Peace, not war, this year

Some wise guy recently wrote that Alfred Nobel invented the dynamite first, an invention which blew up bridges, buildings and people, made a hefty packet in the bargain but set aside huge sums of money to institute a prize for the peacemakers of the world. True to form, this was once awarded to US foreign secretary Henry Kissinger for his part in solving the war in Vietnam.

Thank God that the prize came into being only in 1901; else Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan would also have been front-runners for these prestigious awards in their time! George Orwell truly got it right when he coined the phrase "War is Peace", in his iconic novel, 1984.

Leo Tolstoy wrote the long winding classic War and Peace, even as Karl Marx predicted a "class war" between the toiling masses and the capitalists who exploited them. But far greater wars rage in our Indian households between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law. Little wonder that "saas-bahu" skirmishes are the very staple of our serials, and don't we just lap it up? If you ask me, late night serials are way ahead of religion when it comes to being the opiate of the masses.

Why do people equate war with armed conflicts only? Parliaments the world over are repositories of the delightful war of words. Benjamin Disraeli and Ewart Gladstone, parliamentarians of 19th century England, are the ones who come to mind first. Gladstone piqued his opponent saying, "You sir, will certainly die upon the gallows or of a social disease." Disraeli's repartee was classic. "That depends sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." In India, the closest we come to a war-like situation is to see people screaming at each other on TV channel debates. Setting aside national pride, I must admit that this is indeed a poor substitute.

The English had a war with the French that went on for a good 100 years, but then it dawned on them that the French are in fact ardent lovers, and making love is a far better option than making war. Remember the flower children of the sixties and seventies declaring to humanity at large, "Make love, not war".

War is nothing as glamorous as we see in movies or from the comfort of our drawing rooms. "O war! Thou son of hell", William Shakespeare is vehement in expressing his views on warfare in Henry IV (Part II, Act V). No doubt there are valiant men battling it out there, but the net results are ruined villages and lost limbs, and life snuffed out in the productive years – all with the background music of "machines of death which drone through the darkened skies" as Scottish-English poet William Soutar, so poignantly put it in his poem Revelations.

Each year, we see a cease-fire at the time of Christmas and New Year, however bitter the ongoing combat is. I wonder why it is only on such special occasions that peace reigns. Why not have peace and goodwill on all 365 days rather than letting loose the dogs of war? Indeed, a worthy thought as we usher in the New Year.    

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