Peace is much more than a question for scholars and academia. That’s a small world and peace is potentially enormous, encompassing, among other things, musical aspects.
The article above writes about the dichotomy of emphasizing peace vs. war in academic discourse. What it does not address, understandably but regrettably, is the dichotomy between academic and non-academic ways of thinking, square and extraordinary approaches to peace.
Our world has this almost anal fear of venturing outside the fence of academia. Sure, something of value MIGHT be found outside, in the cold… But why take the risk, why bother, when we have all these certified scholars and professors?
Let’s play it safe, so the world seems to reason.
Which means, let’s play it COMFY. It surely is possible to appraise the quality and potential value of non-academic ideas – obviously “non-academic” does not mean “valuable” — but it takes longer time. It’s SO much easier to just check if the ideas meet the usual academic criteria, and dump them if they don’t.
This checking can nowadays be done with algorithms and AI — which takes away the burden of thought, and gives us more time to play golf.
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.
1) 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.
Innovation is a keyword, or catch-word, in many areas of life. We see it in technology, IT, communications, transportation, security, finance, green solutions, energy solutions, education, business models, medicine, music technology, etc. One can be forgiven for thinking that, if not the whole world, then at least all domains and spheres of life are into, or at least interested in innovation.
It doesn’t look like that to me.
I have been a “domainaut” in my life, traveled from one domain to another, acquainted myself with music (my first and original domain), philosophy and politics.
My latest domain is paxology, or peace work. And here — just as in politics where words and promises shine but reality lags behind, if it doesn’t totally contradict the words — I see a frightening lack of interest in innovation. Or let’s say thinking outside the box. Let’s make it even simpler and say “real thinking”.
Real thinking is different from just mouthing and repeating established phrases, ideas and memes. Unfortunately, in the peace domain I see overwhelmingly precisely this: old stuff, old professors, old words, old dusty phrases that have been repeated so many times that they now only illicit an attack of coughing. Ahchoo…!
This view is based on my personal experience of the peace domain, which I entered around two years ago in earnest. (Before that I actually worked in it without knowing it, namely in my musical-philosophical (“melosophic“) work. )
So far my experience of the peace domain has been negative. Yes, it could be a case of coming across non-typical features or having a statistically insignificant selections. Here, nevertheless are my current impressions, partly a private complaint, partly trying to get a birds eye’s view of the domain.
I set up my domain for The Venusian Peace project (you are reading it right now) around a year ago. I got myself a Twitter account and learned relevant hashtags for peace. I created a Facebook page and a YouTube account. It would be a mistake to call me an innovation-resistant Luddite.
That, however, seems to me as an apt term for the peace domain!
I am an independent researcher, doing original research, something I see very little of in the peace domain. Not only that, I don’t even see an interest in basic research. Which reminds me of the Wikipedia bias.
Peace people ask me: What is your peace activity? (“Activity” seems to be a central word here.) Do you arrange peace workshops, concerts, conferences, marches, festivals, tours, or print T-shirts?
This question is itself a warning sign. In domains where innovation is of genuine interest innovators are not asked to DO things, not in this crude sense. One understands that an innovator needs to sit as his desk, jot down notes, stare at the wall and contemplate strange clouds. That’s how innovations are born, out of thin air or the mental sea. As Paul Erdös said: “A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.”
This is much less understood in the peace domain where a kind of busy-body mentality reigns. There “activity” means something more than or different from mental activity.
My main work is mental, but unfortunately many folks don’t see that as activity at all. Thinking deep and long about the problems and possibilities of peace, its relation to war — and not least to music — is regarded as a kind of child’s play, a kind of nothing. (Of course it helps that I am not an academic but a freethinker.)
One must understand that an innovator is at work every working (and many a sleeping) hour of the day. He cannot be a 9 to 5 person, he needs to be receptive to insights at any hour. He can never say “Inspiration, come back at office hours!”. He may seem dreamily absent at his café table, but he does more substantial work than most paper-shuffling bureaucrats.
So my main activity is being mentally awake and probing and searching. One of the results of this is my “Peace map“, a model that not only throws light on peace but also indicates a path to better peace (and we need a much better peace concept than we currently have).
The rest of my work is trying to reach out and spread my findings, to “sell” them. On the main website pluriver.se, on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. I also sometimes answer questions about peace on Quora. The aim of all this digital, online work is of course to go analog, to reach out to non-virtual people, give talks, lecture tours, concerts, etc.
So far the sowing.
What has been my harvest so far, the reception of my research and innovation? (And forgive me here for being slightly personal, even rant-y.)
“Reception” is overstating things. It seems some people have read some of my texts. I have “likes”, maybe a few hundred on social media. My Twitter account has 14 followers. My three videos on YouTube have 44, 19 and 93 views respectively. I have one (1) patron on Patreon.
That’s a meager harvest.
Looking back on my political years (I’ve had 4-5 political parties of my own) the experience was interesting, and frustrating. Out of the different domains I’ve tried – music, philosophy, politics – politics was definitely the stiffest. A members only-club; Homo novus not invited.
Trying to get a hearing in politics was like trying to enter a club with big hulks guarding the door, enforcing a draconian (not dress but) thinking and speaking code (TASCO) — a code which I of course could not conform to.
When I think of politics I think of squares.
■ This is what politics is ■ ■ This is how politics is done ■ ■ This is the type of person we recognize as a “politician” ■
■■■ If you cannot accept and conform to this, go elsewhere! ■■■
Now if I were the Emperor of the world and wanted peace, wanted to know where to look for it, find the people most fitting for understanding, planning and achieving it, I sure wouldn’t turn to politicians, a group which has this incredibly long entry on Wikipedia:
To my regret I now find that the peace domain is not very different. Sure, it is “softer”, just as peace is supposedly softer than machine guns or drones (or money).
But soft is not automatically a virtue, soft can also be woolly and wishy-washy. For example, I find the following supposition (entertained by both laymen and professionals) to be precariously “soft”:
Peace is the work of 1) organizations and 2) politicians.
Politicians? What a blunder. Don’t expect the people who set fire to the building to put out the fire. That’s naive in the extreme. Or maybe one should say desperate; one does not know where else to go and who else to ask for help. Trapped in a small box…
The peace domain also seems to have guards. They might not enforce but at least recommend that you conform to the TASCO. Which I of course don’t, just as I didn’t conform to the political TASCO. I would be a poor free-thinker if I did.
Anyway, I’ve had a bit more success in the peace domain than in the political field.
I stumbled upon a small organization that seemed interested in my work. They have a kind of peace “bank” where I saw myself as a given, a good investment. I suggested that they take me in. There was some initial resistance, “we don’t really take in individuals, unless they are musicians or entertainers”.
(This also is a big mistake: relying on organizations for peace and discounting, not seeing the value of, individuals.
Organizations always suffer from the weakness of group-think and conformism, plus the closeness to politics. The hope for innovation and greatness — in art, music, philosophy, literature, science — always lies with the individual. Not understanding this is a blunder.)
Anyway, after some nudging I was allowed into the peace bank. I was given the title “peace promoter”. Of course I was that earlier, too, but now it was official.
I am out of the solitary closet, I thought. Finally there can ensue some dialogue, conversation, co-operation, a dynamic flow of energies to and fro. I looked forward to sharing my findings with more than 79 people, to lecture and spread my “Venusian” thoughts to interested paxological parties.
Well, dream on. The only thing that has changed is that I now have a formal title to add to my CV (which I never use). I continue my work, promoting peace my own solitary way, but who is promoting the promotor? Who wants to hear innovative thinking about peace?
Yes, I keep getting some “likes” for my posts on social media, but that’s as far as it goes. I feel like I’m in a non-violent Western: For a Few Likes More.
You can accuse me of being somewhat bitter here, and subjective. That’s fine. But there should be a place for submitting a complaint and, more importantly, point out the poor place innovation has in the peace domain — versus the elevated place it holds in many other domains (not in politics, obviously).
To put it mildly, there is no abundance of innovative, non-academic thinking about peace. Which brings us to a final, harsh, but I think just question:
Do people in the “peace movement” and workers in the peace domain really believe in peace? Do they really want to create peace? Are they prepared to think not only outside the bomb but also outside the established, dusty ideas and concepts about peace?
Or are they actually content with just going through the peace motions, which gives them a certain status, a certain idealistic aura, a certain pay, and simply something to do?
I sure hope that the answer to the last question is NO, but I am not sure of it.
I write this for those readers who are not that interested in the process I am describing but just want to hear my “conclusions”. Well, since conclusions, as the word indicates, mean closing, they are no favorites of mine. Enough doors, windows and minds are closed on Earth, we don’t need any more.
However, here is a kind of “abstract” of this text:
Peace is possibly not the opposite of war. War is both destructive and creative (during and in the wake of war, industry, innovation and creativity – if only of the killing kind – flowers). Peace is often neither destructive nor creative, more like a Ferdinand the Bull kind of stasis.
If we take peace to mean a kind of stasis (which many people seem to do) then, yes, that can be an opposite of war. If we however think of peace in a much more dynamic (“Venusian”) sense, peace becomes more like a middle stage, a harmonizing mean between extremes.
Thinking along these lines “peace” can be viewed through the filter of diverse models: The Eastern triune models of Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva) and Tridosha (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas) but also meteorologically, i.e. as the harmonizing role of mid-latitude areas between the extremes of tropic and polar weather.
Rather exciting perspectives, if I may say so.
I have not worked on my peace map for a while, and sometimes non-thinking is the best way of thinking. When I ponder the map anew things have started to move.
Very broadly speaking my older map had war on the left side and peace on the right. You could call them black and white.
WAR>>>>> (grey)>>>>>>> CENTER >>>>>(grey)>>>>>>>> PEACE
In between you had a large, very important and neglected grey area, which is neither pure war nor peace. Here you find un-war, non-peace, war seeds, etc.
The grey area very much concerns the war that does not look like war, but which nevertheless is an important close relative to it. Music and the concepts of harmony-disharmony, consonance-dissonance, also enter the map.
But now I start to question some of my premises. For example the very obvious pair of opposites war-peace. Is peace really the opposite of war? (And let us not forget that there is peace and peace. Country music, Indian ragas and techno are all music, and all very different.)
Should peace and war be at the extremes of the map? Is peace somehow extreme…?
More and more I see peace in the very middle of the map.
War is still furthest to the left, but what should be in the right corner? Another, different extreme. Let’s call it stasis (inactivity, suspension, stagnation). Peace in the middle position then becomes a harmonious mix of action and stasis.
In the corners we have two kinds of disharmony: too much antagonism and too much conformism. I believe this is an important revision of my former model. Let’s call it Rev. 2.0 of peace in progress.
One imperfection of the former map was this:
In the middle — just to the right of center AGON — came what I call mirroring/ tuning / conformism, which is rather obviously something negative. Here individuality is lost and one blends into the mass, many examples are found in memetic aping of viral ideas and phrases. This is clearly unbalanced.
So we have a imbalance to the left (War) and an imbalance in the middle (mirroring). And then balance to the right…?
That sounds unbalanced. Better of course to have balance in the middle.
WAR >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> BALANCE <<<<<<<<<<<<STASIS
Other aspects of the “elephant”.
I am inspired to look at the peace-war dichotomy (if dichotomy it is) through the lens of the Indian model of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (trimurti) and Sattva, Rajas, Tamas (tridosha).
Keep the elephant-mode in mind: I don’t expect any of my models to mirror reality in full, but I do try to find models that capture an angle of the elephant well. In short, different models complement each other, plus it is good for man to be mobile and not get stuck in one viewpoint, ride just one hobby-horse.
I have also opened the door to a slightly unpalatable thought, namely that war creates jobs, opportunities and progress in many ways. I doesn’t only kill (Shiva) but also creates (Brahma). It allows new life to bloom by killing off the old, like removing weeds in gardening.
If war kills but also creates and allows new life, what then does peace do?
That question has a strange tinge to it, not least because we are working with such a poor concept of peace; vague, idealist on the verge of naive, dealing very much with absences, what is NOT (weapons), what does NOT happen (poverty, killing, oppression, etc.)
This prosaic, negative kind of peace — reminiscent of FTB (Ferdinand the Bull) who sat all day long under the cork tree and smelled the flowers — is in itself a peace problem: We don’t aim high enough, at a good enough kind of peace. It’s like talking about how fantastic and wonderful music is, and only listening to dixieland or recipe-based hit songs.
So let’s aim at a peace that is really balanced.
Remember, Venus and Libra (The scales) are all about balance and harmony. And balance means at least two components. Let’s talk music and call them consonance and dissonance.
Consonancein a broad sense means that things melt together easily, there is no or hardly no resistance, the process is streamlined, it’s like curling with no friction. Taste: sweet. Language: euphonious words and concepts that go with the grain.
Dissonance means friction. Here there is resistance, maybe even aversion. Things don’t flow easily. The taste is sour, salty or bitter; the words foreign and brush us the “wrong” way, against the grain.
The second category sounds less attractive than the first, but that’s in large part because we as a culture are weakened, spoiled, eat to much sweets. In the restaurant and gastronomy we understand the need for spices; too little salt is almost as bad as too much.
We also well understand the need for dissonance in sports. If contestants tried to please their opponents, the audience would cry BOO! and protest. In sports we want opposition, challenge, even harshness. AGON, to use that old word.
Consonance alone is bland and boring, at least after a while. It is unbalanced by itself.
The second component, dissonance, is harsh and violent. It lacks calm, rest, and the familiarity of safe boredom. It is also unbalanced by itself.
Consonance and dissonance in a good proportion however is the peace doctor’s orders. It satisfies hunger on many levels. Action and stasis combine to create HARMONY.
So far harmony. How then should we think about disharmony? Let me suggest: either as a poor relationship between action and stasis, or overdose of either.
Woolly conformism, people mouthing the same dusty cliches over and over is disharmonious, even though consonant. It may not be unpleasant however; it is a kind of disharmony that is easily accepted.
Dissonant violence is accepted in certain strict forms (sports, for example) but is otherwise looked down upon. At least in theory. In practice we have diverse forms of entertainment and punishment that entails violence, plus our (un)justified wars where young men are ordered to kill other young men for the greater glory of national, religious or business interests.
The terrain (the elephant) is not simple and unequivocal; much depends on where and from which height we observe things.
There is for example a strong peace-element in war, namely within an army. In the unit of an army you want total, mutual harmony between the parts, military language must be precise and correct, etc. Nevertheless the final aim might still just be plunder, reputation augmentation and national chauvinism.
What then is the war element in peace? One could of course say demonstrations that turn violent. Personally I think the dynamic, active (war) element in peace is too small. That is a great weakness of our current Ferdinand the Bull-model. FTB-peace is too passive, negative, sentimental, consonant, too hung up on tired catchwords that are so dusty that they make us sneeze.
Oh, yeah? Never heard that one before.
So my current suspicion in this peace mapping in progress is that the opposite of war is not peace but stasis / stagnation / bland consonance.
But stop a second! That — stasis / stagnation / bland consonance — is very close to how many people, pros and laymen, see peace! As a kind of huge relaxation. War is over; fighting is over; let’s put down our weapons and relax, enjoy ourselves, let our hair down, watch more TV, do more Facebook and computer games, turn obese.
That’s not my Utopia. My Utopia consists of an improved, upgraded kind of peace. Venusian peace, in contrast to the Ferdinand the Bull-variety, is not the opposite of war. Balanced peace should embrace opposites, not BE an opposite.
Or rather, if peace equals harmony then its opposite is disharmony, which is something else than mere dissonance.
As you can hear, this is an invitation to immerse ourselves in musical thinking. That should be a very good peace investment.
One final angle of the peace-elephant.
As far as I understand, in meteorology one divides the Earth into three broad horizontal (latitudinal) regions. The outer, cold polar regions and the inner hot tropic region seem like extreme phases of Yin and Yang.
But between the hot tropic and cold polar regions we find the mid-latitude regions, which have a tempering, harmonizing effect. They serve as a bridge between extremes which, without this go-between, would be too different from each other [as war vs. stasis], too incomprehensible to each other [as boxer vs. bookworm].
Is peace perhaps a mid-latitude thing?
Of course as a musician I come to think of a Harmonilehre, the art of gracefully dissolving dissonances but also of adding enough dissonance so that music doesn’t turn into a sleeping pill.
Many if not most people would say that justice and peace of course belong together. One is dependent on the other, they are almost identical.
The words “of course” sometimes serve as a warning, indicating that we have not really given much thought to the matter.
My own ponderings show that, sorry to say, the relationship between peace and justice are not self-evident, even are complicated.
For this we need to make clear what we mean by justice and peace.
Possibly our idea of justice is clearer than our idea of peace, because the latter, as far as I have discovered through reading and talking with peace workers, is muddy and vague. Some say it need not even be defined, everybody knows what it is.
Well, maybe until they get the question. What happens after that is more unclear.
These are my own working definitions:
Peace is very close to the concept of HARMONY. Different parts, moving in maybe very different directions, work together, in concord, towards the same end.
The best illustration of this is perhaps music. Witness the motet Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis. Choir music is often in four parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). This piece is in forty (!) parts. It is very harmonious, but at the same time very complex, in the sense that no two voices sing the same melody. Forty totally distinct and different parts! This is as far as we can come from sing-song, where everybody conformistically bellows the same tune.
So here we have total concord, all moving as one, but with all individuality intact. A very rare condition, captured in the expression “unity in diversity”.
This is what I mean by Venusian peace. Allowing differences while simultaneously working together.
However, what we usually see in the world are un-harmonious versions of this. Either unity OR diversity.
Either conformist bonding, mirroring, imitation, where we relish the warm feeling of singing the same refrain, belonging to the same party or shouting the same slogan in a demonstration. This is consonance without real harmony.
The other common extreme is polarization and conflict. Here we relish the feeling of NOT agreeing, of criticizing, blaming and attacking each other. This energy is found in heated discussions, political debates, football hooliganism, demonstrations, quarrels and of course war of different kinds.
In the first instance similarity and concord are too excessively important. In the second not important at all. But in music the two meet harmoniously.
This is what I mean by good peace, dynamic peace. I call it Venusian peace because it is filled with the Venusian qualities of art, love, harmony and beauty.
What is justice then?
A kind of balance (also a Venusian quality).
What is the difference between peace and justice?
It can be the difference between WE and I. While peace is something that you and I or our countries strive for (thus a big WE is involved) justice is much more concerned with only me or only us.
Justice can be a holistic thing, but often is not. What we term justice can be a mere matter of personal winning that I or my group do not want to be without.
In this way people who work for the rights of others are closer to justice than those who want justice for themselves. Of course it is terrible when you feel that you have been abandoned and badly, unjustly treated. You want to stand up for yourself and get some human rights. That is logical, understandable and right.
However, there is a scale here. Some people are so destitute that they can hardly stand on their feet, even less fight for their rights. Others are much much better off and when they protect their rights only the words are the same.
While the former wants to have a meal and a bed to sleep in the other wants privileges, money and luxuries that he thinks the world owes him. And we know that some people even hurt themselves in order to get money from society. Others practice the game of Suing, something of a national sport in the USA.
So while all these people — from the beggar sleeping in the street to the discriminated rich person who is out to use the system – are talking about rights and justice, they are in effect doing very different things. One wants to survive and have some kind of satisfaction on the lowest steps of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. The other is only concerned with the Pyramid of wants and lusts.
So my critique of the term “justice” is that the same word can mean very different things, and can also be a very egoistic and manipulative thing, not at all concerned with peace (which involves some kind of concord, a WE) but only with personal winnings (I).
In very simple terms: Justice, especially if demanded for ourselves, can be self-centered, an ego thing concerned with winning and gain usually in tune with the normative win-lose model of our world.
Peace, the kind of peace I talk about, can by definition not be that. Venusian peace is a win-win affair, reminiscent of music making.
There is obviously much more to say about this. This is just a preliminary sketch (but still more than the usual fare).
When noting the non-obvious identity of peace and justice, or even the obvious non-identity of peace and justice, one can ask:
Which is the greater, peace or justice?
That question is not amiss nor academic. Sometimes, quite often in fact, we need to make our priorities clear. Instead of answering A or B I want to rephrase the question.
Which is more important, that you, or me, or the alto or tenor part (or whichever part you sing in) is dressed most magnificently, sing loudest, fastest and strongest, gets the most attention, applause and flowers from the audience — OR that we sing as with one voice, unite in phrasing, breathing and feeling and try to realize as much as possible the conductor’s and, ultimately, the composer’s intentions?
What would YOU answer?
Maybe: I don’t want to choose, I want both!
Yes, in the best of worlds justice and peace go harmoniously hand in hand. I just want to point out that in our less perfect world the matter is often unclear and complicated.
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(Some thoughts about what it takes to be a peace walker)
I look around in our world and what do I see? Violence all over.
Common sense becoming more and more uncommon.
Moderation becoming a rarity.
Extremism is no longer extreme, it is the common thing. (Which does not mean that we know about our extremism. Unconscious extremism; a strange beast. )
People are radicalized, but what does that mean?
Radical comes from the word “radix”, which means root. But it does not mean going to the root of things, walking round the proverbial elephant and noting different sides of it, considering different aspects of the question.
Radical now means being more or less VIOLENT.
Good people, can we (as we like to sing) give peace a chance? I see so few people REALLY caring about peace. Nobody says a bad word about it, but it is the walk, not the talk that counts. Especially for peace walkers.
Two central aspects of peace, as I now see it, is “Ahimsa” and honesty.
Ahimsa means “harmlessness”. It is for me not the same as non-violence, which is more known.
Non-violence is a choicenot to use violence (but you can still feel rage and anger inside). Ahimsa I see as the non-ability to be violent. The war weeds are more or less cleared away.
Obviously only a few of us have reached that level, but I also think that that should be the goal and aim of peace workers/ walkers.
So why bring honesty into the picture?
Because lying and dishonesty is a kind of minor war. Not black but grey violence, not large-scale but small-scale battle, not outer but internal disharmony. And from these seeds bloom the flowers of bloody wars.
I hear many people demanding truth, fighting for truth. But I see no Honesty Movement (although we do have Radical honesty).
Truth sounds like the grandest thing on Earth, but I think it is not good enough. Why? Because your truth and mine differ, and somehow we have this idea that there should only be one truth. So which one is it, yours or mine? Let’s fight it out!!
And so, once again, we turn into the Street of Violence.
Many people hate, torture, oppress and kill in the name of Truth. Truth does not automatically create peace, on the contrary it creates black and white polarization, tension, conflict, antagonism and agony. Harmless it is NOT.
Honesty is something else. Honesty is the mirror. Honesty means being able to say: “You are no saint, but neither am I.” Honesty is the impulse leading us to try to be better than what we criticize.
The Bible talks about “he who is without guilt…” It is honesty that tells us that we cannot cast the first stone. We are not good enough for that.
“Truth” tells us to blame, accuse, point fingers, cast stones and drop bombs. So Old Testament, don’t you think? If we were really good, really harmless, we wouldn’t want to stone anybody.
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When thinking about peace and war, the impulse towards one or the other, the direction we choose to walk in, I have arrived at this strong suspicion:
Polarization is one of the main obstacles to peace.
Polarization = stressing differences, almost nurturing differences so that tension builds up and we can fight (one of Homo sapiens’ favorite, if not admitted, activities).
The expression “unity in diversity” points to two aspect of the question.
Diversity affirms variation, difference, individuality, being who YOU are, not just being a clone or imitation of somebody else.
Unity concerns the possibility and impulse towards, yes, unity. Listening to each other, trying to understand each other and moving in the same positive direction in spite of our differences, even with the help of our different perspectives.
Both factors can lead to or away from harmony.
Too much diversity makes us dense egotists who does not understand that there is enjoyment, fun and gain in doing things together. (This realization is very much present in music making. Play and sing more together!)
To much unity can turn into boring, tyrannical, Big Brother conformism, making people small, identical cogs in a big smog-producing industrial machine. It can also turn us into all too predictable middle of the road kind of people who cannot handle differences in thought, feeling or skin color (in spite of mouthing “vive la difference” and similar phrases).
Luckily there is a middle ground which is not “middle of the road” but a golden mean: Unity in diversity.
We need to see these two unbalanced impulses realistically. The third, attraction to the golden mean, is probably the weakest of them all. That is what peace walkers need to water. We enjoy conflicts too much. We might not call them conflicts but it is the emotional energy that counts.
Look at what media are feeding us with, and how we gulp it down. Scandals, sensations, crises, debates (comes from the word for strike or hit), sports (a win-lose domain), politics, wars.
If Man is a musical instrument (and he is) media are playing Allegro Barbaro on him. The music that comes from our soundboard when watching somber, dark, violent and quarreling news, is somber, dark, violent and quarreling.
We cannot only blame media. If nobody watched all this, it would not be broadcast. We actually enjoy almost being glued to the violence spewing tube.
When we recognize and admit our enjoyment of conflict and polarization we also see that it goes against our impulse for peace, that harmonization and polarization are two very different things.
But conflict is not all.
We also enjoy the other extreme, conformism, too much. We derive much satisfaction from articulating what in our circle is considered “right” opinions, “right” thinking. A million flies can’t be wrong, neither can twenty friends.
These twenty friends, however, may not really be in tune with each other. Maybe they just enjoy the cozy feeling of being in a group, the warm sensation of not being alone in their opinion.
This kind of self-deception can be marginal and of no importance. It can also be very serious and create a kind of sticky mental atmosphere where any kind of divergence or difference is viewed as a mistake, even treachery.
Conveniently enough we often move between these extremes, sometimes enjoying the martial energy of violent conflict, sometimes the warm, cuddly reassurance of thinking alike.
But as the proverb say: Extremes are neighbors. The real opposite here is balance.
In that direction, as far as I can see, lies harmony. That is, peace.
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Self-delusion exists in all spheres of life. Of course. Why should a certain life domain be protected from this virus?
It also exists in the peace domain. If you ask people “Are you for peace or war?” probably no one, not even military people, would answer “war”. But words and talk is cheap. Walk is more costly.
Differentiating between talk and walk is made difficult by the very vagueness of the word peace. What exactly do we mean by it?
Some say a definition is not needed, everybody already knows what peace is.
Maybe… Until they are asked to define it. Then things get more difficult, more floating…
But if we don’t really know what we mean by peace, don’t know what it is, only what it isn’t — peace is very often defined negatively: absence of outright war, hunger, injustice, poverty, etc. — then differentiating between peace talk and walk is not going to be easy.
The whole field is mentally messy, vague and unclear.
Contrast this with the clarity not only desired but demanded in matters of war. Soldiers are rigorously trained; exact planning, strategies, protocols and objectives are de rigeur. You cannot wage war with a hippie go lucky attitude, unless you are one of Kelly’s heroes.
Let me try to be as orderly as the military folks are. What do I mean by peace walk?
Most importantly I mean bringing ourselves into the picture. Know thyself, thy peace side and war side.
One can “work for peace” while turning a blind eye to some aspects of oneself. Like our lively enjoyment of football, pro wrestling, heated political debates on TV, partaking in demonstrations with lots of aggression and angry shouting.
I am not expecting anybody to be a saint. I am certainly not one. And shouting has its place.
No, I am talking about self-reflection.
“Charity begins at home”, so people say. That’s good advice for peace as well. But let’s not forget the second part of the saying, often forgotten or not known: Charity begins at home, but should not end there.
So, peace work/walk should begin at home, but not end there.
To really “peace walk” we should start with ourselves, but definitely not stop there. Joining inner and outer results in better peace than if we work for global peace while watering our own war seeds.
That’s like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde both trying to control the steering wheel.
Introspection can also show us that:
The model of war — close to the model of sports (there will be one winner and one or several losers) — is so common and widespread in our world that it easily becomes invisible. We breathe it like air.
Mass media is built on this model. What is constantly highlighted, also in social media, is what is sensational, odd, strange, conflicting, violent, hurtful. War has a seat of honor in the news, peace might (on a good day) enter through the kitchen door….
It takes effort and sharp thinking to separate ourselves from the win-lose norm of society. Just as air in our urban areas is impure and smoggy, so is the emotional and mental atmosphere of our media-ridden world.
— So what is a real peace walker then?
A person who is not free of war-like impulses, but who is aware of and seriously tries not water hos own war seeds, to hold these weeds in check.
This makes the peace walker more tolerant and wise than a mere peace talker. He knows that when he is pointing a finger at someone three fingers are pointing at him. So he understands that, yes, there is blame on both sides. It is not the fault of ONE if TWO are quarreling and fighting.
This way the much needed impulse of self-betterment — trying to be better than what we criticize — enters the picture.
We move beyond the blaming attitude: “Why are you so stupid and violent!?” when we see the violence in ourselves. Understanding that we are sitting in the same planetary boat the word “brotherly” becomes more than just euphonious sounding prattle.
Talk turns into walk.
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Of course everybody can spell “peace”. Five letters, 2xe, 1xp, 1xa, 1xc.
But that is just the word “peace”. I mean the reality PEACE, not the word.
Seems to me that most of us can spell both the word war and war itself.
War to me is a spectrum. Just as WARM can be anything from say 20 degrees to 60 degrees Celcius and more, WAR has also gradations.
There is a very neutral state between peace and war, both peace and war, neither peace and war.
But as things heat up (listen to the language) neutral moves into more hot, and hotter still. Finally it is red hot and we burn our fingers.
I call the three gradations of war “Agon” (neutral), “Antiagon” or “Antagonism” (warm) and “Agony” (hot). (Agon is Greek for battle, contest.)
The last stage Agony is practically “war in bloom”, what we usually think of as war: people battling each other, bombs, shooting, missiles, torture, blood, killing.
When I say that everybody knows how to spell war I don’t mean that everybody is a soldier, shooting and killing others. I mean that the milder states of the war-complex, mainly “Antagonism”, is something we all know and practice (in different forms and at different levels).
What then is “Antagonism”? By that word I mean a energetic, most often emotional, relation between parties – people or groups – where we for a time become contestants, opponents, even mildly enemies.
This happens in many ways and in many forms. However, all of them have a certain recognizable taste to them.
Again there is a scale. Antagonism can be two friends joking in a teasing way, pinching each other figuratively. The antagonistic energy can be there for seconds or minutes.
Or we have the domestic quarrel — small or large– going on all the time in the world. Maybe a big hurdle or just a question of who forgot to turn off the stove.
Or the debate (even feud) between two scientists, or really anybody — standing on different sides of a question. Each one defends his side, his point of view, and often becomes even more a believer in his faith because disputed by the other party.
Antagonism can be subtle, almost loving, more marked, a disturbing irritation (as when somebody we like says something unkind to or about us (“How could he say that…??”) and, moving to Agony, actually violent.
Very few of us are total strangers to antagonism. A number of us are also familiar with Agony, the more gruesome stages of the energy.
That is why I say that we can all spell “W-A-R”.
What would it then mean to spell peace?
To a large degree, to be able to neutralize and stay away from war in its many forms and disguises. To really recognize Antagonism and put out its fire. Or lets say — before you think that I am talking about denying conflict – to tire of and leave behind pyromanic tendencies.
To stoke on the fire of Antagonism, to water the war seeds, different ways of saying the same thing: We are moving away from harmony, towards conflict
From Harmonize to Polarize.
(As to “rights” and why that word drags down peace work, see this article.)
I don’t mean that conflicts should be denied or given euphemistic names. I just think we should upgrade our questions, from “Who is right?” and “Can I not demand my own rights!!” to “How can I be better than what I criticize?”
Conflicts look very different seen from the vantage point of these different questions. Wanting to be right is a very different impulse than wanting to be better. (Better than who? Yourself yesterday.)
If there is very short advice leading peacewards this might be it:
BE BETTER THAN WHAT YOU CRITICIZE!
This could be one letter of peace. Now we are starting to spell the reality, not just the word.
If trying to improve ourselves is a step towards peace, slogans like “hate hate!” typify the opposite direction, making us MORE like what we criticize.
Here is an insidious, thus dangerous war seed — namely the impulse to see ourselves as entities already being right, having nothing to LEARN and everything to TEACH.
The premise is that in some mysterious way we have gotten (cheaply) tickets to the section of life’s theater called The Right Side. Those we disagree with, criticize, attack and wage war against are sitting not on the Left Side but on the WRONG SIDE.
A current example of this is people who are shocked, indignant and furious because Donald Trump has made a statement about “blame on both sides”. Something one would have thought to be a truism. Not so, it seems.
Enough! That was today’s spelling lesson.
–To sum up: As long as we take it totally for granted that we understand peace — without actually looking at the function and dynamics of harmonious and polarizing tendencies — we will just repeat ourselves, going through the same old (more or less antagonistic) movements as before.
The spelling of war we well (TOO WELL) understand. With the spelling of peace we are beginners.
Let’s continue exploring and building our peace map, which is more and more turning into a peace handbook or manual.
It must be like that, because a mere map does not help. Yes, orientation IS important, especially when it comes to an area that we think we know but actually haven’t assessed in a really careful, open-minded way. But we also need to know the steps to take to reach peace; just looking around is not enough.
–And as you notice this is a map in progress, meaning that I am “discovering” it while I go on. It’s not something that was finished when I started writing. You can regard it as a stream of consciousness thing (which is often pretentious) — or a journey to which you are invited. Presenting finished ready-mades to readers is standard procedure, but I choose another road.
One important aspect of the map is the division into two halves, with a neutral area in the middle. And as with Yin and Yang both sides seem to contain traces of the other side.
One half deals with, works according to the Win-Lose model, the other with Win-Win. One could say that one is dualistic, binary, oppositional, while the other is more wholeistic and friendly, with no element of duel.
(Left)WAR-AGONY-ANTAGONISM-AGON/(Right) CONCERT…. etc.
On the left side you have two teams (or individuals), on the right everybody is member of the same team. (In a way in sports you have the peaceful version as well, but only on one side, within the team [or within the contesting individual, who surely wants to be in harmony with himself]. In peace there are no sides, just one big team, one big orchestra if you will.)
A very important thing if we want to go from theory to practice, to really move from the left to the right side , is maintaining interest.
So much advertising has been done throughout history for the dynamic values, interest and excitement of sports, contests and battles. We have books, plays, movies, poems, symphonies, odes, statues, monuments, all (critically or positively) concerned with war, battle and fighting.
Positive or negative does not much matter; all attention is “good” attention, as the moderns like to say.
So most everybody knows, feels and understands the left side.
If peace is to have a fair chance one must demonstrate that it too can be dynamic, interesting and exiting. Otherwise it will, in all frankness (and we badly need to stand on the terra firma of frankness) remain the concern of a small minority, a group of idealists who don’t “understand” that peace is not really possible, who are too stupid to see that if one wants peace “one should prepare for war”, etc.
Thus peace remains, in spite of all the grand things said about it, a pastime for a minority.
So what can we do?
We need to find Win-Win without boredom, build peace that is not bland, create harmony that is not tasteless and wishy-washy. It is now my task to demonstrate and convince you of this. I daresay, a beautiful and wonderfully challenging task. May the Higher Powers guide my hand and thought in this endeavor.
Of course we cannot expect peace to be dynamic, interesting and exiting in the exact same way as war, sports and contest are. That would be no progress at all, we would remain in the same place, just renaming things. (And we already live in the age of Beautiful (but false) Euphemisms.)
So we need to actually move and travel and transition.
Now there is a very important and interesting transition / conversion from the excitement of war to the excitement of peace. A word for that transition is “refinement”.
I note that some people are afraid of that word.
However, they probably would not protest if invited to a Michelin restaurant where they could eat food the level of which, and the rarity of which, was up in the stratosphere compared with what they usually ate, and drink wine far far above their income.
That kind of refinement few people would protest against. Everybody would gives one’s taste buds a chance to try something truly sublime for a change.
If somebody invited us to listen to their million dollar stereo equipment to compare it with our 20 dollar MP3-player, we also would not protest.
Yes, let’s listen to some true HI-Fi sounds and see what they “taste” like.
Again refinement is just fine.
And if we were offered a free sample of the most expensive and delicious spa treatment–aromatherapy, massage, pedicure, the works — we also probably would just accept and enjoy.
Again we would welcome refinement.
— So let’s remember how much refinement we would gladly accept — and have that insight as a springboard for moving on.
There are novel untasted joys around the corner, new sensations and experiences beyond the McDonald’s fast-food paradigm. Instead of preferring refinement here but not there, this way but not that, let’s open-mindedly explore new areas of dynamism, interest and excitation. And let’s abandon our foolish fear of a word that basically means more, higher, further.
Now that was a lengthy pep talk but I think we need it. A theory can be fabulously brilliant but if nobody feels an inclination to try it out it will remain academic.
Peace can be described in glowing terms but if war-like activities attract us more we will remain in the Talk-the-walk sector. And we clearly need to move into the Walk-the-talk area.
This is a big enough chunk for now. To be continued soon.
PS: Somebody protests: “What you have described is not refinement but luxury.”
Yes, but luxury can be inspiration and invitation to refinement, to move and progress beyond cheap thrills, from eating to tasting, from hearing to listening, hopefully from war to peace.
Let me end (after all, this is supposed to be a musical map) with a piece of luxurious music.