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Peace, in common discourse, implies mutual harmony between people or groups of people. World peace is a broader term indicating a state of tranquillity or a state of no war between nations of the world. To attach this particular single dimension to the concept of world peace is to err. World peace is a multi-dimensional concept indicating not just peace between nations but even peace amongst the constituents of the nation-state i.e. the people. The emergence of the nation-state system post the Peace of Westphalia (1648) has changed the contours of the world order. Since the state of affairs agreed upon in Westphalia the world has travelled in time to reach where it is today. Its present condition demands that world peace as a term is all encompassing including states of the world, constituents of these states and more importantly the non-state actors, especially terrorist organizations and inter-governmental organizations.

Why world peace?

Peace between people is an intangible manifestation of human emotions of joy and love that people might possess for one another. On a peacefully angry note, it sometimes also involves tolerating the idiosyncrasies of one another.  War is perceived as the counterforce to peace. War is the tangible manifestation of human emotions of anger and hatred. War and peace, thus, are two sides of the same coin. Hegel, a political thinker’s exposition of the concept of “unity of opposites” assists in driving the point home. According to Hegel, human mind can understand some concepts best by referring to their opposites. For instance, one has a clear understanding of “black” when one knows what is “white.” Similarly, “day” can be best comprehended by alluding to “night.” Despite both the concepts of peace and war being manifestations of human emotions, why should one choose one emotion over another? Why should one choose peace over war?

Hatred is a strong emotion with a negative orientation. It is capable of causing both physical and mental violence as well as mammoth destruction to human civilization. It was Hitler’s hatred for the non-Aryans that led to World War II. Love, on the other hand, is glue which binds people together. It creates humans. It creates civilizations. Where there is love there is life. Thus, love is a creative force rather than a destructive one. It transcends hatred and brings out the goodness in human beings. To quote Tolstoy’s War and Peace – “Yes, love ...I knew that feeling of love which is the essence of the soul, for which no object is needed. And I know that blissful feeling now too. Someone dear to one can be loved with human love; but an enemy can only be loved with divine love ...Loving with human love, one may pass from love to hatred; but divine love cannot change. Nothing, not even death, can shatter it. It is the very nature of the soul.”

Peace being based upon love automatically has the edge over those negative emotions that perpetuate war. World peace and not world war should be the object of earthlings and the various nation-states that they constitute. World peace is worth striving for.

But is world peace a reality? No. World Peace is a dream. World Peace should be a dream, always.

Human beings have a sorry past when it comes to world peace. Time and again we have been up in arms against our own fellow humans. We have repeatedly indulged in battles, conflicts and wars. We have been responsible for the bloodshed of billions of humans who have died due to the world wars. We executed millions since they didn’t belong to our race. We dropped nuclear bombs on our fellow humans to prove our point. We divided nations on the basis of religion and allowed violence that followed. We marginalized many since they didn’t share the same skin colour as ours. We spread fear, chaos and destruction by carrying out acts of terrorism. We have done enough to ensure that world peace distances itself from us.

Peace in itself does not indicate mere absence of violence. It goes a step further and calls for absence of hatred and ill will within men. The Panglossian idea of a peaceful world is very enticing. But we forget that we reside in a Mephistophelean world. Rarely would we come across men who are able to eliminate even thoughts of violence from their minds. The Mahatma did it. But he too had his own shortcomings. The Mahatma set out to build a temple of peace in his country but he failed. The partition of India, on the basis of religion, was the death knell of the Mahatma’s praxis of peaceful and non-violent methods to achieve harmony and unity between men. Millions were killed on either side of the newly drawn border. The Mahatma, who disallowed even violence in thought and hatred in hearts, might have collapsed from within on seeing the partition of India and the hatred it imbued in both Hindus and Muslims towards each other. Of course, the Mahatma was a messiah of peace for his countrymen but the end result was naught. If one overlooks the end result one realizes the magnanimity of Mahatma’s thought processes that inspired peaceful movements in the US, South Africa and a few “satyagrahas” here and there. But these sporadic acts of peace can be counted on one’s fingertips. Acts of violence outnumber acts of peace by a huge margin.

We have come a long way from the much more direct world wars between nations and the Cold War between the two great powers post 1945. Today the nature of conflict has further transmogrified. Earlier a battle between two nations meant a battle for territorial expansion or a battle between contesting ideologies. Such battles were simple to comprehend. In our age conflicts have become complex to fathom.

Syria is a burning example of this. Syria has become a breeding ground for a civil war, a sectarian strife and a proxy war. The civil war (in Syria) involves the rebels and the Government. What is intriguing about this civil war is that it is backed by international players such as US and Russia (who are also involved in a proxy war) as well as regional players such as Iran, Saudi leading the Gulf pack and Turkey. The friction between the Shias and the Sunnis has led to a sectarian strife. If this wasn’t enough a proxy war, involving major nations, terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and other forces such as the Kurdish groups, has been playing out in Syria too. One can fairly assume the various permutations and combinations at work to achieve stability (or absence of war). Each player involved might be having its own idea to achieve stability. The outcome: five years of conflict in Syria that doesn’t seem to end in the near future. Not to mention the loss of two million lives, displacement of eleven million Syrians and destruction of property worth millions. In such an intricate web of conflict peace seems like an insect caught between different strands of the web.

Security concerns of various nations have been on the rise in the recent times. Terrorist attacks such as the attack on twin towers (9/11), the Madrid train bombings (2004), the London bombings (7/7), the Mumbai attacks (26/ 11), the Peshawar killings (2013) and most recently the Paris attacks (13/11) have shook the world. Terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS and the like have their own idea of peace which they are striving to implement. This raises a serious question – how can one morally assess different “ideas of peace” as right and wrong? ISIS has its own plan to achieve an Islamic state in the entire world and peace, according to them, shall follow. United Nations, the harbinger of peace, has its own definition of idea of peace. Interestingly even UN allows use of violence in emergency situations to secure peace and stability. Moreover, US invasion of Iraq and its occupation of Afghanistan have been the prime reasons that instigated several terrorist attacks in the first place. Baghdadi, the leader of IS, was one of the many questioned in Guantanamo Bay prison post 9/11. Such humiliating was his experience that he vowed to establish and entrench an Islamic state. The process has already started. You hit me and I will hit you back. That’s what it’s all boiled up to. The status quo gives us the impression that world peace is a dream.

Dreams define men and the world that they live in. Placing world peace as a dream is an achievement in itself. Dreams are those imaginary lands which we all hope would be accessible and tangible in our actual world. Once we dream of world peace we need to actively work towards it. But before setting out to conquer world peace one should be rational. One should agree that the world comprises of more than 7 billion people. All cannot and should not vie to become Mahatmas. We are humans, ruled by emotions. It is monk like not to dislike someone or feel hatred towards someone or get angry on something and someone. We are humans, prisoners of our emotions. A short-term rational end would be to achieve world peace provided it implies absence of war and acts of violence. Once this is achieved we can work towards achieving long-term irrational dream of conquering and discarding negative emotions by eliminating inner conflicts, violent thoughts and feelings of hatred.

The status quo gives us the impression that world peace is a dream. So be it. In fact, world peace should be a dream always. Just assume that if we achieve our dream of world peace will we be able to live that dream? Will we be able to sustain the dream in our actual and real world? Given the sorry past of mankind, I think not. Reaching a goal is easy but maintaining that position of achievement and further consolidating on it is tough. But as long as we keep world peace as our dream we all would be smitten by the joy and perks the dream has to offer. We all would be in awe of the dreamy imaginary land of a peaceful world that seems far away but that which we would be able to create. We all would fan our inner strengths day by day to realize the dream of world peace. We all would be work in progress. Working to realize this dream and in the process strengthening our ability to love. Strengthening our ability to transcend hatred and tolerate differences. As long as, world peace is a dream we will ensure that the ideal of world peace rests on a pedestal. We will ensure that it is sacred to us.

The moment we achieve this dream we might take the fruits of a peaceful world for granted. This would be risky. This might once again push us into our old ways of life which were fraught with sectarian clashes, religious differences, ethnic conflicts and the like. World peace should be a dream. As the clichéd statement goes – it is the journey that matters. Thus, a peaceful world should be the destination. Of course, such a destination would be paradise. But there is a reason why paradise is called what it is called. Undertaking this very journey to the paradise will surely be rewarding and fulfilling. Maybe it would be on the journey that we realize that we are at peace with ourselves and with our surroundings. Maybe it would be on the journey that we might have a change of heart. Maybe it would be the journey that would make all the difference.

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Written By Kasab Vora

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