“True peace is not merely the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.”
– Jane Adams
“A truly free society must not include a “peace” which oppresses us. We must learn on our own terms what peace and freedom mean together. There can be no peace if there is social injustice and suppression of human rights, because external and internal peace are inseparable. Peace is not just the absence of mass destruction, but a positive internal and external condition in which people are free so that they can grow to their full potential.”
– Petra Karin Kelly
I am a 40-year-old male. I was born in Sri Lanka and grew up there. I am now a British national and reside in the UK. I have been part of an ethnic majority at one time and now find myself part of a minority group. I come from a so-called ‘middle class’ family. I was at one time a Buddhist, then an Anglican, then an atheist and now a ‘free-thinker’. I am a retired lawyer and a half-baked psychologist. I am a writer and a blogger, a husband and father. So many words… so many labels.They can help describe my history and some of my choices but they don’t define me. I am not these labels.
I am a human being. Beyond this I am a nobody and a nothing. Let me tell you why.
Growing up in Sri Lanka I was fortunate to know and mix with people from diverse backgrounds and ethnic origins. My experience in mixing with all these wonderful people has been overwhelmingly positive. They have all been friendly, helpful, kind and loving. I therefore grew up believing that people are good – a belief I hold to this day. Yet, while in Sri Lanka, I lived through two different armed uprisings: one related to an ethnic divide and the other related to economic and social division. The latter was crushed by the government while I was still living in the country and the former, once I had moved to the UK.
The guns have fallen silent, but only after hundreds of thousands of people (including my brother) had lost their lives. Looking at the country now, I can see that while the guns have fallen silent, the attitudes that gave rise to their use have not changed. This leads me to fear that there will be either a return to violence or to the establishment of the type of tyrannical and despotic government that is needed to prevent such a thing (or so we are told) and maybe even both – as one often gives rise to the other.
It is easy to appreciate the folly in asserting that peace has been achieved merely because the guns have fallen silent – when the underlying cause has not been properly addressed. This is very much akin to taking painkillers without doing anything to cure the ailment. The cessation of hostilities is an important step, but the journey does not end there. The ‘guns are silent’ variety of peace is temporary and precarious. It is a midway point at best. There is always the prospect of sliding back into open hostility. But there is also the opportunity to progress towards true and lasting peace. If we are to move in this direction, then more needs to be done to heal the wounds and to build bridges. There can be no room for complacency.
We can say that we have achieved true and lasting peace not when the guns fall silent but when there are no guns at all – when the reasons for having and using guns are no more. This is only possible when we have no cause to fear harm from another and they from us – when everyone feels free and at ease. When we have achieved this – and only then – can we say that we have achieved peace.
Ultimately, there is no majority or minority – these are mere words and labels which we have conjured up to help us grapple with the situation at an intellectual level (perhaps a mistake in itself). In truth then, we all know that there is no majority or minority but only humanity. This is the truth that all can understand and appreciate. Even the intellect will recognise that humanity is the common denominator in all of this. Our humanity then is what we really need to focus on, for it is what matters the most.
When we define ourselves by the narrow terms of race, ethnicity, religion, political leanings and so on, we enter a confusing and bewildering minefield of ‘us and them’ and ‘right and wrong’. It is worth pointing out that these things are man-made and serve to divide us. All of this is upstream and hard work and ultimately, leads nowhere.
When we define ourselves by our humanity there is no division but only kinship. When we define ourselves by our humanity, we can trust ourselves more to do the right thing and to act for the common good. We will naturally and willingly do what man-made laws aim to coerce and compel us into doing.
When we define ourselves by our humanity, the whole world becomes our home and all people become our brothers and sisters.
This is why I have chosen not to identify with anything that would serve to separate and alienate me from my human family. Nothing is worth that price and burden. My allegiance, therefore, is not to any group or state or belief system. My allegiance is to all of humanity.
So I am, and very much hope to remain, a nothing and a nobody.