One of the things I’ve realised, writing peace articles lately, is that peace isn’t something you can work for in isolation. In many ways, achieving peace is going to be a consequence of achieving other things first.
On a world scale, we have no scope for establishing peace until we have a lot more equality and justice. While there is exploitation, starvation, abuse of power and a huge gap between the rich and poor, peace is impossible. Faced with injustice and suffering, people will take arms when they feel they need to – and with justification. Peace bought by oppression and hunger is no kind of peace at all.
At more personal levels, peace depends on honour, care, and respect. That’s not something we can achieve as individuals, we have to do it collectively. It’s impossible to live peaceably in an environment where others are cruel, greedy, abusive or otherwise uncooperative.
Peace is a human thing. We can’t and shouldn’t try to avoid the challenges and conflict inherent in living, but we can seek to exist peacefully alongside each other. We can only achieve this through thoughtful, honourable living. Working for peace means working for justice, compassion, tolerance and equal opportunities. It is not an easy path, which is why we are so far from having peace in the world. Being greedy, selfish, violent and unfair is a lot easier and pays good dividends, and that’s why people stick with it. Seeking peace means working against our own immediate interests for the good of all, and that’s not a simple path to walk.
The little pockets of peace we manage to create and hold are intensely beautiful things. Gems in the dark waters of human interaction. We can treat each other well and honourably. It might not bring immediate financial gain, but it rewards us in other, more soulful ways. When we have peace between us, we can also have peace in our hearts. I can’t think of anything more precious or worth striving for.