World peace from within

A weeklong workshop on “Teaching Peace in the 21st Century” for peace educators and educators interested in peace studies across the world was organised by the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA, in conjunction with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) last week.

At the beginning of that “Summer Institute for Faculty,” as it was branded, last Monday (June 13, 2016), the lead facilitator and Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, George A. Lopez, gave all participants a seemingly simple question. Everyone was given a piece of paper to write a few points on how to achieve world peace.

I took my pen and quickly wrote that we could achieve world peace by: a) entrenching social justice b) ending the occupation of other lands c) respecting diversity d) resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict e) promoting unity, not uniformity f) creating employment opportunities and g) stopping the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. That was where I got when the next stage of the task was to commence.

The next stage was that everyone was to form a team of four or five members across countries and discuss the various solutions individually proffered so that each group would be able to synthesise the points. I found it intriguing that members of my group had divergent approaches to achieving world peace, from the purely theoretical to the plainly otiose. I had a feeling that some people are so blessed that they had not experienced what would make them understand the enormity of the suffering that defines the human condition in many parts of the world.

Though we eventually agreed on four, I felt those who did not experience the privation of war and the pains of conflict would not have the actual knowledge of the issue at stake. It was akin to having a bachelor pontificate on marriage. Knowledge would actually derive more from experience in such a case. It was interesting that at least a group could not even agree on what peace is, so members argued scholarly front and back until they ended up submitting nothing. It showed that some people are so much used to ease and peace that they don’t even know what peace is.

At the end of the discussions that day, I reached two conclusions. One, achieving world peace in the strict sense of it will remain a tall dream for a long time to come because the world leaders are chichidodos. In his critically-acclaimed novel, “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” (1968), Ayi Kwei Armah tells us what the chicidodo is: “Ah, you know, the chichidodo is a bird. The chichidodo hates excrement with all its soul. But the chichidodo only feeds on maggots, and you know the maggots grow best inside the lavatory. This is the chichidodo,” Armah wrote.

In other words, those that should work for world peace profit immensely from war. Gone were the days that weapons were produced to fight wars. Wars are now produced in our world in order to sell weapons. The same thing applies to how diseases are manufactured to sell drugs.

Two, one can create a peaceful world within oneself if one is committed to it. By this, I mean world peace will be localised within oneself or internalised if one tries to maintain the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would like them do to you. This further means that one will experience peace within one’s world if one undertakes always the Four-Way-Test developed by Herbert Taylor, which has been adopted by the Rotary Club and the Ghanaian judicial system.

This Four-Way-Test, consisting of 24 words, is that every action to be taken should be done only after satisfactorily answering the questions: “1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Ultimately, as Mahatma Ghandi said, you should “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Even if the world is riddled with violence, your own world can be of abundant peace if you manifest and exude the beauty, the compassion, the character and honesty that elude the world around you. You thereby make peace with the world and make smiles and omelet from the lime and eggs respectively thrown at you.