Perspectives on Peace
By Sanshita Vij
“Sanskrit has 108 words for love. Islam has 99 names for God. Japanese has 14 words for beauty. We’ve got one word for Peace…. We don’t have enough words to accurately describe all the different aspects of peace. I think it was Socrates who once said if you don’t have a word to describe something, then how can you think about it,” is a famous quote of Steve Killelea; perfectly describing how peace is used to represent a wide number of concepts, which, although inter-related, may still not be representative of peace. This article is an attempt to understand peace the way various thinkers and leaders have thought of it, and how I, as an author, have come to think of it.
What is peace and what does it represent?
Different thinkers perceived peace differently over the years. “Peace is more important than all justice,” exclaimed Martin Luther; while Desiderius Erasmus believed that even the most disadvantageous peace was better than the most just war.
To some, peace is merely the absence of violence, dissent, and war. For these thinkers, peace and war are the direct opposites; and violence, in all forms, must be condemned and its absence, in all forms, is commendable. Marcus Tullius Cicero’s quote, “Peace is liberty in tranquillity,” supports this school of thought.
To a few others, peace is a mental state which is full of tranquillity and serenity – inner peace. The idea is that peace has its origin within people, and it is a personal state that spills out to the rest of the world. The Dalai Lama, one of the most renowned advocates of peace, had advocated for positive peace. “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways,” conveyed the Dalai Lama in one of his lectures. Not only Dalai Lama, the famous American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt had something to say about peace himself. He quoted, “More than just an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars.” But it is worth noting that the USA’s involvement in the second world war questions Roosevelt’s commitment to his saying about ending the beginning of all wars, although he stated that the USA participated in the war to make sure it was the last war to ever happen on Earth.
For this set of thinkers, peace is more than what the rest think. It is about a balance of powers, justice and a more well-rounded approach to peace. This notion acknowledges that conflict and peace are the two sides to the same coin, and long-lasting peace is far more important than temporary peace.
Thinkers, in the early days, developed their views based on their experiences, external influence, and what was happening in the world at that time. In today’s world, there are irenologists (those who scientifically study peace), who have struck a difference between these worldviews. Johan Galtung, the father of peace studies, has classified peace as Negative and Positive Peace. Negative peace is the absence of ‘direct violence’ be it direct physical harm, a riot or a war. On the other hand, positive peace is stopping institutionalised violence or structural problems such as poverty and discrimination. Positive peace has a long-lasting impact and can eliminate the need for negative peace.
After reading what these great people had to say, I found myself agreeing most with the third worldview. To me, peace has a lot to do with justice, freedom and equality among other concepts in society. Peace is more multidimensional than merely the absence of war. But the answer does not end here, there is one more question that needs to be answered.
Can Peace possibly exist if a conflict exists too?
Before talking about peace, we must look at conflict. Conflict is a difference in interests which arises due to imbalance in power. The fact that conflict exists, implies that inequalities exist. At the same time, moving towards equality is a step towards peace. This means that when one is resolving conflicts, one is reducing inequalities; as a result of which, the society is inching closer to peace. In effect, conflicts will arise as long as the world is not completely equal, but the key to peace is in resolving these conflicts in a manner that positively affects both the sides; and in the long term, justly reduces the inequalities that may have caused it.
The way to reach peace, therefore, is not to suppress dissent. Suppression of voices is taking away freedom, one of the key elements of peace. By suppressing voices, one can only achieve silence, not peace; the inequalities will continue to persist, and the root cause of the problem will not be solved. One must identify the inequalities that have led to dissent, and solve these problems with a just and fair approach.
The key is to set up a strong system to resolve conflicts- a system which is unbiased and encourages conversation between the involved people and is aimed at reaching a consensus.
To sum it all up, the idea of absolute peace may seem utopian, but we must realise that peace is more than a final destination for humankind, it is also a means to get there. Peace is essentially the resolution for conflicts, as rightly put by many.
Edited by : B.S Ashish