People often wonder how a large-scale conflict, involving hundreds of thousands of people, causing numerous deaths and leaving countless people emotionally and/or physically maimed for life can occur. Yes, I am talking about war.
All around the world, no matter when you look, there is some war going on. Sometimes, they are obvious confrontations of armies. Other times, they are a wide spread collection of small events and often involve civilians, but they are wars nonetheless.
Wars are stupid. Wars are cruel. Wars are wasteful. Nobody truly wins in a war. Yet, they are always there. Worse, they mostly involve people who have no desire to fight whatsoever.
This week, Ronit and I watched two war movies: Letters from Iwo Jima and Captain America. That made me realize the extent to which everyday people can be mobilized to serve some external cause. The Japanese had their tradition, their emperor and their honor. The Americans had the propaganda that told them they were protecting their country and their freedom. In the end, many people fought on both sides, many people died, many were injured and many families suffered.
Watching a war movie, we do not count deaths. There are just too many. In reality, each dead soldier has a mother, a father, friends, maybe a partner and maybe even children. Each dead soldier has a future and then, nothing. A hole in the fabric of society.
Serious, debilitating injuries are even worse, because they put an extra burden on the people around the soldier for the rest of their life. Instead of a contributing member of society, another person now depends on others for the simplest things. The glory of war gives way to the humiliation of helplessness.
As if these films were not enough, Today Tonight ran a very biased and inciteful piece on Muslims “recruiting” followers in order to overthrow democracy in Australia. Despite the report clearly stating how Muslim leaders had supported the recent census and showing gentle, smiling Australians who had converted to Islam, the general tone was scary and the “experts” interviewed said this was anti-democratic.
Considering the massive movement to democracy in the Middle East right now and the fact that, although not popular with the current majority, peaceful political recruitment is the very essence of democracy, this TV report could be shocking, but it is not.
You see, groups of people are made up of people, no matter how large they are. To get a group of people to do something, their inherent motivation must be used. No matter how horrible a war is, and World War 2 is probably the most horrible of them all, it relies heavily on the general population having too much pressure.
Basically, going to war is a way to relieve pressure. It takes everyone’s minds off the economy, nobody worries about good education for the kids and there is no public debate on a national health system. Everybody is too busy fighting or supporting the fight. Pre-war Germany was devastated and the Germans were feeling inferior. The idea of being superior and killing the people who supposedly caused their grief was very appealing. By the time they woke up to the manipulation, it was too late to pull back. But WW2 also had roots in the Great Depression in the USA, internal friction in Italy and Spain and strong pressures in other countries.
Today, we are feeling the effects of the global financial crisis. There are cutbacks everywhere, people are losing their jobs, many cannot afford good housing anymore and this is causing a lot of pressure. Anyone who has children feels even more pressure from being unable to provide for them and from worrying what might happen to them as they grow up.
And I believe this is precisely how wars can be prevented – by focusing on the future of our children and on creating a world in which they will never have to fight anyone. In order to do that, we must learn how to handle our personal pressure so that nobody can distract us from the most important thing in our life – being good parents and protecting our kids.
How to create peace
- Accept yourself. We all do the best we can. You too. It is useless to feel you should do more, achieve more or feel differently. Being hungry is OK. Being tired is OK. Being late after trying hard to be on time is OK. No matter what you do, your work will never be complete, so just let go.
- Accept others. Once you agree that YOU do the best you can all the time, it is easy to see that the same is true for everyone else. If someone is rude to you and they could be nice, that is a problem, but if it is the best they could manage, then poor them. Maybe they are having a really bad day. If someone has a different opinion and they could share yours, that is a problem, but if their opinion is the only possible result of their nature, their background and their context, that is just life. Let go.
- Have a strong sense of priority. Identity your core values – the things that are important for you and the things you prefer to avoid. Realign your life with your core values and focus on the most important things. Mine are health, happiness, my relationship with Ronit and parenting. What are yours?
- Spend time with people who will help you feel relaxed, accepted, important and fulfilled. Change jobs, switch your kids’ school, move to another neighborhood, city or country if you have to, but choose to live in a peaceful, calm place.
- Disconnect from push media and pay close attention to the information you are exposed to. Specifically, learn to distinguish fact from opinion, cross reference and form your own views. Google Search makes it very easy nowadays.
- Broaden your experience. Ronit and I have lived and travelled in many places around the world and one thing I noticed in all those places was that people faced the same challenges I did – providing for their family, feeling safe and finding meaning in life. Parents in every country and every culture try to make ends meet and spend more time with their kids, get excited at the sight of babies, cry when a loved one dies and worry about the world they are leaving for their kids.