What is peace?
Saurish Srivastava / January 22, 2022
6 min read • –––
Deep analysis of "Peace"
Throughout history, ancient cultures have explored the concept of peace. The Hebrew shalom, the Arabic sala’am, the Roman pax, the Greek eirene, and the Indian shanti and ahimsa are all representations of notions of “peace.” All definitions discuss a desire for nonviolence, self-harmony, and tranquil relationality with others. Yet even though they are all centralized vis-à-vis a similar concept, none of them are identical. Most notably, the regions in the East have priorities for inner spiritual and harmony, whereas the West focuses on external concepts.
Just as culture and region shape conceptions of peace, one’s subjectivity has an immense effect. For example, the peace of a wealthy student with scarce struggles will be far different from that of a refugee who lives through struggle. Peace then becomes a fluid ideology, for which no exact definition exists – even if there exists a shared understanding of its definition. Paradoxically, creating a static definition of peace reinforces unpeaceful ideologies, because then an imposed notion of peace is forced onto other individuals. This itself would be an unpeaceful act.
When thinking about peace, many historical figures invade the mind: Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and countless others. Mahatma Gandhi was a prominent figure in leading a nonviolent protest that led to the independence of India. His followers were consequently termed "Shanti Sena" ("Peace Army" in Hindi). Nelson Mandela led a transition from apartheid to a multiracial democracy in South Africa. His most notable quotes discuss the heroism and prowess of peacebuilders: “It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” Martin Luther King Jr., inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, led the nonviolent civil rights movement, forcing the United States to confront its racist past and present. This led to the "desegregation" (I use air quotes to recognize that although the situation did get better, racial equality has not been achieved now) of Black populations, eliminating Jim Crows and transitioning into a multiracial society. Mother Teresa was a peacemaker through her work in Calcutta, India. As a saint focused on eradicating poverty, she fought one of the deadliest forms of violence: hunger.
Therefore, traditionally, peace is regarded as nonviolence. This is not an "incorrect" interpretation; it has applications in the political atmosphere. The Russia-Ukraine situation would be peaceful if there was no violence in the area. Yet, this misses the differentiation of meaning behind the word. Peace is a regional desire for a harmonical status of inner and external empathy and relationality. This definition is fluid and recognizes that this world is far from attaining peace, distinctly seen with the rampant racial inequalities in the United States and all across the globe. Still though, many philosophers have theorized that a combined approach could create a rich, unrigid structure of peace that serves to fit all. This can be achieved through communal efforts with international organizations.
How do we promote peace
The United Nations has been the epitome of peacemaking over the past 75 years, but its efforts have been futile because of the inability for agreement between the P5 (the United Nations' Security Council permanent 5 members) and developing nations over peace. Consequently, a new praxis is needed, such as that of the Shanti Sena, who strive not to kill but die for peace. Although scalability could be a potential issue, this approach enables relationality for countries and individuals and highlights a potential “shared” peacemaking. Gandhi, who the Shanti Sena is based on, was a proponent of nonviolence, but his teachings represent a compassion for the inner-self. Such harmony can lead to an inner sense of peace. Therefore, only this methodology can truly liberate the world and create a peaceful environment.
Personally, I find that there is a strong necessity to find peace within yourself in order to impact the local domain. Because peace is fluid, the approaches are also fluid. That means that my route towards inner peace and harmony could very likely be different than yours. My understanding of peace could solely be mental peace, or it could be peace related to the social stratosphere. The point is that peace is radically different based on the viewpoints it is analyzed in. Yet, there is still a need to strive for that inner peace. Why? Honestly, I don't know.
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