The news media tell us that one of the most powerful countries in the world is on the brink of war, and the prospect seems to be encouraging others too.
In “Age of Anger: A History of the Present”, Pankaj Mishra writes that despite all the progress humanity has made, “the planet itself seems under siege from ourselves.” Our age, Pankaj goes on, is “the global age of frantic individualism,” with “dangers more diffuse and less predictable” than at any other time in history.
Pankaj observes that one of the two major threats we have created is that of a “global civil war”, and points out that “Unquestionably, forces more complex than in the previous two great wars are at work. The violence, not confined to any fixed battlefields or front lines, feels endemic and uncontrollable.”
With remarkable erudition, Pankaj lays bare the various reasons for this alarming state of affairs. While acknowledging that there is much that society (nations, governments, the elite, and so on) needs to remedy, he also asks that each of us “examine our own role in the culture that stokes unappeasable vanity and shallow narcissism.” It is indeed indisputable that rogue nations, power-led leaders, unreasonable people, dispossessed & marginalized people, and the like are resorting to violence of various kinds — and they must be combatted. But, more important, each of us would do well to examine “our complicity in everyday forms of violence and dispossession, and our callousness before the spectacle of suffering.”
In a 1948 Talk (published in the collection of Talks and conversations titled “Choiceless Awareness”), J Krishnamurti teaches that “The solution obviously lies in the creator of the problem, in the creator of the mischief, of the hate, and of the enormous misunderstanding that exists between human beings.”
He then says something that “cannot be repeated too often” — “To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves….and not….leave it to others to transform themselves or to bring about a modified change through revolution, either of the left or of the right. So, it is important to understand that this is our responsibility, your’s and mine; because, however small may be the world we live in, if we can transform ourselves, bring about a radically different point of view in our daily existence, then perhaps we shall affect the world at large, the extended relationship with others.”
Can each of us, without pointing to others, rid ourselves of violence in every way — in the ways we speak, in the ways we act, in the ways we think? If we are unable to do this as individuals, there appears to be little hope of society doing this.
Swamiji Vivekananda exhorts us (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”, Volume 1) to realize that “We may convert every house in the country into a charity asylum, we may fill the land with hospitals, but the misery of man will still continue to exist until man’s character changes.”