PERSPECTIVE OF TWO BASIC CULTURES: CONFRONTATION VERSUS HARMONY

COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 23 Nov 2009

Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.

Confrontation is described as meeting in hostility or taking an opposite stand. This always implies conflicts of one kind or another. Harmony deals with the ability to adapt oneself to the needs of others as to make an operation or relationship move on smoothly. These two basic cultures have been observed in every era of history. In this presentation we will try to get a clear concept of these two basic cultures in order to realize and know where we stand.

Culture of Confrontation

Over the past century, the culture of confrontation on a global scale has mostly originated from big industries whose motto is generally: The sky is not the limit. This means their purpose is to accumulate wealth and money with no end in sight. To achieve this end they are ready to do just anything based on the Machiavellian philosophy: The end justifies the means. We may understand why both the colonial and capitalistic industries have exploited the resources of so many nations where the natives, as a result, had to endure so much suffering.

In recent decades, the military industrial complex has emerged to become perhaps the most lucrative business around the world. Its ultimate goal remains the same, namely, the accumulation of wealth and money by all means and to this end nothing stands in the way. Politicians are coaxed into putting more money into the manufacture and sales of weapons, even at the cost of the people’s welfare like that of health care and education. In fact, in countries where top priority is put on wars people suffer from several vital deprivations.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the world took a sigh of relief because communism was then viewed as a thing of the past. Organizations everywhere were talking openly of the so called “peace dividend.” This means that all those billions of dollars that used to be spent for the preparation of wars would now be used for the eventual implementation of peace. Within a short time the weapons industry got into panic, fearing for loss of revenue.

Some of those who worked for a long time for the weapons industry and made themselves very rich were quick to say among themselves: “Peace is our enemy” in the sense that without some kind of war threats they may eventually go out of business. Confrontation is better known as the culture of war, which is characterized by litigation, animosity, fear, machismo and paranoia in addition to a few other negative traits. Once we are haunted with paranoia nothing will stop us in our resolve to destroy the infrastructure of as many cities as possible.

Struggles and Wars

Since World War II ended in 1945 there has been conflicts one after another. There was not one year when the whole world was at peace. Struggles and wars developed across all continents covering Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe. Instead of having politicians searching everywhere for healthy dialogues as well as the elimination of landmines and nuclear weapons, we had politicians who caved in to accommodate the continued profits of the war industries. The world continued to suffer as a result to this day.

Unfortunately, we all have been born and raised in the culture of war. Our mindset has developed in a way that we instinctively assume that struggles and wars are a part of life in planet earth. Many of us believe that times of this nature are not likely to change easily, if ever. In order to understand and realize where we stand with ourselves in particular, let us illustrate this by example. This way we may be in a better position to assess the events of our time after which we may perhaps take the initiative to help reverse the trend.

Let us assume we were born and raised in central China with no contact whatsoever with the outside world. We would all then speak and communicate in Chinese, the only language we happen to know. We surely would not dream even remotely of communicating ever in, say, Russian, German, Swahili, English, Hindi, Spanish or French especially if we never heard of such languages, and especially if we were to really believe that Chinese is the only language of communication that is existent on earth.

We have been born and raised in a culture of war that is characterized by fear, deprivation, struggles, conflicts and wars. We have witnessed in a number of instances people hating each other to the point of resorting to periodical violence revealed in the destruction of the infrastructure of cities and the brutal killing of tens of thousands, amounting to millions, of innocent people. We are at least lucky as to have a variety of news media – radio, press and television – that enable us to figure out what is going on. This way we may be inspired to develop plans that are positive and constructive in an effort to reverse the trend.

It is never late for us to develop a new generation that is imbued in a culture of peace. Our greatest challenge would be in dealing with the present generation since we know that we cannot teach old dog new tricks. Hence, while doing our best to help present political figures see things into better and truer perspective, we need, at the same time, to prepare for their replacement as to enable all people everywhere to have finally what they always wanted, harmony among themselves through serenity and peace of mind and heart.

Harmony at Work

As it was stated in the opening of this presentation, harmony deals with the ability to adapt oneself to the needs of others as to make an operation or relationship move on smoothly. While in confrontation we have everything to lose and hardly anything to gain, in harmony we have everything to gain and virtually nothing to lose. While in confrontation we have always a lose-lose situation, in harmony we have always a win-win outcome. People who develop the habit of living in harmony with themselves and others are spared from manifold worries in life.

As a result, harmony instills in an individual peace and joy in one’s mind and heart. These are elements that will enable us to concentrate more on everything positive and constructive we choose to do. Success of our efforts is constantly visible, which becomes a source of encouragement not only to each one of us individually but also to those who happen to be collaborating with us. Ascetical writers tell us that heaven is a state, which is characterized by perpetual joy in an atmosphere of eternal happiness.

Heaven is said to be a place where worries do not exist, where everyone is saturated with genuine love for others and where we could share God’s infinite virtues that enable us to experience the height of perfection and satisfaction. These same ascetical writers state clearly that living in harmony in our earthly society is fully possible as long as we really want it and simply work for it. To this end, we need to learn what to eliminate from our midst that is preventing us from leading a life of harmony and sharing it with others.

During the time of the Roman Empire, some Latin writers told us si vis pacem para pacem, si vis bellum para bellum – if you want peace prepare for peace, if you want war prepare for war. Unfortunately, our culture of war mindset changed this dictum to run as follows: Si vis pacem para bellum! – If you want peace prepare for war! This has become the motto of many of our leading politicians around the world, in particular in the United States. This explains why so many billions of dollars are taken from the vital needs of people for purpose of manufacturing more weapons and waging never-ending wars.

Can we take drastic steps toward creating in the world serenity, peace and harmony? The answer is a qualitative yes. How are we going to start? There are many ways where we could begin our journey toward procuring the best legacy we possibly can for our posterity. We may start, for example, with the prayer of St. Francis, which has emerged to be so popular and effective that one may find many websites on it that may carry also the picture of St. Francis himself. This prayer represents the essence of harmony that could be implanted among all people not only within the same country but among all nations as well.

Prayer of Inspiration

The said prayer, which we may meditate on and recite as often as we wish, runs as follows: Lord, make me instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis was born in Italy in 1182. As a young man he inherited enormous wealth but could not find serenity, peace and harmony within himself until he gave away all of his inheritance and distributed it among the poor. He lived a very simple life and was remarkably known for his kindness, even with animals. He died young at the age of 44. Today he is highly revered in many parts of the world. This great gentleman was a human being like the rest of us. He had the same identical feelings, concerns and needs. He became spiritually powerful only after he gave his life for the complete service to others.

If our politicians were to replace confrontations with healthy dialogues, pride and machismo with humility and willingness to serve, threats of war with a genuine search for mutual benefits, we will soon be on the way to harmony with permanent peace shining on the horizon. Let us keep in mind that in this world nothing happens out of nothing. If we want harmony to be our goal as to give our posterity the best legacy we can, we simply have to work toward this end. We have to become involved in order to procure our nations with the best people we can to serve in our respective governments.

The question often raised is this: Can we find a way to prevent big industries and corporations from continuing to exploit the vast majority of people on our planet? The answer is definitely in the affirmative and, by the way, it was provided to us by Socrates some 2,500 years ago.

This Greek philosopher said: “We can solve every problem we encounter by simply taking the first step.” What was this first step? Socrates stated: “The first step is to bring into the open the involved problem, because unless people know that it exists they will do nothing about it. But once they discover that it exists, they will immediately begin to figure out how such a problem may affect them. Then steps are definitely taken and the problem is solved.” Maybe this explains why so many governments try to leave their people in ignorance as to what is really going on. This may explain why so many governments are most fearful of their own people!

Governmental Corruption

Although what has been stated so far about the culture of war versus the culture of peace seems to be clear theoretically, in practice things are somewhat different. When it comes to the solution of problems that are ruining us, we seem to turn to our government officials to use all their power to help us solve such problems. Most of the time, people remain very frustrated and disappointment when they realize they are not getting much help and benefit. In a number of instances our government officials constitute a part of an involved problem.

Let us illustrate this by example. Suppose we are trying to bring under full control mafia type of crimes in our society. Now let us imagine that, without our awareness and knowledge, some or most of our government officials happen to be an integral part of the mafia behind the scenes. Under the circumstance, is there any chance that we could possibly get a positive and constructive reaction to our raised concerns? As long as we have some kind of corruption in the government there is not much that we could do or expect. Our only hope would in finding ways to replace such government officials with people we may trust.

This explains why the achievement of harmony is not something that comes to us or just happens. We have to work hard for it until we do achieve it. No matter what it may entail it is surely worth to work for the purpose of securing the much needed peace of our mind and heart. Let us keep in mind that harmony in society is a priceless gift. It could not be purchased, in any way whatsoever, by all the money and wealth in the world.

During the decade of the eighties, Pope John Paul II was asked in Mexico as to whether or not world peace is possible. His answer was quick: “Yes, world peace will come only after two of the greatest evils of the 20th century are gone: Communism and Capitalism because they both try to achieve their objectives through the exploitation of people.” Some three years later communism collapsed and the world took a sigh of relief. Shortly afterwards, the evil of capitalism became more conspicuous as it could no longer hide behind the evil of communism.

Instead of embarking on an international program of disarmament and arms control, the United States, the seat of capitalism, embarked on the greatest military build-up in history. The manufacture and sales of weapons and the eventual numerous conflicts that began to pop up everywhere, made the military industrial complex emerge to become a very lucrative business. And we know the rest of the story. When all the nations voted for the abolition nuclear weapons and landmines, the USA refused to vote for this measure. As a result, the billions of dollars that could have been used for the health care and education of millions of people, was used to make more weapons and wage more wars.

Foundation of Global Harmony

When we consider the numerous organizations we have in the world, which are working wholeheartedly to create global harmony, we need to feel highly encouraged. That unity will one day replace divisions on a global scale is only a matter of time. The Global Harmony Association (GHA), which is headquartered in St. Petersburg Russia under the leadership of Dr. Leo Semashko, has already taken gigantic steps in this direction. Today there are quite a number of websites on GHA, which are highly informative and inspiring. They also carry several articles on a variety of topics of social concern.

It is quite encouraging for us to learn that the shift from confrontation to harmony is on the increase at all levels of society. The nations of the world are beginning to realize and understand that confrontation leads to nowhere except to deterioration with surmountable tragic results. On the other hand, through healthy dialogues and mutual respect we find ourselves already moving on the road to harmony where everyone involved will benefit immensely. Those that study the cosmos are often amazed at the great harmony they notice in the universe with all the galaxies and the millions of stars in them.

When we have harmony we achieve the maximum of happiness and satisfaction, we do not have any worries that may distract us ever from the positive and constructive things we can possibly do in life. In this regard, we may confidently state that our greatest achievement in life, individually and collectively, lies in our ability to make harmony a tangible reality of our life and of the life of others in our household, the community, the nation and the world.

Having struggles and wars for an entire 6,000 years of recorded history should be enough. We should now start to do our utmost in balancing this negative and destructive trend by a positive and constructive trend for the next 6,000 years of civilization by replacing struggles and wars with healthy dialogues and mutual respect. This is, in essence, harmony in operation.

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Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.
-President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, NGO, Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education, Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament.
-Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Nov 2009.

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