In the current world scenario, a void has been witnessed, a void of peace. With major world events unfolding like the Syrian refugee crisis, threat of IS, impact of reduced oil prices, growth of Islamic fundamentalist, it becomes vital to pay heed to these issues given the fact that we all are a part of this globalised world. The question that erupts here, “Is World Peace a dream or reality”?
It is believed that world peace is often used and abused because it lacks an agreeable definition. The word ‘peace’ inculcates bliss not only in the political dimension but also in the psychological and social. When one sits down to get an idea of what peace is to people, we unearth that it’s subject to one’s situation, condition, experience and what an individual or state is bothered by. For example, for Dalit’s in India peace will be where no one is discriminated on the basis of birth; for Afro Americans who have been the victims of slave trade and acts like lynching, peace would be no discrimination on the basis of colour; peace in Sub-Saharan African Nations would be to overcome its foremost challenges which are hospital and health care facilities, fighting hunger, malnutrition and HIV AIDS; for the middle eastern countries after the onset of Arab Spring, peace is establishment of a stable regime which adheres to providing basic freedom to its citizens which is economic security, freedom of speech and expression, free elections and an environment that is not suppressive but conducive to its citizens need, a vital duty of any state; peace for the family of Nirbhaya who was brutally raped to death by a group of five men would be justice and to punish them who committed such a heinous crime.
I would like to begin by citing a few examples of how peace has worked if not entirely but enough to provide an environment where a human can live with dignity. If one is pessimistic about peace being an impractical approach in the present situation, then it will bring no good because having an optimistic approach regarding the same is in itself a step closer to peace. Quoting Jimmy Carter, “Peace is more than the absence of war. There is an inner peace that comes from personal security and personal freedom. Peace also includes the sense of a mother and father that their children will live, that they’ll have food for them to eat, and that they won’t be subject to a lifetime of suffering that could have been prevented.” Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of United States of America, holder of 2002 Nobel Prize Award did not only mouth these words but actively improved lives of many across continents and moved steadfast to work on the same by establishing the Carter Centre with the purpose of instituting peace in the world. Guinea Worm is a parasitic infection caused by drinking water. In 1986, there were reports of 3.5 million affected by the disease in 21 countries around Asia and Africa. However in 2012, the number reduced to 542 cases in 4 countries becoming the second largest disease to be eliminated in human history. One may wonder is this initiative is enough to argue if world peace is a reality or far from reality? Well when you see the larger picture, it took 26 years to come to just 542 cases and time period was not short but what bought a change was the initiative and the perseverance to thrive towards the road of peace, a mental piece which comes from good health. Following World War I, citizens in the USA successfully campaigned for a pact which renounced war as national instrument. However little do we witness that scenario but nonetheless inspiration can be found elsewhere, for examples states like Costa Rica and Panama have no official armies which underwent a process of demilitarisation. Since 1997 The United Nation’s General Assembly adopted annual resolution in support of cultural peace. One such example of cultural peace working is that today 97 countries have abolished state sponsored execution. Peace is also the concern towards our environment and ecosystem. For example, 20% of the Europeans are found to be deeply concerned towards ecology and saving the planet as a result 10% of the population of Sweden, Italy and Germany have turned themselves into vegans or vegetarians. The Centre for Global Nonkilling has produced several books which explain how it is possible to bring about a world without war. In ‘Nonkillng Futures’ (PDF), Dennis Morgan finds that it is now common among academics to believe human civilisations have existed which did not demonstrate signs of organised violence. Evidence suggests the likelihood that there was no organised violence among humans between 5000 and 7000 years ago, or even longer. In more recent history, Georgia Kelly from the Praxis Peace Institute explains (PDF) that the city state of Dubrovnik, Croatia, was consciously created in the 1200s to be a state which would not engage in warfare. It accomplished the span of its six hundred year existence in peace. According to the portal peaceful societies, hunter and gatherers who are not trapped within traits individualism and greediness are one of the peaceful societies who are far away from committing violence. This is because they are content with what they receive from their work and that’s how they find peace and bliss within them. Equal distribution of resources plays a very important role. Every human on this planet should get what is due to him. According to Oxfam 1% of the world owns wealth more than the other 99% combined. This itself answers why one in nine people go to bed hungry every night. According to Oxfam, the solution to this economic inequality is close down tax havens that evade from paying taxes. We are so caught up with the materialistic hunger that we often forget that we not only have a duty towards our family but society as a whole. According to Oxfam 30% of all African financial wealth is held offshore. The estimated loss of $14bn in tax revenues would be enough to pay for healthcare for mothers and children that could save 4 million children’s lives a year and employ enough teachers to get every African child into school. This in turn will pour money into the pockets of the government who can use the amount to combat poverty, increase public spending and give every individual the right to live with dignity. In the Metta Centre report Michael Nagler identifies, souls such as Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and King as ‘beacons of what is to come’, since they demonstrate to us that it is possible to settle conflicts amicably, and to expand our consciousness to cherish all beings. If these personalities can walk on that path, how can achieving peace be an impossibility today? There are lots of scientific theories regarding peace but the most important one which is more spiritual than scientific is self-realisation, awareness and the explosion of empathy. However this is not to negate the fact that agreements, law, actions, provisions don’t play an important role in ensuring peace. They act as incentives and an accountable forum for people who work to disrupt peace.
Let’s take the example of Israel and Palestine. Various agreements like the Oslo Accord, a peace agreement signed between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) negotiator Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin provided that the PLO will be recognised as the representative government for the Palestine and in return PLO will denounce terrorism in order to allow Israel to exist in Peace. After the Oslo Accord, Cairo Agreement (1994) was signed which mandated Israel to withdraw from most of the Gaza and Jerico. With the fear that the peace agreement might collapse, Clinton established the Hebron Protocol which provided for the transfer of most of Hebron to Palestinian control. Apart from these agreements, time and again both the sides have agreed to ceasefire when the situation have flown overboard. Although talks have failed to reach a middle ground, both the sides are still working to reach a middle ground between “One state solution” which means Palestine and Israel as one country and “two state solution” where both hold their own statehood. The reason I am citing this example is because although agreements have been signed to achieve peace, emotions of hatred or conflict of interests can only be eradicated with perseverance and honesty to achieve what is good for the society. Gandhi, once said -“When I despair I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murders, for a time they can seem invincible but in the end they fall”. Any revolution that marches towards peace, does not walk on bed of roses, sacrifices are to be made. When India won independence through its non-violent path, it was a tougher road than the violent one but in the end the flower blossomed and India achieved its Independence. Quoting Gandhi again- “An eye for eye makes the world blind”. The best example for it is the World War-I and World War-II where 38 million and 60 million lives were lost respectively. In the two wars, the answer to weapons, missiles, shotguns, submachine guns etc was retaliating back with the same. Was peace on the plate? Although there has never been another World War but it shook the world with the capability of destruction that can be caused by violence. In 1945, in response to this, United Nations was instituted with the aim to establish peace in the world. Citing an excerpt from a talk delivered by Dalai Lama at the University of California in 2009, Dalai Lama talks about his personal experience, “Around 1935, Nazi power was setting in Europe, followed by World War II, Korean War etc. There were revolution that took place in the name of peace. What did we achieve? Nothing but fear, fear of nuclear power possessions, an unhappy world, an uncomfortable world.”
Today we face the biggest refugee crisis after World War-II, with 51.5 million people without home and shelter. Countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Sudan are providing refugee camps to those in need. But the question is, is that enough? The refugees have no job opportunities, the kids are deprived of education, and the sanitation is poor. They are merely surviving, not living. In search of a better life, they are migrating to European countries with the hope that at least the future of their kids is secure. Hence, the explanation why EU is infiltrated with migrants. It would be wrong to not appreciate the efforts by countries who are doing their bit. European countries especially Germany have been not only providing asylum to the refugees but are taking special measures. For example, the finance Minister of Germany Wolfgang Schaeuble devised a plan to introduce tax on petrol in order to combat the insufficient budget of Germany. This can provide better aid to refugees. Angela Merker, who came out as pioneer in handling refugee crisis saw accepting refugees as an opportunity that can contribute well to their economy. These actions took a surge especially when the picture of 3 year old boy, Aylan Kurdi found in the beach of Turkey went viral. The reason that everyone was so disturbed with that single picture alone was because it affected their peace of mind. Hence, violence or atrocities can never please any individual or a country’s peace of mind.
All the above were well put to theory by Johan Gultang who was the first one to categorise peace into negative and positive in the Editorial to the Journal of Peace research in 1964. He expanded the theory of peace to include direct violence (personal violence); assault, riot, war, terrorism and indirect violence (structural violence), poverty, hunger, discrimination, apartheid, social justice etc. The former and the latter are bracketed into negative peace (absence of violence) and positive peace (integration of human society). Negative peace has a more pessimistic approach where peace cannot be attained through peaceful means. For example, US and Russia are fighting ISIS in order to establish peace although the method used is not peaceful as it comes with causalities. Positive Peace has a more optimistic approach where peace can be attained through peaceful means. For example, the EU countries which are providing asylum to the refugees whose shelter has been torn by war. This brings our attention to the fact that peace is not just an antonym of violence. Negative peace is what the P5 nations followed by Israel, Pakistan, North Korea and India possess i.e., nuclear weapons. They are equipped with coercive power and readiness to use them. The reason they fall under negative peace is because they talk about peace, hold negotiations, strive to make the world a peaceful place but without disarmament. Examples of peace policies in this tradition is arms control, international convention, balance of power strategies etc. On the other hand examples of positive peace includes providing good education, health care, fulfil the basic needs of its citizens, no discrimination on the basis of colour, religion, caste, ethnicity etc. Gatlung further draws a parallel to positive peace or structural violence to conflict theory because of its social justice connotation. He says conditions for peace can be established only once the root cause of structural violence is unearthed which drives personal violence to infiltrate the society. For example, let’s take the case of Nigeria. Number of the citizens are involved in thefts, crime, and robbery distorting peace in the state. Before punishing the former, it becomes vital to dig deep into the cause as to why such crimes are being committed at an exorbitant rate. The reason to this is low government spending on public education, health and lack of job opportunities. This drives perpetrators to get into such crimes so that they can support their living. In this case condition of peace can be established only when structural violence is eradicated i.e, lack of the government to provide facilities that its citizens deserve.
In a world in which tyranny continues to exist, war may in fact sometimes be justified. In the same way it's necessary to fight to defend oneself when attacked, so too it's sometimes necessary to go to war to put down injustice, or even the possibility of injustice when its likelihood is great enough. Rarely, however, is this given as a primary reason. Kautilya and Machiavelli both talk about the significance of war in context of protecting its country when under threat. Well this is justified, but what often leads to an unhealthy environment is the repercussion of war. If one country decides to go to war, it wages it with the full knowledge of causalities which is inevitable. For example, the US move to invade Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of Weapons of Mass Destructions found in Iraq was based on false ground. Firstly, no evidence of WMD was unearthed and the US action was solely motivated by its interests in the natural resources of Iraq. Secondly, the US put a veil on its action through imposition of democracy on the people which has so far proved nothing but destruction. Therefore war here wasn’t justified and this has attributed a lot to what we have today, “ISIS”. Turkey, Russia, USA and other NATO countries launching air strikes on the ISIS base is well justified given the fact that the nature of war for sheer security reasons for the world which is only possible by dismantling those terrorists through the use of force.
We need to summon the courage to voice a commitment to the goal of achieving peace. The road to peace is not a one day process. A world without peace is not an option because then humanity would cease to exist. The argument that it is a long process and in the present world because of the growing self-interest, it can't be done and therefore shouldn't be attempted is the argument of cowards. If there were people throughout our history who adhered to that logic, we'd all still be living in caves.
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