By Juan Gómez, World Centre for Humanist Studies.
Let’s think about the necessary conditions for Peace and Nonviolence to prosper and, while we’re at it, the necessary characteristics that lead to conflict and confrontation.
In terms of “nature”, all human beings have in their inner make up a birth ego that protects them from adversities and helps them survive in a world that is often hostile and highly competitive. Above all men who also have a dose of aggressiveness that helps them defend themselves from possible aggressions and stimulates them to defend their violated rights. So in the right measure, this is something good for facing life in optimal conditions.
However, if we feed our inner ego, or rather, if we use it and take advantage of it in the environment in which we live, appropriating existing goods at all costs to the detriment of our fellow human beings, then we fall into the overvaluation of the ego, a defect known as “egoism”, something that prevents us from sharing our resources with others.
If we stimulate our egoism through education, we transform it into an unhealthy ambition, and in its most extreme cases, into greed and avarice. If in the same way we stimulate our aggressiveness, we turn it into intolerant behaviour, into fanaticism, and in its most extreme cases into criminal behaviour.
Ambitious and greedy people are reluctant to share or distribute resources, they have severe apprehension in the face of personal economic loss, so they tend to accumulate more and more possessions.
Very aggressive people become nonchalant in the face of the suffering of others because they find it difficult to empathize. So, they are inconsiderate and capable of defending their possessions by violent means if necessary. Their ambition leads them to corruption in terms of acquiring more money and more possessions that also improves their image and social status.
However, if we extrapolate this individual behaviour to the social plane – since a society is the sum of its individuals – and if through education people become ambitious and aggressive, then society as a whole will also be so. Society will adopt xenophobic, nationalistic and aggressive attitudes towards its neighbours and foreigners in general. These are societies that highly value “having” over “being”, giving a very high value to someone who is successful and manages to have many possessions. These societies are highly corrupt, since the people who live in them are insecure and dependent on the approval of the social environment, and so they seek more possessions by unlawful means in order to appear even more successful. Then, ordinary goods are not enough, they need to buy luxury goods.
Now, if we take this way of being to the national level, this will be a country that generates conflicts. It will cost them a lot to negotiate with a view to the common benefit. They would rather obtain the best dividends for their own country. Nationalist states are the expression of egoism at the national level. These are states that exalt patriotism in a chauvinist way, boasting patriotic values, their heroes. They boast of being the best. They consider themselves first class people in comparison with those of other countries, which are second-class. They look down on other peoples, especially indigenous peoples, and therefore they find it very difficult to accept them as equals and share their goods and natural resources with them. Rather, they see other peoples as competition, as a threat, as rivals to be defeated even by use of force. These are very unequal societies, where very few have most of the income. Such countries are not respectful of human rights, and so they tend to subjugate their peoples. They respect national sovereignty as long as it is their own. They are colonialists and tend to take advantage of other people’s natural resources.
If, on the contrary, individuals are educated, discouraging selfish and aggressive attitudes, fostering a culture of respect and tolerance, teaching how to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent way, talking through differences, then we will generate people capable of sharing, with an inclusive consciousness that welcomes the ideas of others with respect, even if they are not like our own. Extrapolating this behaviour to the social level, we can conclude that it will be a multilateralist society that will negotiate common solutions based on a solution that is beneficial to all parties. They will be welcoming societies which have no major problems in welcoming immigrants, they will be more egalitarian and invest a great deal in education and social security. They will settle their conflicts through diplomatic channels, and in very difficult cases they will turn to the International Court of Justice. These countries are not thinking of appropriating anyone’s natural resources, fully respecting the sovereignty of peoples, without colonialist or imperialist ambitions.
These are the two sides of the coin, nationalism or multilateralism, conflict or negotiation, mistrust or trust, division or union, competition or joint undertaking, war or peace.
Nationalism, in particular militarist nationalism (it almost always is), by its intrinsic characteristics has brought to humanity all the wars that our lamentable history knows. And not just wars, but also colonialism perpetrated by blood and fire; slavery in which other human beings were subjected to forced labour like animals, considering them as such, and that as such they could be bought and sold in the market. And by virtue of this supremacy of certain races, they tried to form empires, destroying other peoples considered inferior, with a toll of millions of dead. The Church itself has been an accomplice to this plundering, taking the word of God to those barbarian peoples who practice sacrilegious, satanic rites.
Thus, after centuries of civilized Western culture, in the twentieth century, humanity, horrified by the atrocities committed during the First World War founded the League of Nations through the Treaty of Versailles in order to lay the foundations for peace between peoples. Yet it did not have favourable results in the light of history. In the same spirit, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, among many other countries, courageously signed the Briand-Kellog Pact in 1928 in which they pledged to renounce war for the settlement of international disputes in their national policy instruments.
We all know how this story unfolded. After the failure of the League of Nations, some will say that the Treaty of Versailles, highly damaging to Germany, ushered in the Second World War, although whatever the reasons, this war was a blatant violation of Versailles.
Once again humanity, after the Second World War, shaken, frightened, and heartbroken by so much barbarity, including the Jewish genocide and the nuclear massacre of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was told that this could not go on, that there would not be a Third World War, and so full of hopeful intentions, in an act of deep restraint and full of repentance, nations signed the United Nations Charter with an even more solemn and ambitious commitment to secure peace for humanity forever and ever. This was the foundation of the United Nations, a multilateral body that seeks not only to preserve peace but also the human rights of all people, the quality of the environment, and, under its auspices, international conflict resolution bodies have been founded such as the International Court of Justice, to which all its members are (in theory) subject.
And yet wars continue, with military interventions in blatant violation of national sovereignty, for economic and geopolitical ends. In addition, with the resurgence of nationalism, the emergence of terrorism, immigration, arms races, economic crises and corruption inherent in the neo-liberal system itself, we are on the verge of stumbling over the same rock again. The phantom of a new world war is shaking humanity, since it may be the last because the human species will no longer exist.
It’s no longer about being right or left, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, it’s just about trying to have good judgment.
To be multilateral means to resolve conflicts by seeking the common good, to be multilateral means to sit down with other peoples to seek ways to resolve the great present and future problems facing humanity, the extinction of species, water scarcity, climate change that will increase migration, the hunger of many peoples, the threat of wars and weapons of mass destruction, the arms race, terrorism and ethnic and religious differences. To be multilateral means to want to know the culture of other peoples, even those who have been adversaries for centuries, to engage in cultural and student exchanges. Finally, to be multilateral means to strengthen bonds of trust with all peoples, to turn them into fraternal peoples.
By strengthening ties and fostering trust in this way, multilateral peoples will realize that weapons and armies are not necessary, that knowing each other and strengthening ties removes fears and mistrust, that the people and culture of other peoples are as valuable as their own, with the same thoughts, feelings and needs.
A clear example of possible integration is that of Russia and the European Union, geographical, racial and cultural neighbours, which can work on strengthening trust, carrying out exchanges of all kinds, educational, artistic, sporting, religious, culinary, etc. And they would realise that it is perfectly possible to include Russia in the European Union, and that if the United States threatens them with the penalties of hell, and with the dissolution of NATO, with the end of the nuclear umbrella, they would tell them that they no longer need an alliance like that, that they prefer the path of diplomacy to military threats, that they want to establish an alliance based on friendship and not on weapons, that they prefer cultural and educational exercises to military exercises, that they have had enough of war preparations, and they prefer preparations for a culture of peace.
The same integration is necessary for Islamic countries, and for China and Korea, not only in terms of trade, but in the same terms described in the previous paragraph, thus taking the steps to a multilateral world, reorganizing and strengthening its most emblematic bodies such as the United Nations, expanding and strengthening the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, to gradually, but decidedly and safely, take the steps towards a Universal Human Nation, in which the governments of all nations unite behind a common goal: to provide the conditions for human beings to develop in harmony with themselves, with their brothers and sisters around the world, and with the natural world of which they are a part.