A World without walls
When the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1992, and the people from the Eastern and the Western parts of Germany’s capital met each other after a long separation of three decades, someone wrote on one of its relics: “This world is too small for walls.” This was perhaps the best expressiaon assigned to the sentiments of Berlin’s citizens, who had just come out of the agony of the bifurcation and the restrictions on their movement caused in the name of ideology.
Literally, the slogan seeks to point out that the world has already overcome physical distances. We can fly from one end of the planet to the other within a matter of hours. We can speak to each other regardless of the distance. We can see and talk through the internet. We can organise a discussion over the internet with participants sitting in different countries. In fact, the computer, the social media networks, the mobile telephone, and all kinds of other means of transportation and communication have virtually eliminated physical distances. Hence, the world is too small for walls. Any wall that you erect will fail to stop people from getting in touch with each other.
The world, however, is not suffering from the barriers like the Berlin Wall alone. The barriers exist in the minds, and in the hearts which are all the more agonising and distressing. And even though the world is witnessing so much violence and the loss of life and property, these intangible walls are proving insurmountable. No effort, whatsoever, made locally, nationally, or even globally seems to be effective enough to demolish these walls from the minds and hearts of people.
It is not very difficult to identify these walls. Individuals are fighting for their self-interest or selfishness. The ego acts as the spark to ignite the fire of jealousy and hatred, and then flames of violence. This shatters families and destroys the fine fabric of love, compassion, mutual understanding — the spirit of sacrifice for one other. Parents are being thrown out of their homes like garbage. One is prepared to murder his brother over property matters. Couples seek divorce over trivialities and we know the consequences.
Then there are similar mental walls creating distances within communities and threatening harmony at the social level. Different groups of people fight over the age-old customs, traditions, and conventions in matters such as dress and diet. And who will agree to ignore the beliefs and practices they have inherited from their ancestors just because they hurt the feelings of some other groups? The result is before us – riots, bloodshed, painful migrations, strikes, curfews, and what not!
Similarly, we find conflicts at the state and national levels. Several states have virtually been bifurcated because people in one part feel ignored by the other. Instead of finding some way to stay together, they choose to stay apart, and not as friends but foes. They continue to fight over the sharing of river waters, the state capital, etc.
And then, nations fight too. We witnessed the First World War with all it devastating consequences. And as the war concluded the world leaders vowed not to repeat it and they set up the League of Nations to ensure peace. We, however, saw the Second World War bringing more blood, toil, and tears just after two decades. The world leaders again resolved to have the United Nations Organisation with several specialised agencies. The aim was to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war and provide fundamental human rights, worth and dignity, better quality of life, peace, tolerance, and good neighbourliness. But the fact remains that peace and harmony visualised in the UN Charter are still eluding.
Religion, which was always expected to strengthen the fundamental unity of the mankind and promote peaceful co-existence, too, is found distancing man from man at every level. Lack of religious tolerance and the clashing nature of the beliefs of various religious faiths are keeping mankind disintegrated. Even terrorism within and among nations has strong religious overtones.
This has happened because of the distance between people and God. Once God dwells in mind, man finds divine virtues like love, compassion, peace, tolerance, and the spirit of sacrifice and forgiveness entering his life and driving away the negative tendencies. We begin to be guided by the spirit of “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” which means that the entire human population occupying this earth is a single global family and we can all live with the spirit of peaceful co-existence.
(The author is a retired officer of the Indian Information Service. Views expressed are strictly personal)