Seven obstacles to peace

What stands in the way of peace?

Here is a sketch with seven obstacles. Actually there should be one more, let’s give it number zero.

0) “If you want peace, prepare for war” (Si vis pacem, para bellum. No less idiotic for being said in Latin.)

If you want peace prepare for war, and if you want war prepare for war..?

Seems we are always preparing for war. How on Earth is that going to give us peace?


Now on to the seven obstacles.

1) We don’t know what peace is.

2) The word is empty, or negative, or filled with explosives.

3) We are blind to the seeds of war and inspiration to war all around us.

4) We don’t desire it enough.

5) We don’t really believe that peace is possible.

6) We think that we peace-lovers are a weak minority.

7) We turn to the wrong people for peace.

shakehands-751) We don’t know what peace is.

Even a small child can tell you, in a simple, basic sense, what war is. Most everybody understands war.

Ask even intelligent grownups to define peace, and they will have problems. They will probably resort to lame clichés. Can YOU define it?

If we don’t really know what “peace” means, how then can we work for it, find it, manifest it?


Let’s also add 1b.

1b) We don’t know what kind of peace we want.

Because there is not only one kind of peace. 
We don’t even know that there ARE different kinds.


2) The word is empty, or negative, or filled with explosives.

The word “peace” is either a nicely wrapped Christmas present that turns out to be empty, devoid of clear meaning. Or it is mainly defined negatively, as absence. “We have peace when we don’t have war.” This can be logical if you live in a country at war, but not if you live in a country not at war.

Finally, some people talk about “balance of power” as an aspect of, or means to, peace. If every party has enough (same amount) nuclear weapons then we will have balance = peace.

Such weapon-based or war-based peace doesn’t sound peaceful to us, to put it mildly.


3) We are blind to the seeds of war and the inspiration to war all around us.

We think that only politicians and soldiers are making war. At the same time we ourselves are busy doing microwar and protowar. Where? How? In our arguments, quarrels, debates (battere = hitting, beating), discussions (= to strike apart, asunder), verbal wars, “flame wars” on the Net. All of these manifestations are a kind of ritualized “battles”, war seeds.

Mass media inspires us in this same direction, with all these competitions and contests based on elimination, reporting political debates as if they were boxing matches. Social media are no better, focusing on conflict, polarization, even the potential of digital lynching. Being surrounded by such media with all their protowar inspiration, of course we are going to see life and society as a win-lose affair. However much we mouth the cliché of win-win.


4) We don’t desire it enough.

There are so many things more interesting than peace. Adventure movies, bungy jump, computer games, Eurosport, Facebook, Pokemon go, sex, hot gadgets, cool apps…

Besides, it is quite logical NOT to give our energy to something that we don’t really grasp and cannot define. If peace at least had some of the excitement of sports, or politics, or even opera. But it seems to be a static, sterile phenomenon. Yes, sure, fine and high and lofty, but somehow still unable to catch our actual interest.


5) We don’t really believe that peace is possible.

Fatalism is major disease with mankind. Our scientists have not only dethroned God (and made themselves our new gods) but also informed us that we are “mere specks of dust in the Universe”. Hardly pep talk for taking our, mankind’s, destiny into our hands.

The forces working in the opposite direction (war) seem overwhelmingly strong, our mass media constantly shows us examples of war (their logic is “good news is no news”), hordes of people around us say that voting is meaningless, “you cannot really change anything and peace is an impossible pipe dream for naive people”.

Is it any wonder that one turns fatalistic?


6) We think that peace-lovers are a weak minority.

Actually we are a majority but the “hawks” and the winners of war (those who profit by it) are strong, well organized, well financed, and armed to the teeth. They project a scary image — and we let ourselves be scared.

Some like to say that man is evil, but behind war and strife stands only a small negative minority. Why don’t we send off these guys and gals to a small planet where they can act out their war games without dragging the rest of humanity along with them?

However, for this we also need better, active citizens. Being a “voter” who votes every other year, maybe follows politics on TV, complains on Facebook about political decisions that don’t please him — that’s not enough. Enough to sustain status quo (and war), yes, but not enough for creating peace.


7) We turn to the wrong people for peace.

Peace work needs to be separated from politics. Peace is apolitical, utopian, win-win. Politics is win-lose, separatist, based on elimination.

Think about it. The repeatedly demonstrated talents of politicians are1) rhetorics (including dishonesty and downright lying), 2) putting part-, party-, partisan interest (or just ego) above the common good, 3) more or less common corruption and even criminality,  and 4) war (direct and indirect).

Hoping that somehow peace will flower from such a mould, such a questionable domain, is a bit like entrusting a village of picturesque wooden houses to a pyromaniac. Wrong tool, wrong person for the job.

Peace is also not going to flower from the academic domain (too stiff, too much Inbox, to many rules and regulations), or from diverse organizations (too much conformist group-think and bureaucracy)

So who SHOULD we turn to? Maybe a new class of peace pilots, Jedis of peace who understand harmony, consonance and dissonance, found in abundant measure in music.

Ladislaus Horatius — classical pianist, writer, peacenik

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