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S. Shushkevich: Establishing a Culture of Peace: Worldviews, Institutions, Leadership, and Practices

Presented at Assembly 2002, “Establishing a Culture of Peace: Worldviews, Institutions, Leadership, and Practice; The Search for Solutions to Critical Problems,” February 18, 2002

Whether we like it or not—the process of globalization has indeed taken root and is developing. In order that its fruits may be for the benefit of humanity, that which we term “government,” under the United Nations Millennium Declaration, should be confirmed by six essential principles: freedom, equality and solidarity, tolerance, repudiation of violence, respect for the natural environment, and collective responsibility. People must come to recognize that these are the very conditions under which the vista of new opportunities opens up, namely that which enable the most rapid economic growth and the highest standard of living.

However, these benefits do not always turn out to be benefits for all. The unequal distribution of wealth in today’s world, the extreme inequality among the nations as well as within any given country—these seem inevitably to be the bitter curse of human existence itself. The poor nations of the world are in fact sustaining greater outlays in order to conform to the standards of respect for the environment. And, at the same time, those nations that concentrated wealth by violating these principles are themselves only very meagerly supporting those social projects aimed at compensating for the iniquities brought about by their own former activities on their path to prosperity.

New technologies have now made available to people everywhere the chance to be informed about the diverse levels of material abundance of their fellow citizens in all the various corners of the world and, at the same time, have heightened the sense of threat emanating from events happening in very remote places. The reaction, which has emerged in consequence of this, has been a desire to associate ourselves with those events and those groups which we perceive as “good,” and to distance ourselves from those events and those groups whom we perceive as “bad”—which includes the effects stemming from globalization. There is no denying the fact that “globalism” itself has now given rise to “anti-globalism” as well.

Young people, naturally burning with the desire to establish themselves, see an immense gulf separating them from their well-off peers of the same age group in developed countries. It is more difficult to inculcate in a young person the attitude of “tolerance and nonviolence” which is characteristic of spiritually trained leaders, than to arouse in them a feeling of hatred directed toward the global clan of the wealthy and to stir them up to engage in struggle against those who have attained the status of abundance. The danger that internal civil wars may erupt into a worldwide conflict between the rich and the poor has not diminished at all. This we may truly term a “war of the civilizations.” The sense of hopelessness due to the utter futility of standing up against a splendidly equipped opponent gives rise to nontraditional forms of engaging in warfare, such as terrorism, which primarily causes grief and suffering to those who are in no way guilty nor responsible for the circumstances of their resentment.

It is important to take steps toward deepening our understanding of how we can distill the best of globalization and at the same time to remove ourselves from its bad aspects; how we can act in unison; how to avoid dividing society as a whole into “we” and “them”; and how we can subdue the roots of aggression within the human soul and steer clear of conflicts between all the various groups. In this new world, thanks to new technology, directly and without any help from governments, all kinds of criminality, narcotics, terrorism, pollution, disease, weapons, and also simply migrants are able to penetrate freely across any borders. Cannot, with the support of governments, and making use of the latest technologies, mutual understanding pervade instead? Can we not carry out joint actions bringing health, prosperity and joy to all people? Our obligation is to enact this possibility as a concrete reality.