Fighting the Twin Terrors - peace by peace

The Chinese character for the word "crisis" is itself insightfully made up of twin concepts - danger and opportunity. The shock waves of 11th September (known more infamously by its digital equivalent 911) are reveberating throughout the globe.

The collapse of the twin towers in New York has sadly unleashed its own "twin terrors" - the brutal use of "might is right" and the rapid dismantling of universal principles of justice and peace, erosion of human rights principles and increase in racism and other hate crimes.

All this has created some despondence and even hopelessness in people. It is not helped by the fact of the economic recession and the wild terrorism of the dark side of free markets and Ďcarpet bombingí of propaganda. Is there hope to get us out of this abysmal state of affairs?

History has shown that there is hope as long as there are thoughtful and committed people. Even if there is only one person, it can make that difference.

Is there a recipe for building this hope, thinking and commitment? Yes there is a Ďmultiversityí of them. My favourite was sent by a friend (thank you, Kenny) based on the teachings and struggles of Mahatma Gandhi. His life and death had many lessons and sparks of inspiration. He advocated no violence and yet, his assertiveness, steadfastness and courage powered a revolution of change in South Asia, South Africa and the deep south of USA where Mandela and Martin Luther King followed in his steps.

Among Gandhiís more memorable sayings was, "In a gentle way, you can shake the world." Here are 10 things that have been distilled by change makers from his commitment and dreams and that of millions of little people everywhere who have followed the recipe.

The ten ideas are not original nor mine but they have helped guide many of those engaged in the lonely struggle for peace and justice. I have them on the wall of my office and inflict them on people any opportunity I get.

  • Know that all significant change throughout history has occurred not because of nations, armies, governments, and certainly not committees. They happened as a result of the courage and commitment of individuals.

  • Believe that you have a unique purpose and potential in the world. Believe that you can and you will make a difference.

  • Recognise that everything you do, every step you take, every sentence you write, every word you speak or DONíT speak counts. Nothing is trivial. The world may be big, but there are no small things. Everything matters.

  • You donít have to be loud. You donít even have to be eloquent. You donít have to be elected. You donít have to be particularly smart or well-educated. You do, however, have to be committed.

  • Take personal responsibility. Never think that "it is not my job". It is a cop-out to say, "What can I do, Iím only one person". You donít need everyoneís cooperation or anyoneís permission to make changes. Remember this little gem, "If it is to be, it is up to me."

  • Donít get caught up in the how of things. If youíre clear on what you want to change and why you want to change it, the how will come. Many significant things have been left undone because someone let the problem solving interfere with the decision-making.

  • Donít wait for things to be right in order to begin. Change is messy. Things will never be just right. Follow the advice, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

  • The genesis for change is awareness. We cannot change what we donít acknowledge. Most of the time, we arenít aware of whatís wrong or whatís not working. We donít see what could be. By becoming more aware, we begin the process of change.

  • Take to heart these words from Albert Einstein, arguably one of the smartest change masters who ever lived, "All meaningful and lasting change starts first in your imagination and then works its way out. Imagination is more important than knowledge."

  • In order for things to change, YOU have to change. We canít change others; we can only change ourselves. However, when WE change, it changes everything. And in doing so, we truly can be the change we want to see in the world.

The great Sufi Bayazid had this to say about himself:

"When I was young, I was a revolutionary and all my prayers to God was - Lord, give me the energy to change the world. When I was middle-aged, I realised that half my life was gone without changing a single soul. I prayed to God - just let me change my family and friends. When I was an old man, I realised how foolish I have been. Now I just say my prayers - Lord, give me the grace to change myself.

If I prayed for this from the beginning, I would not have wasted my life."

So, the message is that too often, we think too much about changing humanity and too little about changing ourselves.

We can overcome the twin terrors and secure it step by step, non-violently by asserting "peace by peace". And never, never forget our humanity and oneness. Here are some words entitled "Remember We Are One" I penned for a book, "Prayers for a Thousand Years" to remind me of that.

"We all drink from one water
We all breathe from one air
We rise from one ocean
And we live under one sky

We are one

The newborn baby cries the same
The laughter of children is universal
Everyoneís blood is red
And our hearts beat the same song

We are one

We are all brothers and sisters
Only one family, only one earth
Together we live
And together we die

We are one

We are one

Peace be on you
Brothers & Sisters
Peace be on you"

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