Opinion: Economists on Peace contributor Dr Anoop Swarup on the influence of faith on enlightenment and why we need a Global Non-killing Index.
In these times of disruption, delusion and darkness in a globalised world, human dignity and life appear to be the foremost calamity as human trafficking, exploitation, terrorism and wars take the front seat in our struggle for existence in the 21st century. Steven Pinker in his book ‘Enlightenment Now’ toys with the idea, though not in as many words, that people are not “individuals,” but are “the expendable cells of a superorganism”. Though he rightly states that life expectancy is up, but prefers to give all the credit to reason and science at the expense of spirituality and religion, for human progress. Treating karma as unscientific reflects little knowledge and understanding of the role religion has played over the centuries in bringing about trust, morality and discipline amongst humans in the path of civilisational ascent. Incidentally enough, his term “romantic green movement”, does subordinate human interests to a transcendent entity, the ecosystem and his usage of the term diclinism – the idea that civilisation is assumed to be in steady decline and on the verge of collapse – too, is preposterous.
Enlightenment ideals and religion
The assumption that life is best endowed with meaning if only we remember our enlightenment ideals as products of human reason and its refinement along with science, hinges on too myopic an outlook, for Pinker as a professor of cognitive science. Trashing the role of religion and spirituality that have brought discipline, trust and hope and to my mind have indeed been the pillars on which the edifice of humanism, science and reason have been built, is not at all good reasoning. What Pinker characterises as manifestations of delusional thinking, including religious faith, have been the human footprints, as also the threats and acts such as environmental degradation, climate change and the quest for weapons of mass destruction that endangers life on planet earth have been checked. Perhaps it is due to reason and science gone horribly wrong, that the threats, scope and the total number of killings are on the rise in the 21st century attributable to industrial accidents, drug abuse, and pollutants, as also genocides, terror and weapons of mass destruction.
Affirmation for a nonkilling society
Terrorism, violence and brutality related incidents are on the increase as such mindsets are cultivated attacks are due to the threatened or actual use of force and violence by a state or even non-state actors to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation by its perpetrators. It is in this context that political scientists and philosophers both past and present who raise the question about the possibility of a nonkilling and nonviolent society become ever so relevant, and it is the affirmative nonkilling approach to Positive Peace, that can make a real world difference in these difficult times. Here it is worth a reflection that in the past such a possibility has been consistently answered in negative by political scientists on the basis of three grounds: first, humans are killers by nature, second, competition for scarce resources makes people kill,and third, the possibility of rape requires the readiness of men to kill to defend related females. Also, Paige emphasised upon our traditional political thoughts conditioning and approach both from east and west which has had often supported lethality and violence for maintaining the integrity of the state and the security of individuals. During the course of a research undertaken by us, this question was put up to peace researchers and the general public. We were confronted by a diverse array of opinion that we discovered, that revealed one common denominator: the end howsoever good should invariably be justified by the means. We do have the earlier reported fact that even those who killed, believed in the possibility of a “nonkilling society”. Therefore, it is our submission that the end we envisage for ourselves, be it justice, equality or peace should be commensurate with the right approach, means and methods. In order to foster a nonkilling society, our findings brought us to the most imperative conclusion: that peace needs to be cultivated and nurtured in the human mind. As was stated in the Seville Statement: “human culture gives us the ability to shape and change our nature from one generation to another”. So, by evolving our own upbringing, learning, ethos and the cultural values, we indeed have great chances of turning our civilisation into a nonkilling one.
The case for a universal nonkilling index
Thus, on the basis of the survey and to gauge human advancement after due deliberation, a very important indicator was conceived, that is, a country wise index of human nonkilling. This could be a great measure of not only the level of societal development, but also of human consciousness and enlightenment, critical to a future positive. It is my argument that this would prove to be a better indicator of humanity’s wellbeing on virtually all parameters, since life, as we know in our contemporary world is held in utmost reverence in almost all human cultures and societies. Indeed, such an indicator, the Global Nonkilling Index (GNI) would indeed also be a good reflection of a society’s well being, as the what, why and how, as also the ways, nature and numbers that the killings occur would also be a measure of human progress. The variables taken up in our study for the preparation of the index include war deaths, domestic armed conflict related deaths, death penalty, homicide and suicide. Here it may be important to draw a distinction with the Global Peace Index (GPI) that contains 23 parameters, the Happiness Index (HI) with seven parameters and the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), which focuses just on terror.
It may also be pointed out that the Global Peace Index (GPI) of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), divides peace into Negative Peace and Positive Peace, as the IEP framework posits Negative Peace as absence of violence, or fear of violence, while Positive Peace is identified as the “attitudes, institutions and structures,” for creating and perpetuating a peaceful society. Such a definition does overlook the bulls’ eye and the stark reality of quantifying and preserving human life through ‘affirmative nonkilling approach’ as the actual measure of human progress and enlightenment. These are broad indices that aim to measure terror, peace and happiness on a large scale without any reference to the loss of human lives due to other causes that have a bearing on individual’s threat perception as also overall society’s good. Since the 1990s, the Human Development Indices (HDI) and the report primarily focuses on reductions or otherwise in human development achievements in the distribution of health, education, and income within countries, and does proclaim to provide a complete, multidimensional view of human development, but does not give adequate weightage to human killings.
Globally speaking, though life expectancy ratios have gone up over the past century, when accounting for inequalities, the 2017 HDI value of 0.728 falls to 0.582, a year later thus, reveals an average loss of about 20 percent. Also, the report delves deeper to look into data unravelling the overall (percentage) loss in HDI that ranges from 3.6 percent in Japan to 45.3 per cent in Comoros, and the composition is vastly different amongst countries. On exploration of the interactive visualisation to see country-level composition, we merely focus on just three dimensions: health and longevity, knowledge and standard of living, overlooking poverty which is one of the root causes of deaths and killings as also human security with weightage on homicides, suicides, wars, armed conflicts, terror, genocides and even death penalty.
Thus, it is reiterated, that nonkilling is more focused and can be a better and direct measure of societal well being and progress, as it is measurable and achievable. Once available country wise, to the policymakers and the public at large, it can be the first step or rather the foundational step towards measuring human progress, peace and happiness, as one cannot overlook the same while talking about development, peace and happiness. The variables taken up in our study for the preparation of the index were based on verifiable World Health Organisation (WHO) data on war deaths, armed conflict deaths (internal), death penalty, homicide and suicide.
In the GNI, the killing of not just others, but also of the self due to suicide, is observed as an important parameter for the wellbeing of a society. The index is built on quiet simplistic calculations. Each of the five variables has been assigned the value of five, just like the GPI, making the total score to 25. The GPI has given different weightage to different variables after holding a robust discussion on it. Internal peace was given more weightage, as it was argued that internal peace also affects external peace. But here each of the five variables is given equal weightage.
The homicide and suicide rates are taken from the website of the WHO. The war deaths and internal armed conflict deaths are taken from the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme and the Global Peace Index, respectively. The death penalty is taken from Amnesty International. The period of the data collection is for the whole year of 2015, the reason being suicide rates are collected by the WHO every five years. The homicide and suicide rates are calculated as the number of deaths divided by the total population, the result multiplied by one hundred thousand. The scoring rate of death penalty is the number of executions divided by the population of that state, and multiplied by one hundred thousand. Weightage of these five indicators is allotted in terms of the highest and lowest range. The rankings are allotted according to the band prepared for each variable and the rate bands are prepared according to the highest and lowest rate of that particular variable. Thus, the more the score is, the more would be the killing. The average score of all 172 countries is taken out to benchmark the score as to which country is performing better and which worse. The average that came out is 5.8. Countries that have a killing rate above 5.8 reflect a poor score.
Top 20 nations with high killing score
The chart above portrays the score of the top 20 countries where the killing rate is the highest. There are different reasons for the high killing rates in these countries. Some are affected by war and terrorism, while few others are facing internal disturbances that lead the people to kill. The internal disturbances and war, however, are not prevalent all around the world. The suicides and homicides which are universally found all over the globe are also matter of great concern. An honourable example of a nonkilling state to be cited, though tiny, is the state of San Marino; a country where no killing, no traffic fatality and no homicides or suicides have been reported since 2013, an exemplary achievement. Sadly enough, the governments of the day have only been taking negative steps to curb violence and killings, also when perhaps it is too late. There are always the laws against those who commit homicides and in most countries against those who commit suicide, not to speak of terror and violence, but nothing is done by the state and the society to cultivate affirmative nonkilling through cultivating a healthy mind to bring about Positive Peace. The government and the law as a last recourse end up with a deterrent law and force in this regard. The task of the creation of a healthy and nonkilling and nonviolent society through structures and affirmative approaches rests primarily with the state, the educational institutions and the society.
A different take for a future positive
In this era of war and menace of terror and conflict, it has become difficult to establish peace. Time and again, history reveals that no war in the name of religion, god or peace has been successful in bringing about perpetual peace. States may exist without crimes being committed by individuals, but where there exists practices of discrimination, humiliation and suppression of any section of society, peace is only a farce there. Moreover, if the state actors are themselves committing crimes and even legalising them, then the danger of the eruption of violence and killings leading the state into anarchy becomes all the more imminent. The art and literature of any society are helpful in comprehending the mindset of that society at large, not only the freedom given to them, but also the message given by them should be understood. The nonkilling index is a critical measure for human development, progress and enlightenment and hence its inclusion is proposed in the GPI, HDI, HI, as well as in the reports. As discussed earlier, though Pinker’s rationalisation is boldly different, these are arguably untenable particularly, his atheism for an apostate.
Of course, enlightenment that is, as yet not there, is an unfinished task to be accomplished through affirmative nonkilling approaches for Positive Peace. The ideals of human past, more particularly from the outlook of religion, spirituality and faith, rather than reason and science alone, have given us hope for our humanism and future. Yes, optimism over pessimism of the past should be the order of the day. There is, as yet no ground for complacency as we do pay a price for the uncertainty of freedom and progress. There is work to be done in bringing about transformational structures and changes in our societal upbringing and thought, through affirmative and positive approaches to non-killing peace which will prove to be a critical development paradigm.
The opinions expressed throughout this article are the opinions of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vision of Humanity or the Institute for Economics & Peace.