"Be the change you want to see in the world." |
My views on "Youth and World Peace"
By Bernie Meyer, known as "the American Gandhi"
August 26, 2009
In 1889 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi went to England to study law. He went with the intention of reforming India, then a colony of the United Kingdom. He wanted Indians to be like the English people. Gandhi became a lawyer and dressed like an English lawyer when he went to South Africa in 1893 to help Abdullah Scheth with a legal matter. By the time Gandhi left South Africa in 1915 he dressed like the ordinary people of India. By 1920 he wore a loincloth and shawl like the poor people of the villages. Gandhi came to the discovery that the way to peace was by doing justice for the poorest. Gandhi found that this way to justice and peace was through nonviolence.
I believe that every person has a calling to be true to himself or herself. It takes time to find out one's own personal calling. The way to find out is to seek the truth that comes from within one's own conscious mind and through one's own heart. Like Gandhi each person must try things out by experimenting, using trial and error.
There are many pitfalls along the way. Sometimes others fool us. Sometimes we fool ourselves. At other times we just make mistakes. Like Gandhi I think that we must seek truth at all times. A person of truth lives by love, honoring the truth in every human being.
By living this way we begin to bring peace into the world. By living peacefully we show love.
There is more to making peace than being peaceful. Peace must be worked for by changing what unjustly hurts others. Gandhi sought justice by seeking the end of the domination of India by the United Kingdom. But, he saw that that was not enough. For the nation of India to be peaceful, he brought the spinning wheel back so that every one would have a way to earn a living in a dignified way. He sought health and sanitation reforms so that sickness would be limited. He worked to change the legality of Untouchable treatment, as well as the custom of treating people as Untouchables. Gandhi also began to support women as leaders. These efforts show that there are many parts to bringing peace in the world.
Now, in 2009, we have a different world than Gandhi lived in. However, it is not totally different. Individuals and groups still harm others in many ways. Spouse and child abuse is ever present. Unjust systems in health, employment, politics, and governments still bring harm to whole groups of people. These must be reformed.
The different world we are aware of today is the world of global threats. Resources are being exhausted. Water, minerals, oil and natural gas are being used at an unsustainable rate. Global Climate Heating threatens life on earth, if it is not reversed very soon. Human activities are the cause. The environment is also being seriously damaged by nuclear radiation from the mining of uranium, weapons production and their use. Nuclear power destroys the environment with its accidents and wastes. Also, chemicals and toxins destroy both the environment and humans. All these events are destroying species and habitats. This different world from Gandhi's can and must be saved.
I believe that youth can make a very large and significant contribution to peace by becoming aware of these realities and by acting to change them. The ways and means are there. The situation is very urgent. The 21st Century will determine weather or not "civilization" can be saved, whether life on earth will continue.
Gandhi showed the world a whole new way to bring peace by his methods and principles in nonviolence. He called nonviolence, ahimsa, or "unwillingness to do harm." Gandhi initiated the way of "satyagraha" or clinging to the truth. Gandhi did not point fingers to tell others what to do. He took the burden on himself and showed others the way. That is what he meant when he said, "Become the change you want to see in the world."
I think that this "Student Peace Festival" is a good example of the potential of youth to show that people can bring peace to the world. Many nations are represented here. The communications and transportation systems, which bring us together, are global means that we can use to bring peace. I am happy to be part of this effort. The times are urgent. We can make strides by joining our efforts together.
Like Gandhi, we must learn to apply ourselves continually and courageously: experiment with truth.
Gandhi has inspired Bernie Meyer all his adult life. Bernie began his adult profession as a Roman Catholic priest in 1965. From the beginning he joined the efforts to end racism in the United States. In 1970 he was imprisoned for trying to end the Vietnam War with its use of dioxins, napalm, and other chemical weapons. Having left the priesthood in 1970, he raised three children by work providing social services. For the last 30 years he has resisted nuclear war in teaching and at the Sub Base Bangor in Washington State where the Trident Nuclear Submarine is based. Since February 2002 Bernie has been portraying Gandhi and is known as "The American Gandhi."