Peace Research Paper

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The major cases of violence and peace relate to the way the human condition is cut through by fault lines, dividing humans and nature, normal people from deviants, different genders, generations, races, classes, nations, states. Each border defines at least two categories, self and other. The violence can be direct violence intended by the self to attack the basic needs of the other; or structural violence, also preventable, not intended, usually slower, but at least equally devastating. If the other is dehumanized to a category, we end up with genocide—massive category killing. With two types of violence and eight fault lines we get a 16-fold discourse, as shown in Table 1.

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Peace Research Paper Table 1

Most of the time and in most places there is ‘narrow peace’ or an absence of direct violence across most fault lines, but not ‘broad peace’ or an absence of direct and structural violence. Different cultures view peace differently as descriptive (how is peace possible) or prescriptive (how could peace be possible).

The following is a review of the theories of peace of six macrocultures, or civilizations. Of the six, three are from the Occident, defined here as the cultural space spanned by the Abrahamitic religions of the Book, the kitab, or Old Testament: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. We start with two Europes, secular Europe—the Europe of antiquity—and then Christian Europe. We then move East to West Asia (I have not designated this as the ‘Middle East,’ which is a Western European perspective) with Judaism, Islam, and the cradle of Christianity. Continuing eastward we come to South Asia, with what is conveniently called ‘Hinduism’ and its offspring, Jainism and Buddhism. And further east, in East Asia there are the Chinese and Japanese cultural amalgams with a Confucian core, Buddhism, and then Taoism in China and Shinto in Japan. We then move into Pacific American African spaces, picking up a Polynesian, an Amerindian, and an African tradition, ending south of Europe.

1. Europe: Pax And Eirene—The Roman Greek And Modern Traditions

Peace can be interpreted narrowly as absentia belli, the absence of organized violence between groups defined by the fault lines. International or external peace is the absence of external wars: intercountry, interstate, or international (in the sense of intercultural). Social or internal peace is the absence of internal wars: national, racial, class, or ideological groups challenging central governance or each other. This concept is carried by the Roman pax, related to pact, as in pacta sunt servanda, ‘treaties must be observed.’ Peace as a contractual, mutually agreed relation is the source of Western international law.

Another Roman legacy, si vis pacem, para bellum, ‘if you want peace prepare for war,’ is the source of Western military peace theory. Peace is obtained by the balance of power, deterring the aggressor at home with defensive defense, and abroad with offensive defense. Offensive offense (attack/aggression) and defensive offense (pre-emptive warfare) are not peace concepts.

Aggression is controlled from above by pacts—the Roman Empire was capable of enforcing such pacts— and/or by the balance of power. A better word for this kind of peace is security. And there is a basic dilemma: the military capability used to deter can also be used to attack, even if the motivation is defensive. The result can be an arms race, a cold war, or even an actual war. A basic problem with the Roman pax is its insensitivity to flagrant injustice and inequality, the Roman Empire itself being an example. The Greek eirene is closer to ‘peace with justice’: absence of direct and structural violence, among Greeks. But which part has priority? What if they think justice can only be obtained through war? That idea was picked up by the Marxist tradition as class war, national and international, legitimized as necessary and sufficient to obtain a just, socialist society. The Roman thinking led to the liberal tradition, tolerant of enormous inequalities, nationally and internationally, but strongly against war, both internally and externally. And Roman warfare was picked up by the conservative tradition, extolling still more inequality through wars, provided they could be won, and even through empire-building. In the year 2000 these views still prevail.

2. Europe: Agape And Bellum Iustum: The Christian Traditions

The three main divisions of Christianity (Orthodoxy/Roman Catholicism/Protestantism) and the many smaller sects had Paradise and Hell as archetypes that became models for peace and war, making peace remote and static, and war a highly dynamic hell on earth. Peace is seen as ordained by a God whose law is the only valid law, and valid for all of humanity. But who is God, and how does he relate to human beings in search of peace?

A theological distinction is very useful here, between God as immanent, inside us, making us godlike, sacred, and God as transcendent, above us, saving, choosing some persons and peoples, rejecting and condemning others. We may even talk about soft and hard Christianity, depending on which God-concept is picked up, in what proportion. They do not exclude each other.

Agape (Greek for ‘love’) can be used as a name for the peace of a soft Christianity based on an immanent conception of God. There is God’s love for humankind, through Jesus Christ; the human love for God; and the love of one’s fellow beings as being God-loved. The Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist are close to this concept: a community of humans, God-enlightened, in God. The face-to-face corpus mysticum is based on an identity with others so strong that there is a limit to the number of members. This may be a reason why very egalitarian, interactive, direct peace concepts spring out of smaller Christian sects, like the Quakers and the Mennonites.

Then there is the transcendent God, conceived as some male person residing above our planet, and his relation to nonbelievers, pagans, and worse still, to the heretics who have rejected God. This is where hard Christianity enters, administering Hell and torture (the Inquisition) and Holy War to the heretics.

As some kind of peace concept it takes the form of bellum iustum, in the Augustine-Aquinas just war tradition:

(a) Wars must be waged by a lawful authority.

(b) Wars must be waged for a just cause, to correct injustice.

(c) Wars must be waged with the right intention, not vengefully.

(d) Wars must be waged as a last resort and with prospects of success.

(e) Wars must be waged with proportionality and minimum force.

(f) Wars must be waged only against combatants.

The first five are ius ad bellum; the last two are ius in bello.

This can be seen as an effort to limit war even if accepting war as the last resort. But there is no nonviolent alternative, and it may be used to attack any kind of injustice however defined. In addition, it is not biblical but derives from St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. But this cost-benefit thinking is still with us.

3. West Asia: Shalom Sala’am—The Judaic And Islamic Traditions

Looking at some famous quotes from the basic texts (see Table 2, Christianity is included as a family member for comparison) one conclusion may be that ambiguity is the message. It is neither unconditional peace, nor unconditional war. It is peace under certain conditions and war under certain conditions. The problem is to spell out those conditions. One reading of the Judaic shalom and the Arab sala’am is peace with justice. Without justice, no peace; hence war for justice is legitimate. The contradiction is mirrored in the quotes shown in Table 2.

Peace Research Paper Table 2

If we define justice as absence of structural violence whereby people, nations, and states are repressed, exploited, alienated, but not by an actor, then this may lead to bellum iustum as injustice abounds. Jihad, however, translates as ‘exertion’ for the faith. Defending the faith by violence, against Crusades, Zionism, communism, is the fourth stage of Jihad.

4. South Asia: Shanti And Ahimsa—The Hindu/Jainist/Buddhist Traditions

There is a trend in all three faiths toward unconditional peace by ahimsa, nonviolence. The major carrier of this message of all times, Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869–1948) used the formula ‘There is no way to peace, peace is the way.’ This is a strong stand, ruling out violence as immoral and unproductive. The struggle against violence, direct or structural, is by nonviolence. And, as becomes clear from Gandhi’s adulation of the small social unit, the village, peace in the sense of absence of direct violence, cannot be built top-down by heavy international and national hierarchies, in the pax and Hobbesian traditions.

This, in turn, is related to shanti, inner peace. Ahimsa has shanti as a necessary condition: with no inner peace, no nonviolence. ‘Unprocessed traumas’ will be acted out aggressively. If nonviolence does not lead to change of heart in the other, it is for lack of change of heart in self. Nonviolence then turns into self-purification, practiced in the little community of believers, the sangha, which is like a monastery.

Gandhi left behind a theory and practice of satyagraha, clinging to truth as he called it. Look at the list of nonviolent action: to play a major role in delivering the nonwhite world from white colonialism, and the white world from its own Cold War, leaving no thirst for bloody revenge behind, is no minor achievement. That gift comes out of South Asia, not the West. The contribution of the West seems to a large extent to have been to create the problems. The burden of proof is on those who teach peace by violence. To assert ‘nonviolence does not work’ is uninformed, given the amazing successes in the second half of the twentieth century:

(a) the liberation of arrested Jews in Berlin, February 1943

(b) Gandhi’s swaraj campaign in India; Independence from 1947

(c) Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign in the US South from 1956

(d) the anti-Vietnam war movement, inside and outside Vietnam

(e) the Buenos Aires Plaza de Mayo mothers against the military

(f) the ‘People’s Power’ movement in the Philippines, 1986

(g) the Children’s Power movement in South Africa, from 1986

(h) the intifada movement in Occupied Palestine, from 1987, in the beginning mostly nonviolent

(i) the democracy movement Beijing, spring 1989

(j) the Solidarity DDR movements which ended the Cold War.

5. East Asia: Ho P’ing/Heiwa—The Chinese/Japanese Traditions

The standard translation of ho p’ing (Chinese) and heiwa (Japanese) is ‘harmony.’ And one reading of harmony would be not only ‘absence of violence,’ but ‘absence of conflict.’ The task of conflict resolution has already been carried out. Indications of conflict are swept under the carpet, and the person articulating conflict is frozen out of harmonious society, or prevented from expressing such views.

Take the metaphor of Chinese boxes, or in Russia the matrushka dolls, with one box or doll inside the other and so on, till they become extremely small. They all look alike. In modern fractal chaos theory they talk about ‘self-similarity’ as something stabilizing. The basic East Asian point is that harmony is produced not by a particular structure, be that a pyramid or wheel or whatever, but by the same structure repeated at the personal, social, and world levels, within and between.

In Tao Te Ching we find an example: small, detached countries: ‘Though they have armor and weapons nobody displays them—they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die’ (No. 80). A modern version would be domestic and global democracy.

6. Pacific, America, Africa—Ho’o Ponopono, Peace Pipe, And Shir

The following are three examples of peace as nonviolent conflict resolution.

6.2 Ho’o Ponopono—The Polynesian Conflict Resolution Circle

Ho’o ponopono (setting straight) is a method of confict resolution that brings together around a table perpetrator, victim, family members, neighbors, friends, and others, with a moderator, the ‘wise man,’ not from families or neighbors. The process of resolution has four stages.

Everyone is encouraged sincerely to present their version of why it happened, how, and what would be the appropriate reaction, and everybody accepts some part of the responsibility. Sincere apologies are then offered and accepted; forgiveness is demanded and offered. An action program is defined for everybody according to the principle of shared responsibility. And in the end the record of what happened (but not of what has to be done) is then burnt, symbolizing the end of the incident, and the construction of a new relation among all of them.

6.3 The Peace Pipe—The Cheyenne Conflict Resolution Symbol

With the Cheyenne, a zone of peace is created at the top of society, with the peace chiefs being models of nonviolence to be emulated by the rest. They were not to engage in any quarrels within the tribe regardless of whether their families or children were involved. They were not to engage themselves in any force or violence, even if their son was killed right in front of their tepee. You are to do nothing but take your pipe and smoke. Being a chief becomes a way of life, and the chief’s home a sanctuary where others can be safe. The chiefs mediate disputes and don’t take sides. Ritual, like smoking the peace pipe together, makes it possible to think with one mind, one heart. Everyone has a right to talk, nobody is interrupted, the talk continues till the end.

6.4 Shir—The Somalian Conflict Resolution Market

A traditional conflict resolution structure that brings together all the mature men in the clans involved in a conflict. Women, children and young hot-blooded warriors are excluded. Men lounge under the thorn trees during the hot, dry day. They chat and drink tea. At some point, things will jell. The various pieces that make up the main issue for which the shir was called will fall into place because a social climate conducive to a solution will have slowly emerged. The result will be proper peace—a peace felt from the inside.

Conflict resolution has here been hitched on to one of the oldest institutions in the history of human beings: the market. The market is based on exchange for mutual benefit: I give, you give (do ut des, I give so that you give), and some principle of equal exchange, (quid pro quo).

7. Peace As Geometry

Five geometric archetypes for peace are shown in Figure 1: the vertical, big pyramid for the hierarchic rule from above, of human beings or of law; the wheel for the smaller, tight, equal exchange; the symmetry— like the garden of Versailles—for the balance of power; the sun for the nonviolence radiating from inner peace; and the Chinese boxes of harmony based on self-similarity, from micro to macro levels.

Peace Research Paper Figure 1

Different kinds of peace can also be expressed in terms better known from the history of diplomacy, focusing on interstate and internation peace: the Napoleonic peace forged by a prince lawmaker; the silent peace brought about by groups of ordinary humans, or countries; the Nixon–Brezhnev peace negotiated at a bilateral summit; the Gandhian peace as process, not only outcome; the anonymous peace as built-in harmony. All of these are used for conflict resolution. How conflict is handled is the best peace indicator.

8. Approaches To Peace

Each society, community, family, and person has ways of being peaceful by peaceful means, but they also often have ways of being violent, summarized in their cultures. A major approach to peace concerns is to tilt the cultural balance in favor of peace, letting peace cultures be the dominant cultures. Then, using the survey of peace cultures and the peace as geometry approach we have five ideas in addition to peace culture.

The two Europes and West Asia have one idea in common: the hierarchy, the pyramid. Essentially this is peace from above, whether from a big power, a combination of big powers, or from some central authority. The current term is ‘global governance,’ based on global architecture. Regional versions may produce regional peace among members, excluding nonmembers. The counterpoint to the pyramid, the wheel, found in five cultural spaces, expresses the ideas of peace from below, small is beautiful, inspiring the search for alternative peace structures. Then comes the shanti–ahimsa combination from South Asia: the source of peace is inside you, its expression is nonviolence, which makes war abolition a realistic utopia. And we pick up the idea of conflict transformation, with East Asian harmony as outcome, ho’o ponopono, peace pipe, and shir as examples of processes.

The six approaches divide into two groups: global governance, war abolition, and conflict transformation being more familiar; nonviolence, peace structures, and peace cultures unfamiliar and challenging. Peace in the complex, highly interconnected world of the twenty-first century, bringing conflict parties very close to each other, will depend on the ability to draw upon all six—not easy given that they hail from different parts of the world.


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