|In today’s world, peace is an ever-elusive stag being pursued by the dull-witted hunter. Human beings have arisen in the world, made numerous technological inventions, and have established themselves as the dominant species on earth. Human beings are also creatures who are the least at peace in the world. Today, struggles ranging from religious disputes to disputes over land plague the lives of every person on the planet. A torrent of terrible events test the mettle of every person as catastrophic events like the attacks of September 11 and the swift, deadly reprisals conducted by the United States against Afghanistan. Almost every important event in world history has been resolved through violence or through the threat of violence. The option carefully avoided has been peace.|
For many years, especially in the most recent twenty years when mainstream ideas begin to shift, people believed that humans are naturally violent. Thomas Hobbes, who believed in this particular idea, based his theory upon the fact that since society is defined by the individuals who comprise and that individuality induces man to be selfishly concerned with self-preservation, no matter the cost to others. This would eventually descend into a “State of War”. However, is this always the case? One can test this hypothesis.
If peace is to counter human nature, then if one culture, society, or civilization can be found that values cooperation and serenity over conflict and turbulence, then it is proven that violence is an acquired idea and that violence is as much a part of human nature as peace is. In fact, the earliest ancestors of human beings were known to be just that: they were cooperative instead of competitive with one another, and it was for this reason that mankind has risen above other animals. Anthropologists feel that it was our ability to cooperative, rather than our ability to fight that was our evolutionary, survival trait.
But a more basic example can be provided. As the only species that can “think” and can make decisions that are not based purely on instinct, it can be inferred that there is no such thing as human nature. Human nature is merely what that person acquires as they develop.
So why then is peace so elusive? According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, peace is a need. The need to feel safe, the need to love and to be loved, and the need to have self-esteem and to be esteemed—these are all parts of the idea we know as peace. If a self-actualized person requires peace, then why is it avoided so often?
The impending war against Iraq, as well as all hostilities in the Middle East, arises from self-inflicted disagreement and conflict. Solutions to these conflicts could have been resolved through peace, but instead, violence was chosen. “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Peace is elusive to human beings because violence in such cases was the way out. Ignorance, blindness and deafness are simpler ways to deal with problems than to face these problems and resolve them.
Peace with countries in the Middle East must involve peaceful dialogue and a development of understanding. No matter how much violence each side exercises against the other, the problem will remain unresolved.
The reason that such a simple solution exists and is not taken is because of the knowledge of that which caused the hostilities toward the Middle East. History has been unkind to those in the Middle East, which is notably Muslim. In the past millennia, many injudicious activities have been levied against them. In the early part of the millennium, the crusades were used as a weapon to attack Islam. Nine massive invasions caused by the combined European might for the sake of peace in Europe, never considering the consequences of such a peace paid in blood. Historical repercussions from these attacks are still felt today.
Societal goals and interests have been the driving force for these events. Unfortunately, the tendency of human beings to look for the simplest solution out of things (hence the wealth of violence evident in human history) makes it so that conflict is unavoidable. In this vortex of violence, it is the exceptions that set the trend. Peace, though it may be unachievably in the long term, can be a personal goal.
In the turbulent past hundred years, the word peace has slowly digressed from the true meaning of the word. As Tan Chung said in his essay, the “concept of ‘Peace’ in our modern civilization is the facade of war, dominated by the calculations of realpolitik.” Peace has come to mean the end of conflict, whereas its original intent of meaning is the definition of tranquility, serenity and peace.
There is a story that describes a contest held by a king for the best painting of peace. Though many paintings were submitted, the king favored but two of the paintings. On the painting was a picture of pristine mountains, a peaceful lake, and the reflection of a sky dotted with fluffy clouds. The other picture was a picture of dark, craggy mountains under a spiteful sky where lightening danced, and a foaming waterfall that sprayed mist all about. However, behind the waterfall in a bush was a mother bird, completely at peace amidst the chaos that threatened to engulf her. To practice peace is not to eliminate violence and conflict in the world. It’’s to be serene within one’s heart amidst the violence. This is a difficult goal in a society that encourages conformity, whose influence is strong and whose allure is undeniable.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this seeking of peace in a world afflicted by the petty struggles of major powers was the nonviolent struggle for world peace started by Nichidatsuu Fujii. Born in Japan in 1885, he later chose the path of Buddhism to be his guide in life. In his life, he would found the Nipponzan Myohoji, the order that was dedicated to nonviolent ways to attain peace and liberty in the world. His order would march in many of the world’’s problem areas in an attempt to advocate the virtues of peace.
After World War II, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Fujii gained a greater understanding of the makings of peace. Though he opposed Japanese involvement in the war, the widespread destruction caused by the nuclear bombs dropped on the two Japanese cities gave Fujii a new perspective. He saw that simply marching and talking could not accomplish the goal to establish peace in the world. He resolved to make a symbol, a beacon of peace.
He built what was called a “peace” pagoda. In post-war Japan, there was great poverty and few came to help Fujii build his first pagoda. With primitive tools in hand, Fujii and his followers erected the first of what would later be 80 such peace pagodas in Japan. He taught that a “good work is peaceful and leads to other good works.”
No matter how one practices peace, the ultimate dream is for a world in peace and freedom. We must think about the place in which we live and think of our future. The path of violence leads nowhere, and because of this, we must change things around us. We must become more cunning, so that we may finally trap peace and feast on its possibilities.
And why is so hard to gain peace in our heart and the society?