A Few Words For Peace
In this election year it is of paramount importance that the torch is passed peacefully to the next White House occupant, because it is one of our nation’s best known qualities. The sale of politically inscribed mugs at Bookhampton notwithstanding as Yogi says “the game is not over until it’s over” so pundits, beware!
I stopped for a moment on my hike through the woods once and heard a bird sing, suddenly the moment became metamorphosis of Peace. And I wondered if it takes this, in a world that seems to us, aging post-war generation baby boomers, intent on starting one conflict after another?
Looking forward it is not always easy to be optimistic, though it is necessary, some call it “realistic” akin to the United Nations Organization, which alternates between prophecies of hope and doom. Looking back one can indeed find that ray of hope that always came through in the darkest of times, like a sunrise after night. Like democracy winning after 2000 years of dictatorships yet it seems never to die.
Some legendary epic struggles may never go away completely, or take multiple generations to resolve… in the middle ages there were Religion wars, and a 30 year war and a 100 year war between England and France – were they really wars? Fortunately there were also peace initiatives, as we call them today, if you would, throughout history, to wit:
After defeat at Marignano in 1515 the Swiss, inspired by brother Klaus, their patron saint, began a tradition of peaceful relations with other nations. In 1815, a milestone in Geopolitics resulting from the defeat of Napoleon I, it was decided at the Congress of Vienna that all parts would respect the little nation of Switzerland as it vowed to be at peace with all nations. It worked.
As we write in these dog days of August summer 2016 there is a Conference taking place in Berlin called the MSC, or Muslim Jewish Conference, which works successfully, on a small scale at least, to build peace between Muslims and Jews. After all once not that long ago Israel named the flagship of its commercial fleet the Shalom.
The surrender of Breda inn 1625, fortress of the Orange family, today the Royalty of Holland, was an example of lenient terms in a surrender situation. The Spanish knew they were taking over the locals’ most prized city and showed magnanimity, and this was immortalized in the Velazquez’ painting with this name (“La Rendicion de Breda”, also known as “Las Lanzas”)… A lesson that, had it been learned and applied in Versailles after World War I might have spared the world the horror of World War II. Some peace advocates suggest you the rise of the Nazi party was a natural reaction to the humiliation suffered at Versailles.
There are of course numerous historical references to Peace that have accompanied mankind through time immemorial, ever since prehistory nomad living evolved to living in community. It was thought at one time that the Greeks had it right, then the Romans, with “para bellum si vis pacem” (If you want peace prepare for war) which resulted in constant war and the decline of the Empire that enjoyed the definitive Pax Romana. Today there are those who say that Pax Americana will go the same way, with a global presence and no way to control violence in the whole world, but history doesn’t really repeat itself unless people are ignorant of it, hence the value of peace education.
Peace has to be “hammered” – so it goes, a better word is instilled! – into people’s heads since birth, for one of the first things that a toddler says is “mine!” which sets the stage for conflict if, another innocent or uneducated actor intervenes with a similar claim. Religious belief being almost a basic instinct of humanity, its organized forms can be peace educators, the cry “donna nobis pacem” and “peace be with you” together with “Namaste” and so many forms of praying or greeting have had a positive influence on humans in peace building. They are not without flaws either unless a solid peace tradition is established to overcome the quest for property and domination so well defined by Plato. With time, political systems have promoted their version of peace, albeit from a liberal or an authoritarian vantage point. There was a peace Academy in the Soviet Union that accepted the lack of freedom of its citizens as well as harsh punishment for relatively minor infractions of the social contract. The Carnegie Institute in the United States promoted peace from a liberal tribune that aimed at empowering individual citizens to develop and build peace too. Many organizations promote peace worldwide, Interpeace, to name one, appropriately based in Switzerland, today is an Institution that attracts people from everywhere to its seminars and programs. Today indeed, despite Globalization, people are still fighting each other as groups for no other reason than they are told to, albeit conflicts seem to be more local than the quests for grandeur of the colonial times. Yet it is American individuality that has imposed itself in the world as a common denominator, and the freedom that it preaches. While Plato believed that war is a never ending quest for money or a leader, ad that there was peace only in death, Aristotle believed that we make war that we may live in peace. Thus whoever controls this basic instinct for fighting has a better chance to lead the peace, on their terms of course, and that’s where “the devil is in the details” and the American sense of individuality collectively rises to the top, for it respects, empowers and encourages people to grow and do good. The United States often gives the impression that it is all about the money, still it is not. Peace however cannot stand without an awareness of the alternative, as in the duality of human beings; it needs to be accompanied by some sort of manifestation, be it the spoken word, an experience, karma if you would, a concert, a celebration.
Some quotes on peace:
“Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” Martin Luther King
“Peace is at hand” Henry Kissinger Secretary of State, 26 October 1972, during negotiations to end the prolonged Vietnam Wars
“An eye for an eye will only make the world blind” Mahatma Gandhi
“ Peace begins with a smile” Mother Theresa
“ You cannot find peace by avoiding life” Virginia Wolf
“ When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace” Jimi Hendrix
“ Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding” Albert Einstein
“ To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace” Milan Kundera
In their briefness all of these quotes qualify Peace as something that goes with something else, like the song that says “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” They are an invitation to do something else, yet peacefully, and everybody has to find what that something is. Making my way on foot or bicycle or even a Kayakig from Hog Creek to Acabonac and witnessing the abundant wildlife and not so wildlife sharing Nature is so to speak, Shangri-la to me.