If the pursuit of peace is an attempt to rid the world of violence, we must ask ourselves – “violence” through the eyes of who? Defining violence from the perception of a collective-humanity, is very different form defining it from the perception of each individual:
– If we define violence from the perception of all-humans-together, then are we not opening the doors for evil dictator, idealistic warfare and other devastating forms of violence to be committed on individuals?
– But, if we define violence as purely from an individual perspective, eg broaching on a woman’s right to have as many children as she pleases, then are we not lending ourselves to neglect the big-picture?
If we prioritise individual human rights over the rights of all life collectively, might we not cause the greatest violence of all – the destruction of our planet – a violence against all humans and life of today and the future???
Oh woe woe: what confusion, what a predicament, what a trade off…
Does this mean peace is a vain pursuit? An idealist impossibility? An unattainable objective? Maybe.
But is, like the quest for Truth and Balance, the process of pursuing peace still a valuable one?
The last couple of years I have studied “Peace And Conflict Studies”, and while this has influenced many of my entries, I think it might be useful to outline some of the key terms and concepts. I guess where the idea of peace gets airy fairy is in it’s definition… what exactly are we talking about when we talk of “peace”?
First I wish to clarify that peace is NOT the absence of conflict.
Life is defined by dualisms, by the dynamic relationships between opposing forces, by conflict. Conflict leads to evolution, to growth, innovation and improvement. Conflict is good. Violence, however, is not. And violence need not be a part or a result of conflict.
Professor Galtung defines two categories of peace:
– Negative Peace – the elimination of war; and
– Positive Peace – the elimination of poverty and other forms of violence including Direct Violence (eg stop me from hitting you) and Indirect Violence (eg stop me from constraining your freedoms) and Structural Violence (a form of indirect violence that is concealed by a system structure).
Peace involves the resolution of conflict through non-violent means – something I think our schools could do better providing us the skills to put into practice. For example, the learning conflict resolution skills such as how to map out a conflict :
- how to define the central issue (in a blame-free language)
- identify the manifest and un-manifest pressures
- distinguish transitory interests from cultural values and unchanging needs
- as well as identifying the fears and concerns of the parties involved,
This framework allows common visions and strategies to be designed in a far more efficient and effective way. (See Burton (1990) and Tillet (1999) if you are interested in learning more.
Positive Peace is about JUSTICE…
Which brings me back to the problem with words and definition.
Whose justice are we talking about?
My idea of justice, or yours? What kind of justice? Economic? Social? Intellectual? All of the above? The problem with a definition like this is that my idea of justice might very well be your idea of oppression. Our means of evaluating is relative to our culture, education, and experience.
And I start to wonder: is the predicament between human rights and planetary rights, anything like the difference between capitalist mentalities and communist ones? How is can it be I feel I empathise with both?
What do YOU think?
Should we prioritise human rights at the expense of planetary ones?
What is more important, our individual present or our collective future?
Give me a shorter more fulfilling life over a long drawn out crappy one – in my mind quality trumps quantity, and planetary rights trump human ones – but maybe that’s just me.
Barash, D.P. (1991) “The Meaning of Peace” & “The Debate Over Peace Studies” in Introduction to Peace Studies. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing.
Burton, J. (1990a). Human Needs Theory. Conflict: Resolution and Prevention. Macmillan. London, UK.
Galtung, J. (2000). TRANSCEND: 40 Years, 40 Conflicts. Searching for Peace: The Road to TRANSCEND. J. J. Galtung, C G. London, Pluto Press.
Tillett, G. and B. French (2006). Conflict and its Resolution. Resolving Conflict: A Practical Approach Melbourne, Oxford University Press. 3rd edn.
A pile of rubbish in Kathmandu, Nepal. While the west buries their rubbish in the ground or out at sea, to me this site (and even more so the wretched smell) was a stark reminder of humanity’s impact. It was seriously grotesque, and if it’s avoidable I think it should be avoided.