many languages. When first mooted the idea could have brought forth a sceptical smile. Not anymore. The need for peace was never as urgent as now. This novel idea has not reached Portugal yet though the writer has past links with the country. The title leads one into thinking. And I guess the whole purpose of the book is to awaken our faculty of thinking. To make us think the unthinkable. And the ‘unthinkable’ is according to the author, Glenn D Paige, professor emeritus of political science, University of Hawaii, the possibility of forming a non killing society.
Such new ideas or theories take root only when conventional viewpoints are set aside and a completely new understanding of the subject is done from a fresh angle. In Prof Paige’s book, one feels, belief must precede achievability. A postmodernist view is what can bring us closer to the idea of the non-kill. Responses to the possibility of a non killing society remind us that human mind has yet to focus on the subject amidst definite yeses and noes. There have been answers like “I’ve never thought about the question before…” and “I don’t know”. The replies betray an indecisiveness that posits its possibility. “It’s not possible but it’s possible to become possible” was the reply of a professor of education at a seminar held at the Institute of Peace Science, Hiroshima University Japan in 1985.
Stereotypic response, in my opinion, is what stands in the way of realization of the global political science of non-kill. Imagine a world where the cat no longer chases the mouse. Tulane University psychologist Loh Tseng Tsai (1963) proves through his experiment that both the animals learn to live together by what is called (by Tsai) “survival through cooperation”. Questions on economy and self defence do not arise in a postmodernist view of such society. Come to think of it, non kill is a self-evident term and the society based on it is self-contained requiring little explanation.
Probably there is a deep seated fear of the unfamiliar that keeps us hooked to the conventional way of thinking. The argument put forward against the existence or formation of such a society has been clearly negated in the book with well argued support from religion and science. The question that remains is the need for an inner effort to build and realise a vision of peace. For the same way as war begins in the minds of men, peace also begins in our minds, we are told. The species that invented war is capable of inventing peace. Sounds logical.
The responsibility therefore lies with each of us. Man must tap the pocket of peace within him. It is clearly deducible from the rich compilation of facts and figures in the book that killing is not analytical to man. Man shows capacities for transformation and further evolution. So the idea of a non-violent society is very much within reach of man.
Language plays a significant role in such transformation. Words in everyday usage have to be understood in newer contexts. New terms need to be coined to put forward a refreshing message for mankind. It happened in Portugal in what came to be known as the Flower Revolution. Flowers in the barrels of guns is what the Carnation Revolution was about. It started on April 25, 1974, in Lisbon. The event changed the Portuguese regime from an authoritarian dictatorship to a liberal democracy. A peculiar revolution in that the revolutionaries did not use violence to bring about a peaceful change. Imagine calling yet another change as the “velvet revolution”. The latter refers to the bloodless revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 that saw the overthrow of the communist government. These are unconscious beginnings towards peace. Words with violent connotations are to be termed archaic in the context of the new mindset.
A Study mentioned in Paige’s book points to 47 societies with capacities for “peacefulness”. Mature, harmonious and consciously peaceful are epithets that come close to defining these. The book lists people that are predominantly peaceful. The list includes among others Jains, Lepchas and Ladakhis. Violence in these societies does not exist or exists only on the periphery. The presence of such societies validates the hypothesis of non-kill. Countries and territories without death penalty and countries without armies further kindle the idea of a non killing society.
There is an interesting formula given by Prof Paige for a nonkilling transformation: “Spirit, science, skills and song creatively combined through need-responsive processes of democratic leadership and citizen empowerment, amplified by institutional expressions and resource commitments can contribute to realisation of a nonkilling world”.
Violence exists in our society because of its ‘weak’ antithesis that appeals slowly to minds. Violence triggers action that is easy and concrete whereas peace requires meditation and thinking which is at times, ungraspable. The latter is time consuming and therefore unpopular in the modern competitive world. Though it is right to say that man is not a born killer, it is equally true that animal instinct requires a lot of discipline to control. Thus the spread of peace and non-violence takes time. The idea is to form a parallel chain or a wall to counter and contain violence.
One can thus begin by asking simple questions like: How much are we capable of thinking of the other? Empathy being a key ethical term as confirmed by the Upanishads. And again: How far can we transcend ourselves from the determined and the conditioned? And the critical question that should be applicable universally remains: Why think in terms of violence why not peace? The book draws inspiration from Gandhian and Kingian movements and appeals to creativity and constructive service. One must learn to “Walk lightly upon the earth. Reduce demands upon nature and fellow human beings that contribute to killing.”