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ARTICLES > PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > Conflict, Violence and Education
Conflict, Violence And Education
By Satyabrata Chowdhury
1. Analysis of conflict :
Feelings of injustice or deprivation give rise to conflict. These feelings may have some real basis or it may be only because of some false or imaginary ideas. Some times false ego gives rise to conflict. Conflicts are also created or imposed upon by interested persons or groups for some ulterior motive to make some gain out of it. In a democratic country political conflicts will always be there and these are not discouraging if they do not result in violence or go against the interest of the people. In a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural country like India there is always a challenge on ethnic, communal or cultural issues creating conflicts. The contradiction between the privileged and deprived sections of the people, educated and illiterate people, people of higher caste and lower caste within the same religion, social discrimination between men and women, trend of political subjugation of a small section of the population are the major sources of origin of conflict. In inter-country relations economic, political or military domination of strong countries over weak countries often result in conflicts.
2. Conflict and violence :
When conflicts are not reduced or settled through negotiations or other constitutional means, it gives rise to violence. Violence is taken as a short cut method for resolution of conflicts. Suppressed sense of deprivation or injustice finds vent through violence and in extreme cases it leads to terrorism. The terrorist attacks on World Trade Centre in New York and Pentagon in Washington on 11th September 2001 have created a sense of concern all over the world regarding terrorism but not for the root cause of conflicts or their resolution. For centuries powerful governments in the world indulged, promoted and even exported terrorism in other countries for their narrow economic or political interest. Weaker countries have to surrender or tolerate all such injustices. There is doubt how far the aggression on Afghanistan in retaliation of terrorist attack is justified.
The root cause of such violence is hatred against an individual or group of people or society or country. Hatred is inherent in human character which is kept subdued by rationality and wisdom. When this rationality and wisdom disappear in the name of religion or ethnic superiority or a strong sense of injustice or deprivation, conflicts develop and violence sets in. Every sensible man understands that war against Afghanistan causing large scale devastation of the country can not put an end to terrorism. Lord Buddha said more than 2500 years ago that enmity can not be put to an end by enmity. Only by amity and equanimity can peace be achieved. So terrorism can not be eliminated by counter-terrorism. Sensible people of USA demonstrated against such retaliatory violence and proclaimed that an eye for an eye was not the solution as this would only result in a world full of blind people. In the country of Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, we can well understand that violence can not be put to an end by counter-violence.
3. Conflict resolution and religion :
If we look back to the progress of human civilisation, we find that, at the initial stage, for centuries man had to fight continuously with fierce beasts in the jungle and also with natural disasters, for their survival. They always had to keep themselves alert against hostile elements of their surroundings and circumstances. As a result man became aggressive, self-centered and ferocious to save himself. Gradually, when they learnt to live in groups it became easier to fight against beasts collectively but due to conflict of interest there were often fights between groups. Man did not hesitate to kill animals and also men of other groups. Thus violence and hatred became inherent in human character. With the advent of religions, good sense developed and man learnt to worship God or some Super Power for their benefit and also learnt to love others. According to the Persian cult Zarathrusta appeared about 3700 years ago and preached love and peace. The most powerful exponent for peace, Gautam Buddha, was born in India more than 2500 years ago. Millions of people of many countries were inspired with the preachings of Buddha that non-violence and peace were the most valuable assets of human civilisation. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for the cause of love, justice and peace. An important preaching of the Bible is "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Hazarat Mohammed, founder of Islam religion, also preached for justice, peace and love. Though thousands of people were killed in crusades or fights mainly between Mohamedans and Christians, it can not be denied that religion played a positive role in removing a sense of hatred and violence in human culture and developed a sense of moral values and love for others. Religious temper of giving much emphasis on God or Supernaturalism is gradually losing its strength. In modern times, 'Humanism' emphasising social justice, human values, service to mankind and love for all human beings and with a rational approach to all natural phenomena is gradually replacing the dogmatic religious culture. This also denounces hatred and violence. All religions play a vital role in developing ethical values in the society and a sense of natural justice. Resolution of conflict becomes easier when a sense of natural justice prevails in the society.
4. Role of education :
Resolution of conflict without resorting to violence is the essential condition for establishing peace in the society. Peace is an attitude towards life which strengthens social cohesion and makes life worth living. Education can play a positive role in this direction. It can develop a culture of amity and peace with love for others, mutual respect for each other and better understanding for others' feelings. Creation and not destruction should dominate human actions. Education prepares the mind with universal love and tolerance irrespective of differences in religion, caste, ethnicity, language and culture. A culture of peace should be introduced through education at all levels starting from preliminary level. It has to be impressed in their minds from early childhood that it is peace and not violence that helps human civilisation to survive and progress. Violent activities often give an immediate thrill which draws people's attraction. It is a fact that a few extremely brutal persons have earned their place in history through their barbarous activities. But in all cases there might be some immediate temporary victory or gain but ultimately they all had to lose; otherwise human civilisation would not have survived. It is to be understood that ultimate victory is always that of peaceful, constructive and developing activities. We have to realise that non-violence or peaceful methods have a bigger strength than that of violence. Non-violence is a power which can be enjoyed equally by all, rich and poor, as well as the strong and the weak. Through education qualities like fearlessness, self-control, tolerance, humility should be cultivated which help in developing a proper attitude towards life and a healthy culture of peace. We have to examine our existing curriculum and textbooks to identify if there are any such components in them which promote a culture of violence and hatred for differences in religion, ethnicity, culture, sex and other prejudices. Often in study materials they give too much emphasis on violent activities and war heroes. But it must be made clear that victory begets conflict or enmity and the defeated party always have a dormant tendency to retaliate. This retaliation and counter-retaliation leads to total destruction. Peace education must get an appropriate position in our education process. Lives and ideals of great men who preached for love and peace should get due importance in our study materials. Religion controlled human thoughts and action to a great extent in the ancient world and, even today after so much scientific and technological development influence of religion in human activities can not be ignored or underestimated. Often ignorance of another's religion gives rise to conflict. But no religion preaches hatred. The basic tenets of all religions should be taught to the students. Also, too much emphasis on materialistic aspects and consumerism makes man self-centred and narrow minded. Some aspects of spiritualism in the appropriate form should be included in the curriculum which may induce some magnanimity in their character. Proper humanistic education taking care of developing scientific skill, accumulation to knowledge and promoting humane faculties will create a society where conflicts may be resolved amicably with justice.
5. Conclusion :
In a human society conflicts will always be there between individuals, between groups, between nations because of differences of opinion, clash of interest, establishment of superiority and various other factors. There is the theory of thesis and anti-thesis. Conflicts help in material and intellectual advancement. Economic deprivation and social subjugation are the basic causes of conflicts in human society. In the study of history of human civilisation it is found that there was a continuous trend of torturing the weak by more powerful individuals or groups, exploitation of the poor by the rich and landed people, hatred of the upper caste people of the lower caste people, neglect of the illiterate by the educated, socially over powering of women by men and many such other injustices. Such social injustices are a constant source of discontent giving rise to conflicts. Instead of solving those conflicts they were always suppressed. In the progress of civilisation and development of humanistic attitude, people are now gradually getting more and more concerned with Human Rights that demand social justice to all sections of the society. Every human being must be provided with their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, access to education and health care and freedom. Extreme poverty and illiteracy among the major section of the population is the greatest tragedy for India. It is shame that a small section of our population including public servants and political leaders are living such a luxurious and expensive life which is in sharp contrast with the common people. Naturally this wide discrimination is a constant source of discontent and hence give rise to conflicts. Also, in the global context there is sharp contrast between the rich and poor countries. A reasonable economic order through equitable distribution of wealth among different nations and more particularly among the people of the same country is very much needed to avoid conflicts and clashes. This is the biggest challenge faced by the society. Keeping aside these basic facts, only slogan for 'peace' can not change the society. In education, along with spreading ideas of universal love and tolerance and importance of maintaining peace for sustaining human development, there should be sufficient provision to make students conscious of denouncing extreme inequality in distribution of wealth. A mindset should be prepared that will help in developing a society where equitable distribution of wealth will be given due emphasis. A proper concept of human welfare should be cultivated through education. A humanistic education covering various aspects responsible for creating social discontents giving rise to conflicts and emphasising on maintaining peace in resolution of conflicts, will create a society worth living.
Source: International Seminar on Conflict Resolution, February 15-17, 2003