by Guest Blogger, Sam Red
In the midst of the innumerable, intractable global conflicts of today and the existence of nuclear weapons capable of destroying the world many times over, it is arguable that world governance can no longer be left solely to political decision-makers. At a microcosmic level, each and every aware individual can begin to assume greater responsibility for the state of the world by taking up the challenge of embodying the peace (microcosm) that he/she hopes to see mirrored in the world community (macrocosm). In order to embrace peace, it is helpful to understand some of the underlying reasons for the manifestation of its antithesis i.e. violence. Why do individuals resort to violence?
Individual acts of physical violence can be considered a response to physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual disharmony. For example: a difficult childhood can lead to feelings of frustration and aggression in an adult human being, who then uses violence as a mental-emotional outlet; the resort to violence could also be an action taken to protect physical basic needs such as safety and access to food; or on a spiritual level, historical antecedents such as the fact that a distant past has been characterised by war could hold violence in the collective subconscious, making it the line of least resistance. Moreover, direct aggression can have its cause in more than one instigating factor.
In full recognition of the huge challenges faced by the human race as a whole (macrocosm) and by some individual men and women (microcosm), a culture of peace would nevertheless reject direct violence as a means of resolving conflict and would instead require that countries and citizens of those countries use conflict transformation skills that deal comprehensively with the root causes of physical aggression. This rejection of the use of violence would be based on a respect for the One Life that we are all a part of.
An inherent respect for all manifestations of Life is more easily achievable if human beings can extend their range of identifications i.e. each individual has the responsibility as a member of the human family to find ways of expressing right human relations within his/her own being, family unit, local, national and global community, as well as in relation to the natural environment.
This expanded identification could be instrumental in building a culture of peace as defined by Professor Emerita, Elise Boulding, “A mosaic of identities, attitudes, values, beliefs, and institutional patterns that lead people to live nurturantly with one another, deal with their differences, share their resources, solve their problems, and give each other space so no one is harmed and everyone’s basic needs are met.”
Peace is a living concept and men and women’s understanding of what constitutes peace, and what is comprised by its antithesis i.e. violence, is evolving as the human race itself evolves.
Violence is more than direct aggression; there are also structural and cultural dimensions to violence like poverty, unemployment (structural), censorship and sexual discrimination (cultural). If governments, educators, the media and every aware individual were to label these additional categories of violence as such, more men and women would come to understand how far we still are from creating a culture of peace and how important it is to create new structures, or to reform the existing ones, in order to guarantee a more peaceful future for the present world community and future generations.
Present day societies, particularly in so-called “developed” states, are characterised by a vast network of information technology, which has brought people into vivid contact with the day-to-day reality of life in almost every corner of the globe. This fact together with the high value placed on intelligence, that is the ability to think and reason, is giving greater prominence to the issues of morality and ethics in human attitudes and behaviour, be this is at the macrocosmic level in such fields as politics and trade, or on a community and individual basis. Therefore, the concept of peace can no longer be understood simply as the absence of war, but rather needs to be seen as the transformation of violence on all four of its levels.
One comprehensive definition of the concept of peace was identified by Fischer, Nolte & Oeberg in their book “Winning Peace”:
“(…) all that aims to develop security and secure development of the whole human being, and all human beings, in a permanent process, taking its point of departure in a model of human and social needs based on an ethics of global care and allowing for unity in diversity.”
The phrase “an ethics of global care” is an important reminder that peace is measured not only by human-human relations, but by the quality of human-nature relationships too, namely humanity’s interactions with the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. Humankind’s desire to dominate the environment with scant regard for the consequences has led to a growing scarcity of natural resources, pollution of the Earth’s waterways, sickness in animals necessitating mass killings, worrying changes in climatic conditions and devastating natural catastrophes, etc. To counteract this negative trend, human beings – at the macro and micro level – have the choice to assume their role as conscious and dedicated guardians of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms; rather than to continue using violence and domination to master the Earth, jeopardising the world heritage of future generations.
The road to peace has been mapped out for humanity by some of its forerunners. For example, historically, the Buddha indicated one possible road to peace through the eight-fold path of right view, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right diligence, right mindfulness and right concentration. These principals have stood the test of time and are as valid today as they were 2000 years ago.
Active individual participation in the promotion of social justice and political decision-making, without the use of violence, in a spirit of tolerance and goodwill, was strongly advocated by Gandhi in the 1900s. He promoted such important concepts as:
- Ahimsa – non-injury through the renunciation of physical and mental violence against one’s self, others, animals and nature;
- Advaita – the interconnectivity of all life forms;
- Tapasya – the willingness to suffer rather than inflict pain on others;
- Sarvodaya – everyone’s basis needs must be met even if that means that some people must give something up so that others are not left out;
- Satyagraha – the pursuit of Truth through non-violent action.
A modern-day approach to responsible and peaceful human relations can be seen in Marshall Rosenberg’s system of Non-violent Communication. This method recognises the interconnectivity of Life and the common human condition, and emphasises the importance of the appropriate use of language in the transformation of conflict. Rosenberg encourages men and women to connect compassionately with themselves and with others in order to resolve differences peacefully and constructively.
The three above-mentioned examples of roads to peace have in common the fact that, as well as dynamic action, they also promote the importance of inner reflection. This inner reflection on the part of the individual or group (state, nation, community, religion, etc.) can unveil underlying unconscious prejudices, or misplaced preconceptions, which might be fuelling the conflicts manifesting on the surface. Carl Jung made an important contribution to research in this area through his work on projections, that is, people’s propensity to see in others what needs healing in themselves. Jung discovered that when people make a criticism or judgement, they are often unconsciously seeing their own faults mirrored in the other party. This provides an interesting angle from which to consider the concept of a common human identity and the interconnectivity of Life. It also highlights the importance of self-awareness and individual responsibility in the realisation of peaceful human relations. A greater degree of self-awareness could unveil to a person the spectacles through which he/she is looking at the world, that is, the particular influence that cultural background, experiences in life and individual personality traits are having on his/her perception of events.
 Prof Emerita, Elise Boulding, interview with Peace Work, January 1996, Cambridge, USA.
 “Winning Peace”, Fisher, Nolte & Oeberg, Crane Russak, 1989.
Extracted from MA thesis
“A Shared Human Identity – the Foundation of a Peace Culture”
© Copyright 2016 Sam Red. All rights reserved.
About the Author
With an MA in Peace and Conflict Studies, Sam Red has over 16 years of experience in communications and public information work, as well as in designing and teaching tailored capacity building courses.
Having spent six years working as a communications consultant to the United Nations, European Union and NGOs in the Middle East, she is presently based in Basel, Switzerland, where she worked for three years as the Study Director of a postgraduate peace studies programme before resuming her work as a consultant. Her clients currently include international organisations and the United Nations in Geneva, as well as aid coordination mechanisms in Palestine and Libya.
Beyond her professional work, Sam has been interested in self-development and spiritual topics since she had an existential crisis in her late 20s. Over the years, her search for spiritual truth and existential meaning has brought her in contact with Taoism, Reiki, Phytobiophysics, the Arcane School, Tantra and most recently the work of Dr Joe Dispenza.
Sam has written three books on self-development and spiritual issues:
- Looking for Tantra: Living the tantric dream (2015)
- She Who Is Unto Herself: The art of living an empowered life (2014)
- My Name is Joy (2013).
Her aim is to empower people by helping them to understand themselves better on all 4 levels of consciousness—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.