Inspired by recent discussions on the Druid Network members site I’ve been thinking about peace and what it really means. I’m still not sure I have found a completely satisfactory answer to the question “what is peace?” but I am a lot closer to understanding some of the meanings and associations of that simple word than I used to be.
While I’ve been thinking about peace I’ve also been doing a bit of following up on links suggested by others and doing a little reading around the topic too. Sites I’ve visited in my quest to understand more about peace include:
Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Peace Studies Department at the University of Bradford
Foundation For Peace
Peace Pledge Union
Peace One Day
Wikipedia – Peace
Wikipedia – peace and conflict studies
Wikipedia – International Peace Belt
Wikipedia – Johan Galtung
My first somewhat light-hearted definition for peace came to me one morning while getting ready for work.
If war is
could peace be
Effective communication is something easier said than done in many circumstances as it takes a willingness from all parties involved to listen and speak to the other parties involved.
I still wasn’t happy with this though and I think that was because I was doing what a lot of other places seem to do which is defining peace by what is absent (conflict) rather than what it is in itself. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this approach, far from it, just that I was and still am looking for a broader definition of peace.
I am aware I have really only scratched the surface of this topic but nevertheless here are some of the things that I have found the most helpful in my reading.
The conflict triangle
– from the information on Wikipedia this is a concept developed by John Galtung
that defines three related types of violence and places them in a triangle. These three types of violence are:
- direct violence – which I understand to be physical violence
- structural violence – which I understand to be bureaucracy in any organisation or country that allows physical harm to take place unchallenged
- cultural violence – which I understand to be a society’s perception that allows physical harm to take place unchallenged.
The UK is far from being a country without these aspects of violence at the current time. For example, the Church of England, like the Catholic church has recently admitted that it has failed in protecting young people from being abused by some priests. This strikes me as examples of structural violence but linked to that is cultural violence in that for decades wider society did not want to accept that any priest could be capable of such behaviour. No-one wanted to admit it could happen so many turned a blind eye and ignored those cries for help that did take place.
In the city I live in, Glasgow, there are still aspects of cultural violence that lead to more sectarian violence between some aspects of Protestant and Catholic communities. There is a minority of vocal individuals on both side of this divide that seem to believe that expressing their opinions on these matters physically is absolutely fine!
Modern media in the form of internet, newspapers, TV programmes, Twitter and other social networking sites abound with examples of cultural violence towards one group of people or another. While the UK may not be at war on these physical shores it is, according to these definitions, by no means at peace either. (I’m not sure if our military forces involvement in situations internationally would be classed as at war or involved in conflict resolution as I am not knowledgeable enough on these areas.)
Reading about the idea of the conflict triangle made me think more deeply about violence, conflict and peace in human societies. As a Pagan though I wanted to be able to expand my understanding of peace beyond the human species. And what about inner peace and feeling peaceful? What did those things really mean to me?