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Can peace hear the starter's gun?

Bikram VohraWhen one grows up in a conflict-ridden area, where violence is an everyday affair, a process of de-sensitisation sets in. So much so, young minds which grow up as witnesses to acts of violence do not bat an eyelid before killing someone... US psychologist S.Chugh says it succinctly. But there have to be other reasons that bring to bear pressure, and place the world on a hair trigger.

There have not been 15 days of global peace on earth in this century and even those fifteen days are questionable. What is it that is making our youth so angry and what are the factors that go into the mix? On a day when the UN secretary general sends out a message to the world to come and play in Sochi and do it in the best traditions of the Olympics the laurel wreath is a little wilted.

The presence of high security and the fear of extremism glower in the Russian landscape. The games go on against the backdrop of global rage and the stench of cordite. Let us examine what it is that makes violence spiral and then read the message against these elements.

* Access to weapons: In this enlightened age with nuclear formula and recipes for explosives available on the Net the traditional gun is not a necessity. Even the wheel of a car is violence per se.

* Signs of depression: Young people with wealth set the pace for those with less affluence to follow, their need to compete sparking a criminal intent steeped in violence.

* Drug and alcohol abuse: Both are laughable easy to obtain for the youth of the world and make violence more attractive, both for purchase and from the high.

* Alienation: The breakdown of the larger family, the parental preoccupation with themselves, neglected children, sibling rivalry and surrogate parenting through TV and computers have allowed violence to romp home.

* Narcissism: Low self esteem prompted by shortage of money, rage at not having that financial support to buy status symbols and falsely held belief in one's invincibility gives the young adult a sense of failing. Best expressed in gang warfare, fast driving.

* No limits to, or monitoring of, television and Internet use: This is the single largest contribution to violence in our world today and paradoxically the most lauded and tolerated. Violence is dispensed with the ease of toilet paper and with about as much casualness. Direct exposure to violence has been calculated at over 60 minutes a day.

On the eve of the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, I join the International Olympic Committee in calling on all those engaged in armed hostilities around the world to lay down their weapons and observe the Olympic Truce.

The participants in the Sochi Games may carry the flags of many nations, but they come together under the shared banner of equality, fair play, mutual respect and non-discrimination.

I encourage all those involved in the games -- Governments, groups, organizations and individuals -- to uphold and defend these core Olympic ideals.

In calling for this year's Truce, my thoughts are with the people of Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and all others suffering from senseless violence, including the families who lost loved ones in the recent bombings that took place in Volgograd, not far from Sochi.

I call on all combatants everywhere to respect the Olympic Truce, which has been adopted by all 193 United Nations Member States. Overcoming conflict is a constant struggle, but we must persist in doing our utmost to win adherence to it.

The Olympic Truce is rooted in the hope that if people and nations can put aside their differences for one day, they can build on that to establish more lasting cease-fires and find paths toward durable peace, prosperity and human rights. For these next few weeks, may the torch of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi remind us what is possible when nations unite! There is more to it than merely sport and the message has a political overtone that addresses the failures of the past and the acrimony and divisiveness that mark the era we live in.

The world is today not a happy place. Between the civil wars and the unrest that mark much of the globe, we can only hope that peace of some nature can at least begin its process through the cleansing efforts of coming together in healthy competition.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Feb 7, 2014
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