Challenges Of The 21st Century Essay
Challenges of the 21st Century
Citizens of the world look on with anticipation as our society moves into the twenty-first century. Although the world has not accomplished the wild ideas presented in science fiction, we have made a huge amount of progress in technology. However, many hurdles still need to be faced. Numerous critical problems will face both America and the world as a whole in this new millennium. Three problems confronting the United States are hate crimes, teen drug use, and education. The world will face issues as well, including terrorism, wars, and health care.
In America, hate crimes are a rising problem. Statistics show that a hate crime is committed every hour. A cross is burned every week. Eight blacks, three whites, three gays, three Jews, and one Latino become victims every day. Today, America prides itself on being a tolerant country. Through legislation including affirmative action and movements against racism, we see ourselves as a country offering equal opportunities to all. This statement, however, is slightly biased. Contrary to popular belief, everything is not wonderful in the land of the free and home of the brave. Many live in fear of being persecuted because of who they are naturally. The United States needs to find a way to combat these crimes, mainly through introducing tougher laws regarding hate crimes.
Another problem is use of illegal drugs by teenagers and young adults. As usage of drugs such as ecstasy and marijuana become more popular on "underground" scenes, people seem to find it acceptable to engage in casual drug use. Many young people do not realize the harmful effects of these substances until it is too late. The lives of America's youth are being threatened by what they feel to be innocent and casual recreation. Although stricter laws may have little or no effect on this drug use, a stronger campaign against drug use may elicit some results.
One other problem facing America is the issue of education. While schooling overall is not a major problem, education in the inner city and other "high risk" areas is an issue. Children in these schools rarely pursue education beyond high school, if they graduate. While much of this can be attributed to the upbringing and environment the children are raised in, the schools are a factor as well. Because of lack of funding, poor teaching materials, and sub-par learning environments, students in these inner city schools often don't feel motivated or encouraged to succeed; instead, they feel doomed to be failures. More money and resources provided by donations or by the government would help in correcting these problems.
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“Peace is not a dream; it is hard work, and there is nothing naive, glamorous or simplistic about it.”-Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel Laureate in Peace
As a student of Conflict Transformation and Peace Building, I was told that we are always in the process of Conflict. It amused me. I seldom witnessed conflict around me, then how can we be in the ‘process of Conflict always’? Then my mentor introduced me to the concept of Pre-Conflict stage and Post-Conflict stage. It gave me some food for thought.
Every society in various nation states is always amidst Conflict- it may be in the pre-conflict stage or post-conflict stage or witnessing conflict as it happens. It becomes important to realise that conflict is ever present. When we realise that there are different stages of Conflict, then we will understand that it becomes essential to engage in the process of Peace Building. Conflict resolution is not the final solution but Conflict Transformation is what we must look forward to. We may feel ‘resolution’ will bring end to conflict, but that can be a temporary pause. We, as a peaceful society, must aim at ‘transforming’ a conflict to a peaceful stage.
Gandhi used to say ‘Non-violence is older than the mountains.’ This introduces us to another concept that it is not conflict which is natural but non-violence. If we realise this then we come closer to the fact that conflict transformation is not a myth but a reality, a reality which has been less explored in our recent history which is marked by violence as a distinct feature.
Role of Youth in transforming Conflict
Potential of youth has never been realised in our part of the world, or for that matter in most societies. But youth has immense potential to not only transform conflict but create a peaceful society. The world today, as we see, has been designed by the young energetic people over centuries and millenniums. It is the young who has mental elasticity to think against the grains and physical ability to perform humongous tasks. The youth needs to realise this. It is sad that we do not have a leadership of young people which is willing to give a peaceful solution to the problems of present era.
According to the Global Peace Index, our part of the world- South Asia- is one the most violent regions in the world which is marked by internal conflicts. In India alone we have pressing conflicts in various tribal areas, Naxalism, the issue of Salwa Judum, the Kashmir conflict, the conflict in North East, the issue of ghettoization, et cetera. They demand extra ordinary solutions for a peaceful future. Involvement of youth in these conflicts forms a characteristic feature, which is a matter of serious concern.
Few scholars suggest that we need a mechanism through which we can use the potential of youth who are part of the conflict to transform the conflict. This is a task which requires extra ordinary planning and execution. Well, extra-ordinary problems need extra-ordinary solutions!
Involving the youth from the conflict prone areas can have numerous positive consequences. As they are from the same conflict area they know the ground realities and conflict better than anybody else. Young people from the conflict prone areas can attract many other young people from the same area to start a better living. Apart from this, it is also very important to give a positive direction to their immense energy. They have a longer life to lead and it becomes important to create a mechanism where they have a positive and peaceful life and set an example for the future generation to come.
At the same time it is important for different civil societies to pitch in and act with the young people from different backgrounds in order to indulge in the process of conflict transformation. We have few extremely positive success stories from the past which can be case studies for various organisations indulging in the process of peace building. But we need to know that every problem in society is unique and requires a unique solution.
Recognising the parties in Conflict
When indulging in the process of peace building, the youth needs to engage in a process of dialogue with every party in conflict, but it must recognise the parties first. There can be conflicts which are inter-state in nature and there can be others which are intra-state in nature. We cannot understand the conflict of Naxal areas if we do not recognise Indian state as a party in conflict against the tribal people. Similarly Naxal leadership also needs to be seen as a party with whom dialogue needs to be established in order to reach a better tomorrow. The same goes with Kashmir issue and the North-East issue or any other issue which involves many people as its stakeholders.
A better tomorrow lies in the hand of people who take the initiative of building peace, or rather discovering peace amidst the conflict. The youth of the nation not only possess the power to build a better tomorrow but also to create a beautiful future for the coming generations. It certainly requires guidance. For this we need to have a leadership of the young people who respect other young people and lead a change. I see many young people around me, with proper understanding of the era of conflict in which we live. I am sure these change makers will lead our part of the world on a path of peaceful joy and love for all.
Martin Luther King Jr., wrote in ‘A Testament of Hope’, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” I agree with him today and know that this will be true one day.
Let me end this essay with a song by John Lennon,
“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us,
And the world will live asone”