Peace is generally defined as a state of quiet or tranquillity , as an absence of disturbance or agitation (Latin derivation Pax = Absentia Belli). But behind this simple definition lies a lot of controversy and nuance.
Absence of noise
Those who live far from the cities and from civilization are often struck by the difference in the noise level of the cities; hence the term 'peace and quiet'. But conflict can occur at any time, often accompanied by the sounds of the clashing parties. When animals fight, the surrounding forest can become even more silent, as the non-engaged animals warily await the outcome. After a conflict, then the normal sounds and actions of the inhabitants eventually recur.
Our conceptions of "peace" are often the product of our culture and upbringing. (The above definition of peace: Absentia Belli, absence of war, comes from the Roman civilization.) While there are differences about what peace is from an intercultural perspective, peace also differs among members of the same culture.
"Can peace be achieved through violence?" is one question that points out the ambiguities of the term peace. Advocates of the "peace through war" thesis believe that in some situations, there is no alternative to force. Others believe that this idea is contradictory. They claim that peace can only come about by peaceful means. Violence only breeds violence.
Peace can refer to an absence of violence or war. In this sense, peace between and within national states is a goal of many persons and organisations, notably the United Nations. Peace can be voluntary, where potential agitators choose to abstain from disturbance, or it can be enforced, by suppressing those who might otherwise cause such disturbance.
Though peace may be defined as the absence of violence many believe that peace is more than a negative condition. From this perspective, peace is a positive state in society where there is not only the absence of violence, but also the presence of justice. Proponents of the concept of positive peace argue that in a society where there is the structual and cultural oppression of one group by another, though there may be no violence, such a situation cannot be considered peace.
There is also a call by some "peace thinkers" to abandon the idea of one peace. Rather, they promote the idea of many peaces. The thoughts behind this call is that there is no one, correct way to define peace. Rather, peace should be seen as a plurality.
For example in the Great Lakes region of Africa, the word for peace is kindoki, which refers to a harmonious balance between human beings, the rest of the natural world, and the cosmos. This is a much more inclusive vision of peace.
Many of these same thinkers also critique the idea of peace as a hopeful or eventual end. They point out that peace does not necessarily have to be something the humans will "some day" achieve, but instead that exists and can be created all of the time in small ways, and that it is something that is constantly changing. This way of looking at peace makes it permeable and imperfect rather than static and utopian.
Switzerland is the country that is most famous for its long-lasting peace, caused by its hard stance on neutrality. However, Sweden is the country with the longest history of peace amongst current countries. It has been at a state of peace since 1814, when it invaded Norway. However, peace in this context refers only to the lack of military style external violence.
Peacemakers (#) are people who have overcome entrenched violence and conflict through their leadership and vision to achieve peace.
Nobel Peace Prize
Main article: Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to notable persons, generally peacemakers and visionaries who have overcome notorious cycles in violence, conflict or oppression through their moral leadership, but also controversially former warmongers and former terrorists who it was believed had helped bring the world closer to ending such situations through exceptional concessions in the attempt to achieve peace.
Here is a partial list of Nobel Peace Prize laureates whose award is still considered by some a matter of particular controversy:
- True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.
- Not all the darkness of the land
- Can hide the lifted eye and hand;
- Nor need the clanging conflict cease,
- To make Thee hear our cries for peace.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Other links of interest
Last updated: 10-11-2005 23:20:16