Last weekend I came across an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal comparing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the 500-year conflict between the Scots and the English, which dragged out from the last bit of the 13th century until 1745, and then only ended because of a decisive military victory. (By which I mean, of course, more violence.)
The writer argued that if that conflict, between two groups of people with so much in common, could last almost 500 years, there's no reason to think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will end any time soon. It's more reasonable to expect the tension and outbreaks of violence to continue until both sides are thoroughly exhausted.
If you've been reading HumanKind Media for a while, you can guess I disagreed with the writer. At first I was all ready to get up on my soap box and use this blog to refute all those despair-mongering arguments, one by one. But that would just be me blowing off steam.
Besides, the truth is this op-ed actually got me thinking more hopefully for everyone involved. For one thing, I started counting all the many, many ways the world has changed since that 500-year war. Yes, the world still harbors horrific violence, I know that. But I think it's safe to say that blind fanaticism is no longer so easy to instill in people. Education is making inroads toward replacing superstition and hate with acceptance and peace, even in areas that are the most stricken with violence.
And I keep coming back to the fact that we're all far more connected with each other, all over the world -- even in regions that don't have a computer in every home, some percentage of the population is online -- thanks to communications technology that wasn't even a dream in the year 1296 or in 1765.
That ability to connect gives an advantage to this generation of young people that's never been seen before in human history: These kids were practically born online. They are growing up knowing about each other, and more importantly, how to reach each other. Actually, the idea of "other" might be disintegrating entirely, or at least shifting dramatically, now that any kid, given the technology and the permission, can meet any other kid, anywhere in the world, and get to know them.
The more this generation connects, the less and less "other" they're going to seem to each other. They're growing into an entirely different kind of adults than we are (and different from the adults in the 1700s -- couldn't resist!). The next leaders of our communities and of the world will be people who grew up aware of the ways in which we are all connected. Just like any U.S. kid recycles way more than any U.S. adult, every single member of this generation is growing up in a world that's starting to think of itself far more in terms of a global community.
So, yeah. Talk about pronoia! That one op-ed was enough to keep me thinking about possibilities for peace all week.
Liz Tascio was co-founder of HumanKind Media. You can read about her here.