Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Same

There are some who say there is no true peace, that conflict and violence are our natural state of being and that peace is only the absence of war, found in those temporary states of equilibrium when both sides fear each other equally.

The idea here is that countries do not go to war when there are weapons on each side that can destroy the world. And that law and order even within a society is only maintained through might and violence; through fear of punishment.

This also means that  it is the mighty that decide what is right, because they alone can bring change and they alone can uphold the law.

History begs to differ however.

Women's rights were won, not through violence, but through education. Gay marriage was recognized because of increased awareness, both of the science but also of the fact that these people are our friends and family and deserve the same rights as everyone else.

In both these instances, it was empathy that brought about change. How can you deny your own brother the happiness that you enjoy?

Protests have taken the form of fasting and self-immolation. How would harming oneself hurt an enemy except by appealing to his empathy?

The progress in human rights has come from identifying more and more individuals - people of a different gender, race, religion or sexual orientation - as human. It comes from emphasis on our similarities rather than on our differences.

I strongly believe that a lot of the world's problems could be solved if only children were taught empathy at a young age. And empathy, of course, is all about focusing on the similarities, to the point where you become that person and can feel what they feel. You cannot wish pain on yourself after all.

As for law and order, more than the laws being forced upon us, I think it is a matter of people coming together, deciding to live together in a society, and making some rules that would benefit everyone (e.g. I don't want my things to be taken, and you don't either... let's make theft illegal). It's more a social contract which includes the needs and benefits of more and more people as society evolves.

There is a theory in philosophy called monism. It says that all of reality is at its core, one. That the universe and nature and all its creatures are made of the same substance, and that we are all manifestations of that substance. If we are all one, why then do we fight?

When looking at another, do you not marvel at the astonishing manifestation of stardust that forms him and that may have come from the same cosmic explosion that created the substance of you? And are you not amazed at the complex dance of molecules that worked together to create him and to keep him alive?

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