Individuals as well as societies need many things but two are basic
and universal. Development means ongoing maturation, higher
levels of living and being, satisfaction of micro/basic needs (e.g.
food and water), meso/higher needs (e.g. community, dignity, psycho-social
health) and macro/supreme needs (e.g. spirituality, love, self-and other-realization,
Some, like Abraham Maslow, argue that human and social needs are organized
hierarchically; while water and food may well be considered basic, human
beings in severe crisis have delivered evidence throughout history that
higher non-material needs and levels of being helped them survive, such
as faith in God, in fellow human beings. Art history is filled with
personalities whose “lower” needs were not met while they
gifted the world with their own sublime expressions.
or safety is the other basic element. Existentially it means confidence
that there is something – I as well as the world as such –
tomorrow rather than nothing. We invest in our development, educate
ourselves, buy a house, create a family only on the basis of a more
or less conscious perception that there will be a future, a future in
which we will reap some benefits from devoting ourselves to working
for certain expected outcomes. To provide security, some resources are
necessary; security can not be build from nothing, there has to be some
development, e.g. food production, to create the feeling of security
about one’s existence tomorrow.
to philosophy’s ‘essentially contested concepts,’
to use W. B. Gallie’s term from 1956. Gallie argued that it is
impossible to conclusively define key concepts such as 'social justice,'
'democracy, 'art', 'moral goodness' and 'duty', although it is possible
and rational to discuss one's justifications for holding one interpretation
over competing ones. So this short exposé does not convey the
idea that peace can be defined once and for all.
It is an ever-unfolding
category which can only be approached and will have different connotations
and ‘Schwerpunkten’ depending on culture, historical stage,
circumstances and social cosmology – be it the Christian Agape,
Dar al-Islam (House of Peace), Jewish Shalom, the
Confusian ho p’ing-p’ing ho, the Japanese heiwa-wahei,
Gandhian ahimsa/satyagraha – or the modern (misconstrued)
Western strategic idea that peace means balance of (political) power
sometimes combined with balance of terror (nuclear weapons balance for
deterrence = mutually assured destruction, MAD, if tried).
Be this as
it may, let’s weave the two into each other as a first approximation
and we get an approach to peace saying that peace is to
develop security and secure development.
is not only external and economic-material growth, security is not only
physical-technical with means such as injections, pills and tanks and
missiles. No matter the empirical-reductionist traditions of modern
science, development and security has an inner dimension too, an auto-generative
dimension. No security or development can be created by relying exclusively
on inputs from outside the human or collective, societal body.
To put it
crudely, while most of us are other-reliant in a variety of spheres
– the alternative is total autarchy or self-isolationism and psycho-social
self-sufficiency – we also have to stand on our own feet, mobilize
inner energies and realize our potentials to achieve security and development
for ourselves and others. A human being who is completely dependent
on others for food, social well-being, pills, or entertainment tends
to be a mal-developed, constrained and insecure individual, deeply unhappy
too. The same applies to the society that needs everything from outside,
imports everything, is totally other-dependent. It cannot be free, it
cannot be sovereign and certainly not independent in a real sense.
has an inner self-generative element that must interact with outer
elements. This corresponds well with an idea of the outer and the
inner human being, with self- and other-reliance and with yet another
dichotomy, namely that between the material and the non-material being
and development (and security). When we talk about inner human being
it means, of course, the realization of the potentials with which each
of us are born and given by our upbringing and milieu in a wider sense.
look a bit more into this relational characteristics of peace.
The moment individuals and aggregates, say a country, seek to realize
they potentials, they are bound to clash with others. In the
process it will seek access to resources, seek its development and security
in time and space that is bound to be craved also by others. Remember,
security is about a perception of there being something rather than
nothing. In a world with scarce resources (in the sense that everyone
can not get anything he or she may like or fancy) there is likely to
formulation that the world is rich enough for everybody’s needs
but not for everybody’s greed holds increasing relevance for a
global society dominated by actors whose basic material needs were met
long ago (while millions are starving elsewhere) but whose ‘cosmology’
makes it natural that unmet non-material needs keep on being ‘satisfied’
by ever more material consumption.
conflict happens. Development creates it, security seeks to
handle it. No human person can mature and develop as human being without
experiencing conflict, for instance inner moral dilemmas and quarrels
with parents, siblings and friends. A society without conflict cannot
but be authoritarian, Orwellian or a dictatorship. There are those who
say that - in theory at least - democracy is, so far, the best way to
the modern talk of ‘conflict prevention’ is philosophical
nonsense and, subconsciously probably just another way to avoid the
unpleasant fact that conflict is an essential and unavoidable aspect
of our lives. How much easier it would be if conflict would just go
away! But, alas, the conflict-free world is a utopia, a place that can
never be. Should we ever develop it, it would be dystopia.
The only realistic
way to handle conflict is to accept and embrace them, become clever
at handling them – in short, stop conflict avoidance
and reduce conflict illiteracy, i.e. intensify across the
board education and professionalization when it comes to learning how
to “quarrel well.” This means that, grosso modo, peace
can be learnt and has extremely little to do with good versus evil
human beings as some will have us believe.
dynamics or peace is perfectly compatible with conflict, indeed it can’t
be separated from it. What it is incompatible with and must be
separated from is violence. Thus, for true peace we need violence prevention
or, to quote the UN Charter most significant and globally recognized
(but violated) norm: peace by peaceful means (Article 1.1)
and the abolition of war as an accepted social institution (the Preamble’s
To live globally
with conflict we also need consensus – for our development and
security, that is, for peace. Ideally and as part of an ongoing civilizational
process that consensus must be about reducing violence. Continuing
to create violent tools to provide security and order in a mal-developed
global society is a recipe for disaster. It is utterly unsustainable
too from a pure opportunity cost point of view in two ways:
- ever more
investments in systems of violence and the war on terror will take
away resources from the development sectors where no one denies that
they are much needed. In addition, high-tech investments in weapons
and sophisticated surveillance is capital intensive and labour as well
as need extensive, and thus there are few, if any, spill-over or civilian
benefits to society from them compared with direct allocation for human
need satisfaction and socially appropriate or adapted technology;
repair society is under way: first the global leaders do the development-
and security-counterproductive things – violate human rights,
start wars, make decision that over-consume, pollute, uphold the global
unjust world order with force – and then we need environmental
policies, peacekeeping troops, negotiations, human healing, physical
re-building, reconciliation, etc to repair the damage and destruction
in the first place.
an added difficulty. To help solve the conflict between, say, Serbs
and Albanians in Kosovo is one thing. To do so after war, bombing, ethnic
cleansing, rapes etc. is quite another; it has “doubled”
the original problem.
been argued for decades, if not centuries, by leading philosophers and
social scientists that repair costs to society are rising exponentially
and that, therefore, violence prevention, early warning and other measures
would be much more efficient as management and humane as policy.
Be this as
it may, peace is possible only in diversity. Diversity because
humanity is diverse; that corresponds to the conflict element.
Peace also requires unity and that corresponds to the consensus element.
Thus, we arrive at the age-old concept of unity in diversity
to summarize what peace is about.
unfortunately, is about unity in uniformity, a vain attempt at universalizing
one culture’s norms and a politico-economic standardization –
vain exactly because it imposes, irrespective of the good values Westernization
also brings, unity in disrespect for diversity. And disrespect is just
another word for violence.
To put it
crudely, violence implies the willed under-realization of potentials
or, as stated by Eric Fromm, the life not lived.
It is not
violence to limit one’s own self-realization in order to provide
others with a chance to realize theirs. But it is violence when one
actor realizes his or her potential in ways that knowingly prevents
others from realizing theirs, so their “lives cannot be lived.”
through physical and psychological violence, including gender violence
and violence against children and the yet unborn – the latter
through destruction of Nature’s potential so it can’t be
used to satisfy coming generations’ needs. Violence also happens
structurally or organizationally; that means that there is not a single
actor who harms others but that the net outcome of the system’s
daily operation leads to the systematic under-realization of potentials
and sub-optimal needs satisfaction for a majority.
every instance of violence lies a conflict: inside an actor, between
two or among many or, third, built into the economic, cultural etc system.
Thus, learning how to handle conflict with ever less violence, from
the individual to the world order, is another way of approaching the
idea of peace. Handling conflicts through education and professionalization
ideally provides for the propensity to use violence. Violence is taken
to in conflict situations by the conflict illiterate – not necessarily
the evil one – who does not know that other tools exist.
If we become
conflict literate, we can decrease violence of many types and at many
levels; that will increase development – the realization of human
and social potentials as well as preserve more of Nature. That in its
turn would increase the feeling of security and reduce the perceived
needs for military and other violent (self)defence, simply because the
world would appear more benign and hopeful.
it all: Peace can only be approached and dialogued about. It cannot
and should not be defined once and for all. One such approach that the
present author has developed over the last 35 years – inspired
by countless more wise thinkers and practitioners - is outlined below
in a telegram-short style and offered here for the reader to criticize
and improve on, in short dialogue further about: