“If the world had no weapons, what would have been positive and negative today?”, I asked a few close friends. A Swiss friend, Herve Luquiens, replied, “Your question reminds me of my youth! My grandfather was a socialist leader in Switzerland — the mayor of Lausanne. He insisted I never play with military dinky toys. I was unhappy, but that was his political belief. I’m not comfortable with your idea. Talking about the real world, I’m scared about bad guys holding weapons and good guys not. In France, many military weapons were left after World War II. At some stage they were asked to declare them, to give them to the police. You did that or you could go to prison. But today, whoever wants to rob a bank or kill innocent people can get a Kalashnikov on the Internet for as little as 1,500 Euros. Also, the Nazis had weapons when the Jews were unarmed… So I love your dream, but I don’t believe it works in real life. Too bad!”
Just imagine, 70 million Kalashnikovs sold to date, plus millions of other weapons to destroy people. To what purpose? A Parisian friend responded: “It’s a trap question! But a great wish.”
Clearly a Utopian dream, yet for a few hours last Sunday, January 11, it became a reality in Paris. Amazingly, state leaders from 44 countries were queuing to catch a bus from the Élysée Palace to Place de la République to attend the unity rally. This call by the French President made people forget their divisions. An ocean of humanity, over 1.5 million, inched silently through Paris streets. Simultaneously, another 2.5 million marched in different parts of France, Europe, the Americas and Australia. Such solidarity to condemn senseless killings has no parallel.
I’ll never forget the incredible weaponless union between two arch enemies — the Palestinian Authority President and the Israeli Prime Minister. Leaving aside religious and political problems, they marched together. Leading the rally, all arm-in-arm, were the King and Queen of Jordon, German Chancellor, British and Italian Prime Ministers, President of Mali, among other leaders. Their peaceful protest was against terrorism killing innocent people, 10 artists of Charlie Hebdo — a publication illustrating satirical opinion — three security personnel and four Jewish shoppers. These statespersons made no speech, but showed terrorists that their vile acts instead brought people of all religions together. The imam of Paris Grand Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, attended mourning prayers at the Jewish synagogue with Catholic President Hollande and Jewish Israeli PM Netanyahu. This strong symbolic expression of peace showed the power to win without weapons.
Can the world become weaponless? I’m not enamoured of non-violence where the opposition is armed; it’s unnatural, inhuman, exposing weakness. My dream is of a non-violent, weaponless world where both sides have no weapons.
Hate, jealousy and power exist in our DNA. Weapons feed and empower hate, jealousy and power to become explosive. When somebody commits a violent act, society sends a force to kill the killer. Doing so, have we stopped violence? Revenge will come from numerous quarters starting a domino effect of violence, and making us live in perpetual terror and insecurity. If we actually had no weapons, social beings would challenge one another through intellectual weapons expressed in various media. We would experience creativity wars that kill nobody. Styles of expression in different societies would be extraordinary, replacing the physical punishing world we know now. A six-year-old boy at the French rally was asking, “Why will I be killed for making a funny drawing?”
Unfortunately, all of France is in limbo now in spite of the rally’s success in symbolising unity. French Muslims are wary of Catholics and Jews, and vice versa. Liberal French democracy has welcomed the largest Muslim (eight million) and Jewish populations (half a million) in Europe to France (total population 63 million), but this does not mean that France has to change its high secular value system and freedom of expression.
“We are French first” is the feeling the march hoped to ignite amongst French minorities. French Jews migrating to Israel for fear is a new phenomenon that’s shocked me: 12,000 since 2012 when anti-Semitic terrorism struck France.
That last Sunday’s march displayed no turbulence means we want to live peacefully under a beautiful sky. My question to you, my valuable reader, is: “What if the world had no weapons?”
Shombit Sengupta is a global consultant on unique customer centricity strategy to execution excellence for top management