On Peace: What does peace mean to you (4)?

Amb. Mokooreoluwa Kolawole


“For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.”
William Blake: “The Divine Image” Songs of innocence.

Peace has always been among humanity’s highest values for some, supreme. Consider the statement: “Peace at any price.”

Yet, we scarcely agree on what peace is. Perhaps the most popular (Western) view is an absence of discord, violence, or war, a meaning found in the New Testament and possibly an original meaning of the Greek word for peace, Irene. Pacifists have adopted this interpretation, for to them, all violence is bad.

This meaning is widely accepted among Irenologists. It is also the primary dictionary definition.

Peace, however, is also seen as concord, or harmony and tranquility. It is viewed as peace of mind or serenity, especially in the East. It is defined as a state of law or civil government, a state of justice or goodness, a balance or equilibrium of powers.

Such meanings of peace function at different levels. Peace may be opposed to or be the opposite of antagonistic conflict, violence, or war. It may refer to an internal state (of mind or nations) or external relations. Or it may be narrow in conception, referring to specific relations in a particular situation (like a peace treaty), or overarching, covering a whole society (as in a world peace). Peace may be a dichotomy (it exists or doesn’t) or continuous, passive or active, empirical or abstract, descriptive or normative, or positive or negative.

The problem is, of course, that peace derives its meaning and qualities within a theory or framework. A Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist will see peace differently, as will a pacifist or an internationalist. Socialists, fascists, and libertarians have different perspectives, as do power or idealistic theorists of international relations. In this diversity of meanings, peace is no separate from such concepts as justice, freedom, equality, power, conflict, class, and, indeed, any other concept.

All concepts are defined within a theory or cognitive framework, what I have called elsewhere a perspective. Through a perspective, peace is endowed with meaning by being linked to other concepts within a particular perception of reality; and its relationship to ideas or assumptions about violence, history, divine grace, justice. Peace is thereby locked into a descriptive or explanatory view of our reality and each other.

Having shown you different definitions of Peace, which are derived from theory or cognitive frameworks. Beyond these definitions, let me ask you one more time. What does Peace mean to you?

Your answer to the above question determines what your attitude towards contributing to peacekeeping, in reality, looks like. You will agree with me that, no matter your answer, it will amount to the same results. This means it will be obvious when you are practicing peacekeeping indeed.

I am really curious about your definition of peace and what it means to you, please share your answers via the comment section.

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