Thursday, 5 April 2007

Peace

Peace is the most hyped-up and least valued aspiration of contemporary humanity. Everyone pays lip-service to it, while virtually no-one seeks to practice it actively. The 21st century atmosphere is choking with actual and verbal violence – always labelled “defensive”, of course. The dwindling few who audibly urge peace and behave peaceably are mocked at as weak, even treacherous.


The reaction to Iran’s freeing of their British naval hostages is dismally predictable. The comment threads of the Guardian’s CiF blogs on the subject are overflowing with sneering tirades – some of them positively apoplectic – mostly from across the Atlantic, damning Britain’s failure to launch WW3 over the issue. Whatever the Iranians’ motives, they have made a magnanimous gesture which deserves more than a contemptuous nod of recognition and should be explored as a stepping-stone towards the general reduction of tension in the Middle East.


No individual or nation is perfect: there is no room for ‘holier-than-thou’ attitudes, any more than there is for tediously repetitive snarls of ‘yah, boo, you’re worse than we are and you started it first’. Whatever the virtues of the Iranian people, the post-Khomeini regime is a nasty totalitarian theocracy, and while it was feasting its British captives in the parlour it may well have been torturing its domestic victims in the dungeons. But this stomach-churning possibility does not detract from the hopeful nature of what has occurred. The breakthrough should be exploited to the full.


Surely this still infant 21s century has experienced more than enough hatred, anger, violence, and wanton murder. Surely all decent people all over the world are nauseously surfeited by it. Surely it is high time for a worldwide vibrant people-centred [as opposed to government-directed] movement for global peace.


By ‘peace’, I do not mean merely the absence of conflict, or the containment by superior force of still–cherished hatred and anger, but a genuinely peaceable attitude towards other people and countries, and the committed renunciation of violence. This may sound a utopian dream, but if humanity is to regain its balance and endure successfully for another half-century, it has to begin somewhere. And soon.


The only place where it can start is within each peace-seeking and peace-loving individual who aspires to, and sometimes fleetingly experiences, “the Peace of God which passeth all understanding”. But while such benign people are, I firmly believe, in the vast majority there is also a sizeable rabble of angry, hate-filled, and aggressive individuals and groups who revel in violence and must be confronted and faced down by peaceful means - including, if necessary, passive resistance.


Yet again, this is an aspect of the democratic deficit – the insidious way in which small, unrepresentative, too-powerful minorities wag and manipulate supinely passive majorities. The peaceable people of the earth are like Gulliver, bound by the gossamer threads of the Lilliputians. If we wish to survive, it is time for us to rise up and shake them off.

8 comments:

Emmett said...

A Part of the difficulty is all of the difference in temperaments taken together the yawning differences in maturity.

I Suspect that virtually everyone has had the experience of realising that the way they are incites an appalling (& appalled!) rage in someone else -- simply on sight & w/little or nothing said.

THIS Is so automatic a process when it occurs that the simple act of becoming aware of ones own rage & just giving up and leaving the room is a tremendous moral accomplishment.

IT Is this moral accomplishment that may be said to be the goal of all that is best in human culture, religions, arts and the other sciences.

AND, At the end of the day, all that many of us can do in order to keep the fragile peace is to learn of the visionary work in solitude that alone redeems middle- and old-age.

AMIN As they say,

Wook 'abd al-'Abru

anticant said...

ScrappleFace hears of a US ploy that wasn't needed:

A source close to Dick Cheney said today that the vice-president has suggested freeing 15 British sailors and marines from Iranian captivity by trading former President Jimmy Carter for the hostages.

The deal, which Mr. Cheney reportedly believes “has a certain poetic justice to it”, would require an executive order signed by President George Bush, but the unnamed source said presidential adviser Karl Rove “can take care of that as usual without bothering the president with the details.”

White House insiders said the trade would not violate the Bush administration’s policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists, “since only one party in this deal would receive anything of strategic value.”

anticant said...

Emmett, you are so right. The sad thing is that there is a range of conflict-resolution techniques to hand which no-one seems interested in using at the present juncture. Anger-control is one of them, and I remember some fascinating experiential workshops on these topics in the 1980s, when I was doing my counselling training.

The cultivation of self-awareness and empathy are essential if we are to bring about a more peaceful world. As Longfellow said, "If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility."

Richard W. Symonds said...

"PEACE IS NOT AN ABSENCE OF WAR. IT IS A VIRTUE, A STATE OF MIND,
A DISPOSITION FOR BENEVOLENCE,
CONFIDENCE, JUSTICE"
(Spinoza)

Emmett said...

ACTUALLY, One suspects that being at peace requires the courage of a warrior. There are loads of fear -- not least of being attacked and hurt, even killed, by an unregenerate.

THE Very assertion reveals the seeds of rage and violence that lie ready to sprout at every opportunity in this human and crude, molecular, world -- 'unregenerate' at least is condescending if not an outright red rag to the bull-headed.

SO The successful peaceful warrior is the true /jihadi/:

FIRST Of all, that warrior disguises oneself against the unavoidable vanity that lurks in 'being peaceful' and 'spiritual' and any sort of 'holy warrior'.

BE Successful in this one act (of self-avoidance!), however, and the peaceable warrior then /is/ utterly protected and by simply breathing alone in ones room causes miracles to happen even in this '/alam al-'ard/, this Earth of Earth

Jose said...

An excellent article, Anticant, as all of yours use to be.

Indeed, peaceful fights and battles is what the world today needs. Bullies and bullets should be got rid of and peace take the place in all parlours of our societies.

And when I say "our societies" I am meaning all the societies of the world, something which knowing the human condition seems unattainable.

Thinking that those advocating peace are the great majority in the world makes me consider whether it is our fault that the situation we are in prevails.

anticant said...

Jose, it isn't our FAULT, but it is our RESPONSIBILITY to do what we can to bring about change. You and I - both well past retirement age - do our bit through blogging.

As individuals, we are in a classic Catch-22 dilemma. Everyone knows that unless current levels both of human violence and toxic emissions are drastically reduced, humanity will experience social and environmental catastrophe by the middle of this century. But we each feel so insignificant that we don't believe any behaviour change on our own part will have any real effect. So we go on passively grumbling about our governments' warlike behaviour, and consuming as much fuel as ever, while careering onwards to the edge of the precipice.

Jose said...

I couldn't be more in agreement with you, Anticant.