M.V. Naidu. Oakville, ON.: MITA Press, 1996. 396 pp.
This collection of essays is well worth reading, even (or especially) by a person who is inclined to disagree. Naidu's comments are thought-provoking and well expressed. The definition of peace is a wide one: Galtung's "positive peace," not only the absence of violence. For this reason, some of the essays, such as those on abortion, Salmon Rushdie, the L.A. Riots, Canadian multiculturalism, democracy in India and a survey of Social Science and Humanities Research Council grants would not usually find their place in a book on peace. However, most of the essays, such as a general theory of peace; relationship of peace to racism, religion, human rights; and models of development fit right in.
The thesis of the book is that ideologies can be categorized as "humanistic rationalism" and "ir- rational religionism." Peace and human rights, of course, fit into the first category, while most of the world's problems stem from the second category. Some readers may be shocked by this negative evaluation of religion; but we must keep in mind Naidu's definition, which relates to blind beliefs enforced by church authority and dogmatic opposition to heresy and disbelief. The kind of spirituality that defined God as Truth and Truth as God for Gandhi is definitely on the side of peace and nonviolence.
There is strong criticism here of Western industrialism as a model of development, and a ringing praise of India, Naidu's birthplace and still, it seems, his spiritual home. One essay interprets communism as a "religion" in Naidu's sense, while apparently Hinduism and Buddhism are not religions. Another essay juxtaposes the demands of "national security," both internal and external, to civil liberties. Other essays explore the role of technology, peace in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, and the testing of cruise missiles in Canada, a big issue in the 1980s but no longer today. The thoughtful reader will never find the book dull.
Reviewer Hanna Newcombe directs the Peace Research Institute in Dundas, ON.