planet. Modern means of communication �
particularly the Television and other knowledge communication systems � have made
the common human citizen increasingly aware of the cost of war. We have already
referred to the increasing awareness of universal vulnerability and the prospect of total
annihilation that weapons of mass destruction and terrorism have brought in their train.
This awareness has manifested itself in the unprecedented demonstrations that we
witnessed across the globe almost in every country � in which millions of people, from
common citizens to distinguished scientists and artists and Nobel laureates took part.
Millions of human beings have testified not merely to their fear of war, but their
abhorrence of war, their revulsion to war. People � almost everywhere in the globe �
seem to be overcoming the mindset that centuries of inertia, ignorance and
brainwashing had created. They seem to be realizing that they have the responsibility
to stop the suicidal madness of war; and also the power to do so if they assert
themselves and overcome some old notions that have become archaic and untenable.

We have entered an age in which peace is being recognized as the sine que non
of survival. We have begun to realize what war can cause. If we must avoid war, we
must also realize what causes war. It is only when we realize what the causes are that
we can mount an effort to eliminate what causes war. The United Nations made a
historic statement when it declared that war begins in the minds of human beings. War
then can be eliminated only if it is eliminated from the minds of human beings, if no one
entertains the thought of war, even if it arises in the mind.

Very few today can think of war as an objective, or an end in itself. It is looked
upon as a 'means' to obtain one objective or another. We have therefore to examine
the efficiency of war as a means to settle disputes, and also examine the objectives or
beliefs that provoke men to go to war.

From the dawn of history, humanity has seen nations using the instrument of
wars to secure expansion of territory, secure submission or to settle disputes. We have
even seen wars to end wars. But wars have not ended. In the last century itself, we
have seen two gigantic world wars, and more than 150 other limited wars. They have
neither succeeded in settling disputes nor in establishing just solutions. They have
always left behind a trail of suffering, and in most cases a legacy of bitterness and the
smouldering desire for revenge. They have seldom, if ever, led to reconciliation of
differences. They have become fiercer and fiercer, more and more ruthless, more and
more total, more and more devastating, both to the victor and the vanquished.

Wars depend on the use of superior physical force. Once physical force becomes
the arbiter, both contending parties become subject to its logic, become the victim of
its paradigms. In a conflict based on physical force, it is the party that can command
greater deployable physical force that is likely to win. Combatants therefore have to
compete with each other in mustering greater destructive power than the other. This
leads to an endless "arms race" and the competitive use of science and technology to
increase one's power to destroy and annihilate. This leads to the production of
weapons of mass destruction on the one hand, and to resort to the strategies and
tactics of terrorism on the other. Violence gives one no route of escape from weapons
of mass destruction or terrorism. Agreement on non proliferation, renunciation of
nuclear weapons, reduction of armies, and so on can only offer palliatives, some
reduction in the threshold of the fear of annihilation, but as long as one believes in the
use of violence to settle disputes, there can be no escape from the corollaries of

One cannot desire peace and believe that violence is the highway or the
shortcut to peace. One cannot hope to scuttle or escape the law of cause and effect.
Not only are causes and effects inexorably and inextricably interconnected, but the
universe has been so constructed that the laws and effects in one realm are connected
and consistent with the causes and effects in all other realms as well. No man of
science can repudiate or ignore the inexorable relationship between cause and effect.
Hence Gandhi pointed out the relationship between means and ends, and reminded us
that a culture of peace could not be built up through means that were antithetical to
peace, through violent means. Everything acts on everything else, and everything is
governed by the same laws of cause and effect, and that is why the universe is a
universe. If I nurse greed in my heart, I will be acquisitive. If I am acquisitive, I will
want to possess more than I need, and if I attempt to do so, I will rob another of what
he needs, and I will be able to retain my possession only by the use of force and fraud.
One cannot sow the seeds of hatred and war, and hope to reap the fruits of love and
peace. The law of cause and effect, and the interdependent nature of all origination
and existence are paradigms from which there is no escape in the universe. Nothing can
emerge, exist or endure except on the basis of, or in conformity with the paradigm.

Violence can lead to annihilation, not reconciliation. Violence cannot lead to a
world without violence. Hatred is the antithesis of reconciliation. Only love can lead to
reconciliation, not hatred. Only logic and love can lead to the transformation and
reconciliation of minds, not the ruthless use of physical force or hatred. Peace cannot
rest on violence, and violence cannot lead to peace. A culture that leads to peace has
therefore to be a culture that abjures violence in every field, and depends on non-
violence to lay the foundations of reconciliation, which are the only foundations on
which the edifice of peace can be built.


The question of peace thus is more related to the means that one adopts than
to the ends one seeks because, if one is committed to the use of exclusively peaceful
means ends that disturb peace will get automatically scuttled. That is why Gandhi told
us that if we took care of means ends would take care of themselves.

Let us now look at some of the issues or beliefs that provoke wars or war like
activities on the part of groups.

It is not necessary or possible to make an exhaustive list. Nor is it necessary to
attempt to assess the relative importance of different issues. But it may be useful to
identify some of the main issues:

1.Issues relating to identity: Preservation and expression of identity;
2.Access to and control of resources;
3.Issues relating to the Nation State: co-existence of different ethnic or
historical entities in a common territory: resentment at unification through
force; the borders that have evolved through wars or fraud;
4.Questions relating to the extent of loyalty to the State: Meaning and
relevance of old conceptions of sovereignty: The Civil Society and the
Sovereign State
5.Collectives and the rights of the constituent units of collectives, �
individuals, territorial units, associations, and so on;
6.Poverty and disparities in development;
7.Disparities in power;
8.Governments and the rights of citizens � genuine participation in decision
making and the processes of decision making: Sanctions for the enforcement
of decisions;
9.Fundamental Human Rights: The rights of individuals and groups:
Exploitation, Gender issues: reconciling the rights of one with the rights of
every one else;
10.Religious beliefs: Notions of superiority: Orthodoxy: intolerance,
Fundamentalism: Complexes in relation to identity, persecution, etc. Religious
11. Ideological fixations and Political or economic Messianism;