What Is Peace? Forget Ideals of Milk and Honey. Peace Is Found in the Grit of Everyday Life
Ceremonies, documents signed by dignitaries and great and noble speeches are the hallmark of peace treaties. While that makes for great photos and feel good times however, has very little to do with the work that it takes to make peace a reality.
So what is peace? What are realistic expectations? First and foremost peace is made between people and not governments. To be sure the authorities have to create an environment which fosters peace but in the end, people once enemies have to reach out. Societies have to learn forgiveness is not just a concept but the practical application of the best of who people are.
Forgiveness is a particularly human notion. Morals or religion can influence the individual but in the end the decision to forgive and forego hatred is ultimately expressed by the choice the individual makes.
And there are always those who will resist peace because peace will undermine the influence they have.
Peace takes a whole lot of work.
Let’s just say that suddenly you are a social scientist and you want to study peace. That is, you want to understand what makes for a peaceful society. Let’s say that, for years in your work in various parts of the world, you’ve been surrounded by evidence of violence and war. From individual people, you’ve heard about beatings and arrests and murders and rapes; you’ve heard about deportations and black-masked men demanding your food or your life. You’ve heard about family violence and village violence and state violence. You’ve heard these stories from old women with loose, liquid tears and young men with arms full of prison tattoos.
There were men on horseback calling the boys to war and long black cars arriving to steal people away in the dead of night; there were girls who’d wandered the landscape, insane after sexual violations; there was the survival of the fittest in concentration camps; there were pregnant women beaten until their children were lost and bodies piled up in times of famine; there was arrest and exile for the theft of a turnip; there were those who were battered for being a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim or a Bahá’í.
Let’s say that, in the world of ideas that swirled around you, approximations were made of how to make sense of this mess: the presence of certain kinds of states; the presence of certain kinds of social diversity; the presence of certain kinds of religions. And let’s say that the shattering stories had piled on over the years and at some point you just snapped. And you wanted to study war no more.
As it turns out, it’s harder to study peace than you might think.