Friday, 20 April 2012

Final Questions from Kyla

(...just maybe)

What was Winston Churchill’s quote that you felt to be particularly insightful and prophetic?  
This was from one of his books, “My Early Life”.  It went like this: ”The Government that can win a war can seldom make a good peace; and the Government that could make a good peace would never have won the war.” 
Churchill was arguing that winning the war was what was important above everything else. But he did recognise that to win a war requires that the creative virtues which are the glory of a society at peace are all under threat. Empathy is restricted to home soil.  Victory is the supreme goal and all else, he believed, must be subservient to that, even truth and certainly compassion towards those on the other side.  Every war produces evidence that horrific deeds have been rife, and always excused by the need for victory, the supreme goal for every contender. War demands a different mindset to peace.  When the fighting stops, the chance of a lasting peace is small, unless the mindset that ground down the enemy is replaced by a new willingness to share our planet and work together to restore the damage everywhere. If the men who won the war are still in charge they usually demand continued power and dominance, which leads to an uneasy and fragile peace at best. 

What elements or situations make war most likely in your view?
So many factors could be cited on this.  Racial prejudice has usually been a major one.  Anything that enables one cultural group to view another group as unworthy of concern or a threat can lead to action which is anti-social and favours conflict, even violent conflict, even war.  Empathy between such groups is often hard to come by, especially when there is a religious component that can be employed for political gain.  There are often powerful sections of society which have an interest in denying equal rights to those who are seen as different - racially, culturally or ideologically.  Once there is a large trained military force in waiting, ready to resist unwanted change or to meet challenge by another such force, we are on a slippery slope.  When we hear the ominous words “All options are on the table” we have cause to be alarmed. War is an option that is increasingly too destructive of society’s best values to be considered. Even serious preparation to wage war means that young men are schooled in violence, and the consequences are sure to be cruel for any society, particularly for women.
What, in your view, are some of the fundamentals a society needs to have in place in terms of governance to ward against the possibility of war?
It has been said that a society can be judged by how it cares for those at the bottom and on the margins.  When the skills that give effect to caring and compassion are valued and encouraged we have the main ingredients of a creative and peaceful society, able to extend its influence beyond its borders to other struggling groups of humanity.  There is already a growing awareness of need out there, and a willingness to be engaged in ameliorating the conditions that keep so many in poverty and ignorance.  But at the same time, among national decision-makers, other forces are resisting the needed changes in national priorities.  Self-interest and hunger for power and privilege are causing a widening gap between the richest and poorest. Keeping the lid on the resulting unrest is not the way to build a peaceful world. We should plan for a society where all gladly contribute and there is no one who has reason to feel left out.
What would you like to see governments do to ensure and maintain peace?
I recall a NZ Government slogan at a time when compulsory military training was being advocated: “Preserve the peace”.  There is a sense in which peace cannot be “preserved”. It must be built.  Guns and bombing planes build nothing; they are made to inflict death and destruction. {And very profitable that is too, for the military-industrial people, and this is a major part of the problem.)  Schools, hospitals, kindergartens, Universities and organised skills-training schemes – these are the architects and builders of a peaceful world.  Both within our own society and beyond we must aim at giving all members a feeling of belonging to a world with huge potential, in which they are called to have a part, and where we will help them participate.  When we give people hope and a vision we are building peace.  Churches, schools, Governments and laws, all these have an important part to play in this demanding process.  Fear, prejudice, ignorance and greed, these are the enemies, not flesh and blood.

This was Part Four of Kyla's Questions.

Click here for Part One of Kyla's Questions
Click here for Part Two of Kyla's Questions
Click here for Part Three of Kyla's Questions

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