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Peace Is the Opposite of War

Peace Is the Opposite of War

Some years ago, around Christmas time, I was on a bus in Paris, passing a church near the Invalides. The only seasonal decoration was an illuminated sign above the entrance of the church saying Paix (Peace). A child behind me read out the letters, correctly pronounced the word, and asked the elderly lady she was with, probably her grandmother, what the word meant. “It’s when people don’t fight, they’re nice to each other, no one is hurt,” responded the grandmother. Perplexed, the child asked for more explanations. “Peace is the opposite of war,” was the answer. “Oh,” said the child, satisfied. Despite her age–five or six–this pampered little Parisian knew the meaning of “war,” but “peace” had to be defined. Too much TV, too many iterations of the word “war” in grown-up discussions around her? Whatever the reason, her ignorance of “peace,” a state we all aspire to and should all be blessed enough to live in was striking.

The state may hardly exist but a think tank tracks it nonetheless, the Institute for Economics and Peace, and even produces out an annual index. The 2016 report is just out (http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/our-gpi-findings). See it and weep. But first, one remark. The home page of the IEP bears the following statement, “the world’s leading think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyze peace and quantify its economic benefits.” So, much like the Parisian child who could only understand peace as opposed to war, we humans living today can understand the importance of the concept not per se but only through the impact it has on economics. I suppose expecting otherwise is not realistic.

So, what does the 2016 report tell us? In today’s world, ten countries, ten,—Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam—out of the 196 existing nations, are completely free from conflict, whether internal or external to their borders.

Should we be sad that this is all humanity has achieved after thousands of years of existence and what we generally think of as progress—plodding, to be sure, often derailed, but still progress toward a less violent world than when we first appeared and started staking our territories and the millenia that followed? Should we be grateful that in this terrifying day and age—out-of-control ideologies parading as religious faith, terrorism, local conflicts, major deflagrations, violence toward the poor, the meek and disenfranchised–there are still ten islands of peace and stability?

In this report that made my heart sink as it would anyone’s, two points still stand out.

One. According to IEP’s founder Steve Killelea, “if we took the Middle East out of the index over the last decade – and last year – the world would have become more peaceful. It really highlights the impact the Middle East is having on the world.”

Two. The IEP noticed a clear trend where the more peaceful countries improved further while the less peaceful countries got even worse – producing what they called greater “peace inequality” across the world.

Food for thought, yes. Food for action? Maybe, but where to start?

Categories: Daily life
  1. Bijan
    June 11, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    This is another sample that magnifies why I have such a great respect and love for Saideh.


  2. Daniel
    June 11, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Peace. Peace. What is peace?

    Are you of those whom the Bible states wants “peace, peace and have no peace?”

    I only know of “the peace that passes understanding.”


  3. lewisjperelman
    June 11, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Where to start? Well, it seems like you answered your own question: the Middle East.

    But it’s not like no one has tried to curtail bloody conflicts there. A cursory review of the history of the region suggests that war and conflict have been endemic there more often than not for some 5,000 years.

    Which leads to the question of what constitutes “peace.” A useful Wikipedia article on the topic provides a more nuanced definition: “Peace can be defined in a positive direction and in a negative sense. Positively, peace is a state of tranquility and stillness; however, in a negative sense, peace is the absence of war or violence.”

    In the Middle East and elsewhere, peace as the absence of overt warfare commonly was imposed by the overwhelming force of a dominant imperial power. For those on the losing side of conquest and domination, the absence of combat often does not equal tranquility.

    Perhaps as a result of the persistence of turmoil in the material world, religions have sought diverse paths for individuals to pursue “inner peace.”


  4. June 11, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    We need world leaders that care more about human beings and real peace than about money, power and ideology. I wonder if a world with such leaders is even possible. Meanwhile, as we wait, we must be grateful for brave writers and patriots for humanity like Saïdeh Pakravan.

    Raymond Keen – author of “Love Poems for Cannibals” and “The Private and Public Life of King Able”


  5. June 11, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Great post Saideh! I was not aware of this organization and happy to learn of its existence. A well accepted management theory is that you can improve only what you can measure, and measuring peace is an important step.

    I think that peace and war are determined by the relative perception of the benefits of stability (i.e. maintaining the status quo) or instability (changing the order of things such as power, wealth, etc.). In countries such as the US, there are more organized groups that lean towards the latter as a mean to gain profit (arms lobbies) or power (the Republican party). In Iran, it is the regime’s desire to maintain the status quo that makes it intervene in Syria’s conflict (to teach a lesson to the risks of uprisings). In Israel it is the sabotage of the Oslo agreement by Likud that led to the intifadas that caused great anxiety to the Israeli people. Once in power, Likud wanted to maintain that status quo by keep an instable rapport with the Palestinians.

    Unfortunately, the benefits of war will continue to dominate the (would-be) leaders mentality until the vast majority of citizens understand its destructive dynamics.


    • June 11, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Thanks for a great comment. Good points.


  6. bobbietroy
    June 12, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    As usual, insightful and right on.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jonathan Agronsky
    June 12, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Keep bringin’ the heat, Saideh. Words have power and it’s a pleasure to see them so skillfully used to expose the bullies, hypocrites, and bad guys.

    Liked by 1 person

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