There are days when it is difficult to have hope. The newspapers are filled with stories of wars, terrorism and human suffering. There are times when our hope for humanity is seriously challenged by the actions or inactions of individuals and societies across the globe.
We all have a choice. We can submit to apathy and indifference or we can choose hope. This dialogue is about choosing hope and recognizing that we each have a responsibility to make a difference in the world.
In this book. Choose Hope, Daisaku Ikeda and I are not saying that choosing hope is a simple, easy solution to life and humanity's serious problems. We are only saying that it is necessary if we are to create a better future. We are asking you to consider being part of the solution to the grave problems that confront humanity.
Foremost among these problems is the ever-present danger of nuclear weapons. These weapons, which really are not weapons at all but instruments of annihilation, place humanity's future in jeopardy. As long as some countries rely on nuclear weapons for security, all countries and all people are threatened.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the dangers of nuclear terrorism loom large. September 11 taught us that even the most powerful nations are not immune from terrorist attacks. All are vulnerable, and the weak and despairing have certain advantages in their battles with the rich and powerful. Had terrorists had nuclear weapons on September 11, the death toll could have been three hundred thousand or three million instead of three thousand.
The citizens of rich nations can no longer feel secure in a world in which large numbers of people live in utter despair. No castle walls can be built high enough or strong enough to protect the rich from those who have given up hope for their future. No military preparations or expenditures will in the end be able to protect the rich from suicidal terrorists, particularly those armed with weapons of mass destruction. The world will either be made more just and decent for all, or it will be secure for none.
The issue of nuclear threat, whether by terrorists or governments, like so many other critical issues, is surrounded by thick layers of ignorance and apathy. To change the world, we must bring forth butterflies of hope from the cocoons of ignorance and apathy that surround them. The best place to begin is with ourselves. We must emerge from our own cocoons as positive agents of change.
In this dialogue, we explore our own lives and views of the world. We share with each other and with you, the reader, our views on achieving a more just and peaceful world. We believe deeply that the world can and must be made more decent for all. This is true not only because it is moral and right, but also because if it is not done, those who are injured, alienated and hateful will wreak havoc, tearing down the castle walls and the castle itself. In our Nuclear Age, the demise of civilization and humanity itself could be the price of failure.
We have reached a point in human history that demands more from each of us. It is not just leaders who make history. It is all of us. By our decisions each day we help shape the world, for better or for worse. On the path to building a better world, a first step is to choose hope. It is only a first step, but it is a critical one, one that will provide the impetus to move forward. There is much to do and you are needed more than perhaps you can imagine.
In the words of the great representative of the American Renaissance Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose works I started reading in my youth, "It is really a thought that has built this portentous war-establishment, and a thought shall also melt it away."
Two global wars and a series of ideological and racial conflicts made the twentieth truly a century of war and violence. We must remember, however, that the same century witnessed the worldwide spread of popular movements aimed at peace and disarmament, such as those sponsored by non-governmental organizations.
Some memorable achievements in this direction are the World Court Project, which raised in the International Court of Justice the issue of the illegality of nuclear arms, and the treaty obtained by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. As such developments indicate, popular solidarity is breaking through the hard wall of harsh reality and altering conventional thinking about security. In the same direction, we of the Soka Gakkai International have joined forces with David Krieger and the Nuclear Age Peace FoundationAbolition 2000 he heads in the drive to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Such movements stimulate a swelling tide of hope. In this book, Dr. Krieger and I examine various outlooks in a search for a philosophy and a vision that will make hope the byword of all humanity in the twenty-first century.
Our range of topics includes the roles of the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations and the mission and responsibilities of science and education. We have attempted to plot a path for a world free of war and nuclear weapons. We agree that a conversion from state security to human security is essential if we are to reform our times lastingly.
In Dr. Krieger's words: "Human security...demands protection of the environment and protection against human-rights abuses. It demands an end to poverty as well as to war and genocide. It demands an end to the threat of nuclear holocaust. It demands a judicial system capable of holding states and individuals accountable for violations of international law and a system of nonviolent conflict-resolution.
"The power of our technologies makes our problems global. No nation by itself can protect its citizens from them. National security now requires common security, just as human security demands global security."
On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks took many precious lives in the United States and roused sorrow and anger in many parts of the world. We must accept the challenge to convert that sorrow and anger into resoluteness and energy for peace. In this way we can help create a world of security and happiness for everyone.
As Dr. Krieger strongly asserts, the destiny of twenty-first-century humanity depends on ensuring worldwide safety and security. Terrorism can be said to epitomize inhumanity. Converting its negative into the positive of a global society radiant with humanism requires pooling all our wisdom supported by the solidarity of all the peoples of the earth.
Today I am more than ever convinced that though our situation may be difficult, we must not stand idly by. In the twenty-first century, humanity must show how mighty "people power" can be. We must make recognition of that power the hallmark of the age.
Despite spates of bad news and crises typified by the dark clouds of trouble hovering over the Middle East, steady hope-giving progress is being made in many areas. The British historian Arnold J. Toynbee said that when we view the future of humanity in millennial units, we see that ultimately history is created by deeper, slower movements. In our present situation, choices we must make deep within ourselves will determine whether the twenty-first century follows the violent, bellicose path of the twentieth century or leads humanity to an age of peace and harmonious symbiotic living.
Hope does not just occur. It is a conscious choice, an act of will. One must choose hope in the face of all we know.
When one surveys the world, however, there is so much that is not hopeful. There is far too much poverty with all the tragedy that accompanies it. There is far too much violence and there are far too many weapons. Someone examining the budgets of the world's countries might conclude that most countries care more about weapons for their militaries than they do about their people.
In a millennial report, the UN secretary-general found that if the world were a village of a thousand people, then only 150 of the inhabitants would live in an affluent area while 780 would live in poor districts and seventy would be in transition. Of the thousand people, two hundred would dispose of 86 percent of the wealth, and nearly half of the villagers would be living on less than two dollars per day.
The secretary-general reported that these problems of poverty and disparity make peace unpredictable. He also reported that the environment is also suffering and the quality of the air and water, essential to life, is deteriorating. "Who among us," the secretary-general asked, "would not wonder how long a village in this state can survive?"
A clear-eyed view of the present circumstances on earth is not cause for celebration. Political leaders at all levels seem more focused on shortsighted gains for themselves than on the welfare of humanity. The world's states continue to operate largely in a competitive mode, while increasing numbers of people throughout the world cry out for new modes of cooperation. The corporations that dominate the world's economy continue to base their success on short-term profits and to treat the earth, air and water as economic externalities at their disposal.
I have not yet mentioned the murderers, the merely greedy, and those who are responsible for racism and ethnic cleansing and for the proliferation, use and creation of weapons.
A good argument could be made for giving up on the human species in hopelessness and despair. Perhaps our species is simply acting out a death wish by its selfish, shortsighted and cruel behavior. And yet, we know at a deep level that we are capable of far better than this.
We are a species gifted in the creation of sublime beauty. We are a species capable of love, friendship, loyalty and acts of great selflessness. We are capable of seeing the bigger picture and embracing the challenge of building a better world. Like our technologies, we are dual-purpose. We are capable of both good and evil, and we struggle forward in this world where good and evil continue to co-exist.
I choose hope. It is a conscious choice, made in the full understanding that the evil around us is enough to envelop and overwhelm us. I choose hope because I feel a deep responsibility to do what I believe I am obligated to do -- to pass the world on a better place than when I came into it. It is what gives meaning to life. To fight for a better world is a form of living life to its fullest and richest. I choose hope as a personal and professional responsibility.
Dialogue is a way that probes and explores, a way from which hopefully both participants grow in their own understanding of the world. The world needs more dialogue, but dialogue that is aimed at action.
Words must lead to change -- in the case of this dialogue, to creating a better world. Building a better world requires hope. Without hope it is not possible to go forward. To choose hope is already a step in the right direction. It is as easy to choose hope as it is to deny it and push it away. With hope, we can change the world.
Each of us must decide whether or not to choose hope. Our dialogue will have succeeded if it helps you to choose hope and act for a better world.
The great French writer Victor Hugo triumphed over a life of turmoil and oppression. Soka University of America possesses a portrait photograph of him in his later years, which bears a hand-written inscription of which I am extremely fond. In English, it means, "Where there is hope, there is peace." If hope is wanting, we must create it for ourselves. Once we have done so, the great wave of peace can swell and spread freely.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Middleway Press. ©2001. www.middlewaypress.com
This article is excerpted from:
Choose Hope: Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age
by David Krieger and Daisaku Ikeda.
This moving dialogue between an American and a Japanese peace activist makes the compelling argument that ordinary people can and must guide their leaders to a safer and saner future free from a nuclear menace. This balance of Western and Eastern perspectives reveals how the development of true peace can grow only when narrow national loyalties are surpassed by a shared global vision. Particular encouragement is given to young people to build on their natural idealism to shape the world they will inherit.
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David Krieger is a founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and has served as president of the Foundation since 1982. Under his leadership the Foundation has initiated many innovative and important projects for building peace, strengthening international law and abolishing nuclear weapons. He has lectured the world over and is a founder of Abolition 2000, a global network of more than 2,000 organizations and municipalities committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons. He has written and edited numerous studies and books about peace and nuclear weapons, including Nuclear Weapons and the World Court and Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age.
Daisaku Ikeda is president of the Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist association pursuing the values of peace, culture and education and committed to fostering within individuals a sense of responsibility for the shared global community. He is also the founder of numerous cultural, educational and research institutions around the world. Prolific writer, poet and peace activist, he is recognized as one of the leading interpreters of Buddhism, bringing its timeless wisdom to bear on the many contemporary issues confronting humanity. Among the dozens of books he has written is the award-winning For the Sake of Peace. He received the United Nations Peace Award in 1983.