Wednesday June 24, 2015

Fostering a Culture of the Nonviolent Society

By Binod Kumar, Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center

<p>"If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children." &amp;#8212; Mahatma Gandhi</p>

A culture of nonviolent society promotes respect for life and dignity for all its citizens. It is a culture which is capable of eradicating deep rooted, institutionalized practices of prejudice, discrimination, gender and racial inequality and infringement upon basic human rights. In view of the intrinsic attributes of the culture, the United Nations Organization has proposed a sustainable development goal (SDG) to educate all students of the world to honor a culture of nonviolence and peace (SDG-4.7).

To learn, practice and propagate the culture, it requires a disciplined and transformational change of human behavior. Some of the elements of the ingrained, violent human behavior are the results of beliefs and practices of generations among various cultures of the world. Therefore, the SDG-4.7 goal challenges the academic community to innovate educational methods that will train students to embrace a culture of nonviolence and perpetuate it for generations to come.

Human behavior reflects the constitution and functionality of the brain. The delineation of the human behavior has been a subject of strong interest to neuroscientists, psychologists and psychiatrists. The current understanding of the subject suggests that brain functionality is influenced by inherited DNA, environment, education and experience. To transform human behavior to embrace nonviolence, education and experience are critical. If methods are developed, designed and practiced properly, nonviolent culture can be embraced through acceptance and institutionalization of the culture.

A significant factor in developing educational methods is identification of the age group for which a given method is developed and practiced. A telescopic perspective of the evolution of the human race suggests that while the message of nonviolence has been communicated to masses over centuries, they have made less than desired impact on its acceptance by the global population. Violence in various forms remains a chronic societal issue. Furthermore, analyses of past social and political struggles lead us to believe that violent practices generally overpower nonviolent culture.

In all of our current and troubling global scenarios there is a beacon of hope emerging from the practices of famous philosophers (Buddha, Mahavira, Gandhi and King) who remained anchored to the nonviolent philosophy in spite of monumental adversities. Their contributions enlighten us. They guide humanity to progress forward with a philosophy of global peace and harmony.

In spite of abhorrent, repulsive practices and behavior, there is a message emerging from groups preaching radicalization and violence. Adolescents are generally recruited as soldiers and terrorists by these groups as they are most receptive to radicalization.

A recent research report on brain development of teenagers (Scientific American, 34-37, June 2015) concludes that the limbic system, seat of emotions and learning, intensifies as puberty begins. The intensification is associated with an increase in communication channels among groups of neurons. The channels become strongly interconnected to one another. The interconnection correlates with changes in behavior and cognition of teens. Collectively, the mature limbic systems of teens allows them to learn various skills and develop a strong emotional mind. While the limbic system intensifies, the prefrontal cortex which controls impulsive actions and a sense of judgement remains underdeveloped among teens.

The mismatch of maturity between the limbic system and prefrontal cortex leads to risky and aggressive behavior of teenagers. This explains why teens are targeted for the radicalization to commit abhorrent crimes.

In view of existing scientific understanding, the teen years thus also become a prime age group to which the message for developing a culture of nonviolent society should be communicated. They can accept and embrace the message. They have the capacity to learn and assimilate, allowing what is learned to become a part of their emotional and moral compass.

Social infrastructures such as schools, churches, temples, mosques, social clubs and prisons may be deployed for an effective and broad-based platform to communicate the message. Furthermore, the suggested approach is supported by the moral traditions of Jainism and Buddhism practiced over centuries.

While the prime target should remain teens, other age groups may also benefit from an educational approach.

Next Post

Suggested Links