A Peaceful New Year 2014!

Posted: January 5, 2014 by Arushi in Book Review
Tags: , , , ,

Paths to Peace Cover DEF

I am not usually a reader of non-fiction and that is quite evident even on my blog. But recently I had the pleasure of coming across Paths to Peace by Dirk Collier. I even love the cover.

I had ended the previous year on a note of war, even my blog post here was about The Art of War. So I figured what better way to start a new year then to read about peace. The book blurb is below in italics, to give a succinct gist:  

Black and white. Left and right.
Believers and infidels. Us and them.

The list is endless and should make it painfully obvious: differences between people are inherently dangerous.
Difference divides; it breeds prejudices, fear and hatred; and sometimes, it kills.

This is what Paths to Peace is about: how to avoid the traps of hatred, even if there is no hope of avoiding, removing or convincing those with whom we disagree. No religion or cultural tradition is immune to the poison of fanaticism and hatred. In each and every one of them, however, paths to peace can be found.

Highly erudite and eminently readable, Paths to Peace offers much-needed food for thought, and promotes rational and detached reflection on what usually are highly sensitive and emotional subjects: identity, ideology and religious or philosophical beliefs.

Dirk Collier’s Paths To Peace – Religion, Ethics and Tolerance in a Globalizing World is an extremely well written book. It is a gradual and logical discussion of the problems in the current world order regarding the lack of tolerance and the rise of fanaticism. This is a book about peace, a compilation of a lot of that which is good and humane about humanity.

The book starts with a basic overview of some of the world order, whether it was the Partition of the Indian subcontinent or the wars that plagued Europe a few centuries ago. It then moves on to a more philosophical discussion of the problems currently faced by the world, gives some input on their origins and discusses them at length in text laced liberally with quotes,

It is not necessary for toleration that I must approve of what I tolerate. I heartily dislike drinking, meat-eating and smoking, but I tolerate all these in Hindus, Mohammedans and Christians even as I expect them to tolerate my abstinence from all these although they may dislike it.”- Mahatma Gandhi

examples,

“The Indian Muslim emperor Akbar the Great (1542-1605) decreed religious tolerance – at a time when Europe was in the midst of fighting its bloody religious wars – because he was intimately convinced that no religion has a monopoly on truth.”

And clear comments using the words of philosophers,

“Nietzsche articulated this idea even more strikingly, when he stated that convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.”

Written in a style that is clear, concise and never crosses the line into preaching, Paths to Peace, is at once a well written essay that makes the reader think, as well as a compression of many of the dilemmas faced by the world today. The book never attempts to claim that it is anything more than it is, an analysis of what we have become and how we see the world. Interestingly, Dirk manages to do this while keeping a positive attitude towards human progress. He quotes Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of our Nature to state that humans have, contrary to popular belief, become less violent over the years and so there is hope for us yet.

It is not a book to be read lightly, yet it is the lightest read of all, with a belief in the innate goodness of humanity radiating from it. A book that makes a person believe that if a writer can write this then perhaps others must also be thinking this. If this is in thoughts, it may just soon turn to words, and then words to action. There can be no better action then a concentrated move towards peace.

I can only end my review on another quote, one that is beautiful in its simplicity and states clearly that the biggest problem today is not the lack of ideas, but the closed minds that refuse to acknowledge the very existence of anything but their own ideology, whatever it may be.

“nothing is more dangerous than an idea – especially, if you have only one…” 

A very very Happy New Year 2014 everyone and I hope that this year brings you many many new ideas and may you have the wisdom to judge them all for yourself!

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