In the middle of 1989 my parents and I had temporarily moved to a flat at Queens Mansions in Park Street. Few months later, on an otherwise uneventful day a friend of my father’s took me out for a walk; at the first book stand outside the building gate, he picked up a newspaper and exclaimed, “Ei re…the world is at war.”
American President George H.W. Bush had just ordered military occupation of Iraq.
That was the first time I had intimately felt the gravity of war as a social concept. What I didn’t know – and learned since after years of studying world history – was this: humanity has been at war for much of its existence. Even the quintessential peace humanity finds in faith and spirituality comes interwoven with strings of war.
The premise of the Bhagavad Gita is the battlefield of Kurukshetra, for example; and the story of Jewish liberation stands on shoulders of God’s wrath on the Egyptians. So, how can we have a peaceful world where we believe God favors a warring mentality? We cannot. We cannot, not because God favors a warring mentality, however. We cannot, because some among us mistakenly believe God favors a warring mentality while they perpetrate personal agendas.
A closer inspection of the holy scriptures of various faiths all reveal that (1) the battles in those books refer much more to metaphysical human consciousness then physical warfare, and (2) even if they were actual historical events, conflict in the scriptures is destruction as a dutiful action – not malicious action, nor vengeful action, nor imperialist occupation; nor slavery; nor exploitation of women and children as chattels of war. Dutiful action does not exploit for personal gain – it combats inequity to restore a larger balance. And there isn’t any of that left in this world. There hasn’t been since August 5, 1945.
And this brings us to today. Seventy years ago on August 6th America dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima. This uranium-based atomic bomb killed close to 150,000, not including those who chronically suffered from radiation poisoning. Three days later, Fat Man – a plutonium atomic bomb – killed 80,000; again, not including those who chronically suffered from radiation poisoning. History books used to say these bombings forced Japan to surrender. The truth, however, varies depending on who you ask.
Historical records show that Japan’s forces had been decimated; continuous American air raids over the island nation had left the entire country in shambles. Yes, the Japanese had not formally surrendered like the Germans. But de facto, Japan was defeated. Historical records, therefore, infer that those bombings were not necessary for the restoration of balance. Some would argue that those two bombings undid every good faith effort to restore balance to the world by ending oppression. In fact, one could go as far as saying that it started the new era of vengeance – and today the cognizable consequence of the threat of nuclear terrorism.
But interestingly, that vengeance did not begin nor infect the heart of Japan. Japan did something very different – something spiritually in sync with the concept of restoring balance. More than the geo-political surrender in the battle of great egos, it accepted its responsibility in provoking such action by building Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on the land Little Boy leveled. It planted cherry blossoms in the gardens in that park. And since World War II Japan has not been party to any significant adversarial military action. It has only introspectively rebuilt and reinforced itself.
This era of vengeful violence has, however, consumed American legacy. America became the primary hegemonic power after World War II; even more so after the nuclear arms race ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989. And coincidentally – or not – that year, its occupation began in the Middle East. For the last 70 years America has borne the burden of policing the world after vanquishing every source of oppression – except itself.
And it did not do it alone; the whole world helped. The whole world placed enormous importance on the grandiosity of physical might. A wrong impression blossomed that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave America the moral authority to become global ‘peacekeepers’ because they carried the bigger stick. And no one realized that Japan won the moral victory the day those bombs fell; and that victory solidified when they accepted what happened, forgave and befriended their enemies, and then went on to becoming one of the world’s leading nations.
The crucial difference between the warfare as described in the scriptures and what humanity scars itself with is purpose. The conflicts that ravage this planet today all stem from someone’s purpose of unfair material gain to inflate their insatiable illusory lust for power and control. That purpose has nothing to do with dutiful action to restore balance. If we look at war and peace from this perspective, learn from Japan and our millennia of repeating mistakes, we can usher in the era of peace without peacekeepers.