Forget About World Peace

world peace

Despite the earnest efforts of sixty years of Miss USA contestants, world peace has not arrived on our doorstep. The UN has not managed it, nor did John Lennon or Oprah or The Secret. Religion sure made a mess of the effort altogether, and I don’t hold high hopes for China to pull it off, despite their latest efforts.

Something tells me it’s not coming at all.

If that’s true, could we live with that?

I say let’s forget the idea of world peace. Let’s admit it will never happen and get on with our lives the best we can. It is naive to think that progressive government policy, awareness campaigns, and heartfelt pleading will bring about this holy grail of achievements, and that is because human beings are not capable of world peace. There, I said it.

Let’s get real here. Humanity will never co-operate. It’s far too big and varied for that; there is no way to even communicate amongst the whole populace, let alone get everyone on the same page at the same time. Just trying to get eight people on the same page to organize a camping trip is trouble enough for most.

The vast majority of us really have to work at keeping ourselves in a stable, pleasant mood, so why do we concern ourselves with a task that is so utterly beyond us? If we think we can engineer a change in the philosophy of billions of people we’ve never met, yet most of us cannot even manage to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions, we’re kidding ourselves big time.

The romantic notion of world peace is one in which the cart is light years ahead of the horse. It is an understandable desire, but no more sensible or achievable than living forever or never being unhappy. In the course of our species’ growth, we’re only now reaching the point where a small number of individuals are beginning to transcend the reactivity and addictive behavior that causes violence, and that’s only the result of years of intensive inner work.

peace on earth poster

Reasonable goal, or Deus ex machina?

Forget world peace, and get to work on yourself.

One cannot be at peace with those around him unless he is at peace with himself, and peace with oneself cannot be imposed by another. World peace cannot be achieved except as a byproduct of billions of individual efforts at cultivating inner peace, and most people — at this time, anyway — are just not interested.

The idea of a world in which everyone else behaves in ways that do not make us uncomfortable or afraid is nice to think about, but ultimately unhelpful. It keeps us focused on a fantasy, one that is forever the responsibility of others to fulfill. If you desire peace, devote yourself to finding it inside you. If you don’t find peace there, you’ll find it nowhere.

Who needs to change?

Peace by persuasion has a pleasant sound, but I think we should not be able to work it. We should have to tame the human race first, and history seems to show that that cannot be done. – Mark Twain

Knowing where human beings are at in their development, world peace is an indulgent, even arrogant pipe dream. If we aim at world peace, we are — unavoidably — aiming to change other people. Cries for world peace always carry the tacit suggestion that it is the others who need to get on our page. If you want peace, see if you can find it alone in your car while you’re in a traffic jam, before you look for it on a global scale.

It is smarter and less destructive to aim your peace efforts no further than yourself, because your authority can never extend beyond that, unless you’re prepared to use force. Changing yourself is the work of a lifetime anyway; let’s see if you can eliminate every hint of dysfunction and ill-will in yourself before you start working on everyone else.

If you can, you are an anomaly. Most people will go to their grave without ever getting a real handle on their own individual plight. The great majority of human beings do not make time for self-examination, and will die before ever learning how to deal reliably with disappointment, resentment, envy, selfishness and fear. It is possible to learn these skills, and indeed some devote their whole lives to it, which should give you some idea of how difficult it really is.

Seeking world peace points us the wrong way

“We must send a clear message to the rulers of outlaw regimes that sponsor terror and pursue weapons of mass murder: You will not be allowed to threaten the peace and stability of the world.” – George Bush

Send in the planes then, George.

When one considers the impossibility of getting 6.5 billion people on the same page, a common rebuttal is, “It may be impossible but it’s something we should aim at, because even falling short would mean we’ve still made the world a better place.”

I say no; it takes us in the wrong direction. Aiming at world peace immediately gets us thinking about how to change other cultures — how to take care of certain problem areas and problem groups. The problem too quickly becomes redefined as the people who seem to be getting in the way. Then we are back to “Us against them.” No peace.

After all, you didn’t build the bomb or fire the first shot. Maybe you’ve never even struck another person. It’s natural to imagine that if you personally have no history of violence, that you are necessarily peaceful, but this isn’t so.

Peace must be more than just an absence of violence. It also must be an absence of ill will and angst. Contempt that does not quite precipitate violence is not peace — fear, spite and suffering continue to exist. Even human beings who “wouldn’t hurt a fly” (and I am one) can still be resentful, selfish, and destructive. Just because you’ve never blown up a poll station or thrown a punch, it does not mean the world would have peace if everyone behaved like you. Even though some people make it through life without ever raising a hand to another, it does not mean the makings of violence weren’t there.

I do not believe I’ve ever met anyone who has never hated someone. Different circumstances might have pushed our normal, socially acceptable levels of casual resentment over the edge to physical violence. Many of us grew up in developed, democratic nations, free from any real persecution, and cannot comprehend what it’s like to live under conditions that really bring out the worst in people. Our animal impulses are still running strong, and with very few exceptions, human beings are still far too reactive and fearful to presume we are above violence. Until we are truly devoid of any form of ill will, we are not beyond violence.

And most of us are far from it. I’ve been working on becoming less reactive and less judgmental for years now, yet I still catch myself getting worked up when my computer freezes up for twenty seconds. I still get resentful at some point virtually every day. I am still selfish and petty sometimes. I’ve made worlds of progress, but I still find myself fuming at people for doing things I do myself. Such is the amusing curse of being human.

Clearly, a messiah of worldwide peace I am not — and I dare presume neither are you — but I can still make the cashier smile, forgive a rude stranger before my mood goes rotten, or smooth over tension between two friends. On a good day, I can deal with not getting my way, forgive myself for making a dumb choice, or take criticism in stride. Peace throughout the room I can achieve, and you can too. Most of the time. Maybe I’ve brought a little more peace into your room right now. And maybe you’ll take it with you when you leave.

Why do we fantasize about this half-baked idea called “world peace” anyway? Well, it’s a natural fantasy to have; we do enjoy peace on the small scales at which we can actually perceive it, so presumably a peaceful nation is even better than a peaceful house, and a peaceful world is the best of all.

Human beings, as they are today, are not ready for world peace, not even close. You can create peace in a room, peace at the dinner table, peace in your home, but the leap to nations and planets takes us out of the realm of reality and into our imaginations. Let’s not get egotistical about peace by shooting right for the be-all-end-all. We don’t need the Jerry Bruckheimer version. To strike directly at worldwide peace is to put the onus on humanity at large — an unimaginably complex system nobody can control — instead of yourself. In other words, it’s passing the buck.

The Real Problem

We hate violence because it represents to us something we all know and revile: intense, needless suffering. The reactive creatures that we are, we sympathize with the suffering of victims of violence, and we suffer too. If the suffering of others didn’t cause us to suffer, it would not compel us to appeal for peace.

Violence is sickening to us. We have such an aversion to it that it throws us into a distressed, reactive emotional state, which is precisely the compromised state of mind that is prone to impulsiveness and violence.

The real problem — the only problem there has ever been — is personal suffering. It is the illness of which violence is only a symptom. And we all have it.

We can address only our own suffering directly, and there are methods for this, everything from Buddhism to Yoga to EFT. Many people take up these or other paths with the idea of improving their own lives, but as they progress they can’t help but improve the lives of everyone they come in contact with.

“The best thing you can do on this earth,” my meditation teacher explained, “is to sit down every day and work on yourself. The best thing you can do for humanity, for peace, for starving children and victims of violence, for your mother and your relatives and your children and the generations that you’ll never meet, is to do your daily meditation practice and find an end to your own suffering. There is nothing you can do that could be more helpful to others.”

People who do not work on themselves might find that statement preposterous. But those who do practice self-examination understand that cultivating a peaceful, composed state of mind prevents more suffering than any number of international sanctions, weapons inspectors, war crimes tribunals or cease-fires. One single mind that is freeing itself from personal suffering is a colossal, resounding victory for peace. One person taking full responsibility for her state of mind leaves a sweeping wake of compassion and sense that improves the lives of everyone she meets.

This is the only way to move towards widespread peace: the gradual aggregation of individuals who are overcoming their own suffering. Everyone has to go through it for themselves, there is no “enlightenment en masse.” World peace can only be a byproduct of evolution, not a goal of individuals. So forget about it, it will never be up to you or anyone else.

Individuals who exude peace are highly effective people. They don’t trigger the reactive and resistant parts of others. They are more likely to be listened to and understood. They open people up, they stir up the best in people. One person of this level of peace goes a long way.

The human populace isn’t ripe for across-the-board peace, and will probably never be. If we ever achieve world peace, we can no longer call ourselves human — we will have become something else. As much as we’d like to be that something else, we’re still fallible, still vulnerable, still dangerous. Dissatisfaction and suffering are parts of our programming, and only the keenest among us are just beginning to unravel that mess.

As long as there are humans, there will be suffering and violence somewhere. This is a reality we are all going to live and die with. And maybe it is more helpful to admit that than to deny it. Fantasizing will not save anyone — let alone everyone — but living a peaceful life can save someone. If you want peace, you can have it by creating it in your own life, and you can be sure it will make its way into the lives of others too.

Can you have peace in every interaction you have with others? Can you come close? Maybe that’s all you need to do.

R

Photos by HikingArtist and Goodrob13

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{ 53 Comments }

David January 28, 2010 at 12:48 am

Just as a heads-up: Tomorrow I will be leaving to take on one of my life list items (the Milford Track) so I will not be responding to comments or emails for three or four days. But please don’t be shy to leave your comments, I’ll get to them when I get back. See you soon.

Brad January 28, 2010 at 1:28 am

Well, I wouldn’t say its completely hopeless. Murder and violent crime rates are lower than they’ve ever been in recorded history. Check out Freakonomics if you want to verify that. While it was once exceedingly rare to care about anyone other than yourself and your family, now practically all people born into developed countries must on some level interact with the population as a whole. Technology.

You have to approach any goal one step at a time, and world peace is surely a preposterous expectation, but I believe its the right direction. What can you say about Greg Mortenson, who built thousands of schools for children with no place to go but the Taliban? He overworked himself to the detriment of his physical and mental well-being, but he seemed to have a direct and positive effect on the happiness of many, many people.

Self work is definitely important, but I see it being used as an excuse for egocentrism a lot these days. Not that you are egocentric- I know you aren’t.

And just to be heretical, teaching meditation doesn’t give one authority over the answer to what is the best thing you can do. :)
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Most Voracious Animal =-.

David January 28, 2010 at 2:19 am

Hi Brad, thanks for your comment.

World peace means a total eradication of violence. Good deeds are absolutely worthwhile, and I am not arguing against them. But altruism does not address the reason violence exists. Meditation (for example) actually does.

A reduction in the murder rate does not mean we are on our way to world peace any more than a cool summer means global warming is over. As I said, peace is more than just the absence of violence. It is an absence of incentives for violence. Humans are born with highly volatile impulses, carryovers from our do-or-die origins. We can’t ignore this reality and hope that playing nice will be enough. The problem is not only how we act but why.

Jim Steele September 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm

There has been less UNORGANIZED crime. What still makes this world terrible is the amount of ORGANIZED crime in the world.

Zengirl January 28, 2010 at 2:59 am

David,

I like to believe, world peace is possible, it starts with each of us. If I am at peace within myself, and people around me, it will change them and they will change others and so on.

I believe, all humans wants to evolve, better themselves, improve their financial, spiritual, social and family life, there is yet hope !
.-= Zengirl´s last blog ..Life balance: 6 Critical areas =-.

David February 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Hi Zengirl. I grew up thinking that world peace was just around the corner, and I’m not sure I ever challenged that belief until fairly recently. I now see it as a bit egocentric that I assumed it would happen during my lifetime, when so many billions have died without seeing it. I don’t think there’s anything especially conducive to peace among the current batch of people on the planet, so I don’t expect it to pop out of the woodwork any time soon.

I think it is possible, but not until after vast amounts of cultural and biological evolution.

Zengirl February 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm

David,

We can survive so many days without food, even fewer days without water, even fewer minutes without air. But without hope we are dead, even when are living. So, I like to be hopeful still. Remember, 100 miles journey starts with one step, let’s start with you and me and few others here, it will be better for next generation if not in our life time right?
.-= Zengirl´s last blog ..You are richer than you think! =-.

David February 4, 2010 at 3:34 am

I don’t subscribe to the common reverence for hope. I don’t bother doing any hoping most days, and I’m far from dead.

Hope is not necessary for confidence or intention. Hope, to me, has always had echoes of powerlessness and wishful thinking. Instead of hoping for a utopia, why not make a concrete improvement in the quality of life for fifteen people today? No hope necessary, just action and love.

I have to call you on the classic journey-step analogy too. It assume that that first step and all subsequent steps are in the right direction. As I said, I think the typical approach of demanding and hoping for behavior changes in others is not stepping towards world peace at all.

Food and water are absolutely essential though :)
.-= David´s last blog ..The End of Negativity – Raptitude Experiment No. 5 =-.

Patty - Why Not Start Now? January 28, 2010 at 3:19 am

Wow, lots to take in here David. I certainly don’t know if world peace will ever be possible. So I do agree with you that the very best thing we can do right now is to live an examined life. It’s way past time to pull back our projections and see what’s in shadow inside of us, both the good and the bad. As you so eloquently say, “Even though some people make it through life without ever raising a hand to another, it does not mean the makings of violence weren’t there.” I know many would vehemently disagree with your statement, insisting that it doesn’t apply to them: “I’m not violent, or prejudiced, or angry.” Or any number of other negative characteristics we don’t want to see in ourselves. It’s time to lift the blinders, because whether or not it will achieve world peace, it will most certainly make the world a better place to live.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Why Self-Help Bores Me =-.

David February 1, 2010 at 8:32 pm

It’s time to lift the blinders, because whether or not it will achieve world peace, it will most certainly make the world a better place to live.

I think you said it better than I did Patty. We must fix in ourselves any characteristics we don’t want to see in others, before we can expect anyone else to change.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) January 28, 2010 at 4:59 am

Not this way~ Harmony is possible in our little global village; like most of life it need not be 100% of the time.

Actually, when we slow down enough we discover that there is a whole lot of pain and suffering that continues to occur despite unselfishness and harmony. It’s not all due to selfishness and violence.

The idea that “where there be humans there be selfishness and violence” negates our agency~ that which provides us this human experience.

Scary~ violence is predominately inflicted on women and children by men~ “it’s cause I am human and thus violent, not my choice, just an automaton fulfilling my human function.”

Anti-evolutionary~ selfishness/violence does not beget survival of the fittest. Decreases variation. When there is only one, there is in fact none; like a neuron that does not exchange info with other dendrites~ pointlessness.

It is a cop out excuse for those in position of power to not take responsibility for their choices.

[soapbox exit]
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..Win Free Registration for Peer Supervision & Job Recruitment! =-.

David February 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Great comment, Char thanks. I would not argue that we are automatons in any way, only that we (particularly men) have a highly compulsive predisposition to violence that few of us examine in ourselves.

Lisis January 28, 2010 at 7:39 am

David, David, David… where to begin on this one? You almost force me to write a rebuttal post, but let’s see what I can do in this small space.

First, I would argue that your definition of World Peace is part of what makes it seem so hopeless to you. World Peace is not the “total eradication of violence” (as violence is an inherent part of the cycle of life in Nature, and not something we will ever be without.) It is also not the absence of suffering, which is an unavoidable component in human life (unless you are fully Enlightened, maybe).

World Peace is the absence of WAR. That is actually quite achievable, since it is basically a childish means of political resolution between countries. Some combination of blurring borders, international communities, and supra-national organizations could do the trick, and the internet era is the perfect time to try out combinations.

Second, I believe it is 100% possible to work on our individual selves AND the world at the same time (case in point: The Dalai Lama). These tasks are not mutually exclusive. Both are necessary.

Third, LOTS of things seemed impossible before we figured out they were merely improbable: sailing around the world, electricity, airplanes, submarines, space travel, wireless communications, etc. If we only stay in the realm of what is ALREADY possible, we’ll never make any progress, in any field.

We are meant to shoot for the stars, knowing that we, as individuals, may fail in the greater goal. But others will pick up where we left off, “standing on the shoulders of giants,” and eventually make it to the goal.

I am not prepared to give up quite as easily as you are. I think you may have forgotten your superpowers. ;)

David February 1, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Hi Lisis! Yes, the definition is certainly a crux of disagreement here.

I would not call the absence of war “Peace” as it is often called. The absence of war isn’t even the absence of violence (which is not peace either); it is only the absence of government-sanctioned large-scale violence. Politics are only a function of what’s in the minds of individuals. If you still have the same inner turmoil in the heads of voters and leaders, the political results will continue to reflect that: a paranoid, dissatisfied, us-against-them philosophy that will guarantee the same breed of violence we have had as long as there have been human societies.

I don’t argue against working for or against any particular political causes, such as a particular country’s involvement in a particular conflict. My beef is with the dream that we will see a world without considerable violence in our lifetimes.

As for working on ourselves and the world at the same time, I agree with you, but I don’t make such a fine distinction between the two pursuits. Working on inner peace is impossible without effecting peace around you.

Any work we do, for any political or grassroots cause (or anything else) is entirely comprised of interactions we have with other human beings. When we improve our ability to interact respectfully and compassionately we can’t help but improve our ability to effect political change. Gandhi pulled off an incredible external political victory, and it would have been utterly impossible if he did not devote his life to overcome his own fears and insecurities. He called his self-work his greatest battle. If everyone was as devoted to internal work as he was, then we might actually be getting close to world peace.

I am not “giving up,” I’ve just realized I was skipping about eight hundred steps. To use a water analogy, at this point we’re pushing the river. Not amount of resolve or force or emotional noise is going to make it flow the other way, because we are not yet respecting the mass and depth of the water. We get out our shovels and dig a long diversion and maybe a few generations down the road we can swing it round. It will take longer than we want it to take.

Ian | Quantum Learning January 28, 2010 at 9:44 am

David, David, David (did I just steal that from Lisis?).

Well the title is like a red rag to a bull (I’m the bull in this case :-)). I take your point, and fully agree, that finding peace starts with ourselves. No question about it that inner peace must come before outer peace. If I’m harbouring violent anger towards others then I’m just playing the same wargames but on a personal level.

And violence of any kind – even between just two people – requires that there’s at least one person with violence inside bursting to get out.

But I don’t think focusing on my own inner peace and seeking peace in the outside world are mutually exclusive. Nor do I think seeking one necessarily harms the other – and may support.

As a first step we could focus on stopping the international violence our governments are maintaining. There is a role for the armed forces in protecting life but I don’t think many people can seriously argue that the conflicts currently underway in the Middle East are protecting people. And we seem to have created a real mess there – mainly for the people living in those countires affected. And it is OUR responsibility. We elect our leaders. We pay our taxes. We support our troops in the name of Patriotism.

We keep these conflict alive. And we can stop them – peacefully. There have been many large scale, nonviolent movements that made huge changes. Why not with this?

The other thing I would add is that the belief that war is inevitable is based on a belief that people are inherently violent and need to rise above our nature to find peace. Personally I don’t buy that and see violence as a temporary and short term ‘blip’ in the development of our species. Unfortunately it’s one of several ‘blips’ we’re going through – any one of which could elminate our species entirely!

It may not be clear, but I really enjoyed the article. I do think there’s more hope and possibility though!
.-= Ian | Quantum Learning´s last blog ..Vegetarian Living – One Year On =-.

Lisis January 28, 2010 at 9:58 am

Darnit! I should’ve copyrighted that condescending phrase! ;)

(Hi, Ian… I love your new picture, btw… looking all young and spry and cool.)

Ian | Quantum Learning January 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

Lisis, Lisis, Lisis … the new picture simply reflects the young, spry and cool me!
.-= Ian | Quantum Learning´s last blog ..Vegetarian Living – One Year On =-.

David February 1, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I agree with pretty much everything you said Ian, and it makes me wish I’d clarified things a little more. Like I said in the response to Lisis, I am not arguing against political activism or grassroots movements, nor that we cannot act for peace both internally and externally. But our external efforts will be constantly undermined by our own personal struggles if we do not examine them. You can’t have outer peace without inner peace, but you can have inner peace without outer peace. My argument is that when people talk about peace, they are talking about something outside of themselves. If we cannot be at peace (even for a moment) with the fact that the entire world is not at peace, then they will be ineffective in achieving peace throughout the world. Does that make sense?

I also agree that violence is something of a temporary feature in our evolution, but I think the word ‘blip’ doesn’t quite represent the vast amount of time it will be a part of our normal operating procedure. There has been violence in our lineage far longer than we’ve been human. I think we’ve just now come to a point where most of us do not need it to get through our lives, but we’ve got millions of years of conditioning to overcome before it is in our past. I think people tend not to want to acknowledge that.

Erin January 28, 2010 at 10:24 am

Dear David, let us agree to disagree. I think we are far too busy working on ourselves. We are way too into ourselves.

As a Christian, a heart of service is what we should aspire to. The bible says there will be wars and rumors of wars. But the big ideas in the kingdom of heaven lie with the heart of service. It is forgiveness and redemption and not just for one religion, but for all. (Remember I am a liberal Christian) It is to allieviate human suffering.

If one person brings a smile, the encouraging word, the helping hand to the people we meet today. It elevates all those we come in contact with. Let loving kindness spread like the flu. It really could you know.

So only about a quarter or a third of the world needs to get the loving kindness bug. Maybe a tenth, helping to bring out the best in others. If that actually happened, poverty, hunger, and war could end tomorrow. Your generation is going to come the closest to achieving world peace. You are the smartest and the best. Keep the faith. Be blessed.
.-= Erin´s last blog ..Be Strong and Courageous =-.

David February 1, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Well, being “into yourself” is a phrase that could describe both a lifetime of service and a lifetime of selfishness. Self-examination seems always to result in people finding value in service, among other things. It doesn’t take too much examination to see what great benefits it bestows in the giver and receiver. I do not think people are too “into themselves” in that regard. At all.

I think you are right with the “critical mass” idea. A third of the world’s population, having truly transcended hate and violence would probably be more than enough to create a tipping point. Even ten percent would probably do it. But I don’t think we’re even close to that. I am not there yet as a person, and I think that most people who would say they are actually are. I’m not trying to be pessimistic here, I’m just recognizing what an epic, uphill battle it is for one person to overcome one addiction, and extrapolating.

David January 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Wow great comments everyone. I’ve only got about ten minutes before I go on my hike so I can’t respond individually yet, though I’m sure you know I’d like to.

I guess one major point of disagreement will always be that I do not believe an absence of war is the same as world peace, or even close. My country is at war in Afghanistan, but ten years ago they weren’t in any war, and there has always been plenty of violence here. Violence on the streets, in kitchens and bedrooms, in bars and at sports matches.

If the world reaches a point during our lifetimes where there is not a war going on, can we really say we’ve achieved world peace? Until no human has an urge to harm, we will not have peace.

You could have a decade without wars, and that would be an achievement, but the killer instinct is still there, and it could erupt at any time. A shaky network of treaties and cease-fires may be a worthwhile achievement but it isn’t world peace.

Ah my online time is almost up, I have a lot more to say :)

Talk to you in a few days. Enjoy your weekend.

Lisis January 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Only YOU, David, would drop a juicy post like THIS on us on your way out the door! So much to say here…

I think, though, you could almost do two separate posts in which one deals with the possibility of a world without war, and the other with the (im)possibility of a world without violence of any sort. Because to just say, “World peace is not possible” makes it sound like a world without war is not possible.

But if, in fact, we could create a world without war, then all the spare time and resources could be redirected to tend to the needs of individuals, which may, in turn help in all sorts of ways that we can’t currently imagine.

If your issue here is that a world with no violence or hatred whatsoever is not possible right now, then… well that’s a much bigger issue. But peace (as in the opposite of war) is achievable, and should be pursued, IMHO.

Now go have a great time and I can’t wait to see the pics on DGK. :)

Drew Tkac January 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I am a newbie to this site, but what I have read so far seems to resonate with me. It is like “zen..a practical users guide.”

One thing that I absolutely struggle with is that “life on earth is violent.” I don’t want to accept that theory, but consciousness manifesting in its present form is violent. Life eats life. There is no getting around it. I tried by becoming a vegetarian, but even vegetarians eat plant life. We could rationalize that away in many ways but again.. life eats life.

Violence is in us. It may evolve out of us in millions of years, but now were stuck with it. Denying that it exists in us is the worst thing we could do. Accept it, face it and try to manage it.

The good news is that there is also a huge part of us that is empathetic and seeks peace. So the war, the conflict, is really between two parts of our own mind. When we are split and divided in our own thought, in our own heart, we are in pain.

We have evolved as members of tribal groups. For survival groups needed to be cohesive. When tribes attacked other tribes for food, for survival a war ensued. This nature is in us.

We are now struggling in a world that has changed, a new one world tribe, and our evolution has not yet caught up.

I abhor war. I want to think of my self as above all that. The wars now seem to be about greed and corporate advancement in the name of religion. But that is another topic.

In sum we need to understand, and accept, what lies just beneath our exterior as humans. Only then can we make the unconscious more conscious and take steps to overt it, and just perhaps to continue to evolve and adapt to our new one-world tribe.

David February 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Ah! Very well put Drew. You’ve said in a few hundred words what took me a few thousand. I wish I could tweet your comment.

Lisa January 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Well put! And you’re right, I do always feel at peace after reading one of your blog posts, so you are slowly spreading peace by being peaceful yourself.

David February 1, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Thanks Lisa. I try to tell myself it shouldn’t matter if anybody agrees with me, but it is sure reassuring when someone does :)

Jessica January 29, 2010 at 8:09 am

I actually agree with the post. I’ve been into the idea of ‘tend your own garden’ for awhile. The metaphor of the starfish and all that. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I think it really is that simple.
I have huge respect for people who go beyond, who start big movements, who found charities, who go abroad to assist the starving, the impoverished and the fearful.
I just know that I’m not one of them. So I try to be a point of peace wherever I am. Some days, I really do think that’s enough.
.-= Jessica´s last blog ..Photo Friday, Episode 2: Iconic Images =-.

David February 1, 2010 at 9:24 pm

“Tend your own garden,” great way to put it Jessica. I think it really is that simple too.

Tim January 29, 2010 at 10:08 am

World peace does indeed seem like a big task. Room peace seems much more doable, and it’s not as overused and over hyped.

Room Peace for all!

David February 1, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Room peace to you too Tim!

Brenda (betaphi) January 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

What I’m wondering after reading this is what brought this topic to mind at a time when you are living in ostensibly one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on the planet.

The biblical injunction Erin referred to informs much of our thought about war, as does sparing the rod and an eye for an eye. Holding fast to those beliefs makes world peace harder to come by. My late great friend Martha would say about this, let’s don’t think about it, it’ll make us sad. She was the happiest person I ever knew. If personal peace is the only antidote to violence, that’s a fairly easy message to spread. You’re trying! :)
.-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..Funny Baby =-.

David February 1, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Hi Brenda. Well despite New Zealand’s squeaky-clean image, it is not completely peaceful either. There is a well-known (at least here) problem with alcohol and domestic violence. The term “world peace” tends to gloss over all scales of violence other than war.

I agree with you that holding on to beliefs keeps peace at bay. Self-examination is the only way to dislodge beliefs that hold us back. I don’t quite endorse not thinking about things that make you sad though.

Libby January 29, 2010 at 9:05 pm

You say “Peace must be more than just an absence of violence. It also must be an absence of ill will and angst.” Sorry, but my day-to-day angst about my friendships/relationships or my computer freezing does not cause suffering and famine and war. I think you’ve got the entire thing backwards. Humans will always be reactive, have “ill will” and a lack of complete “inner peace”, but that doesn’t mean our government systems and international community should not be forced to come to a form of organisational consensus and operational system that aims to stop war, genocide, etc. We can’t change human nature. THAT is a pipe dream. Creating an international system of accountability, responsibility and law is something that is possible, eventually, and should be done to put a restriction on the extent of the destruction by our flawed human nature. Besides, there is a point where an interruption or change in other cultures is necessary, where there is genocide and grave injustices, and that is not just a liberalist standpoint or some attempt to create an “us against them” atmosphere.

“The best thing you can do for humanity, for peace….is to do your daily meditation practice and find an end to your own suffering.” “Those who do practice self-examination understand that cultivating a peaceful, composed state of mind prevents more suffering than any number of international sanctions, weapons inspectors, war crimes tribunals or cease-fires.” I find these statements entirely laughable, but also incredibly self-centred, and more of a crime than being someone who DOES get worked up about the injustices of the world and uses that passionate reaction to actually try and get something done. New age BS in my opionion.

David February 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Hi Libby.

Humans will always be reactive, have “ill will” and a lack of complete “inner peace”, but that doesn’t mean our government systems and international community should not be forced to come to a form of organisational consensus and operational system that aims to stop war, genocide, etc.

Do you really believe that war and violence actually BEGIN with political systems? Politics is a function of human nature, not the other way around. It’s an end product, and the way we respond to our emotions is the beginning.

How do you “force” people to come to a consensus?

You can play all you want with governments and policy, but it is still the same scared and angry monkeys at the helm. And of course human nature can change. We are no longer homo erectus, for example. We have assumed a different disposition and a different nature since then. But it took a hell of a long time because biological evolution makes changes of that magnitude only very slowly.

We’re at a point now where we’ve recognized how to evolve mentally; we can transcend reactivity and ill will on a personal basis, and this is by far the fastest way to effect large-scale international stability. A person can change drastically in a few decades. It still might take five thousand years before enough individuals take it upon themselves to make a perceptible change in the amount of peace the world sees.

Politics won’t do a damn thing during that time because it’s all still about one faction attempting to dominate another. That mentality is precisely the reason we have war, and we will continue to have war until we graduate from that level of thinking.

Chris February 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Yes, I hear but perhaps the reason we have not been able to achieve it is because we are going at it the wrong way. The way to world peace is not by thinking of the big picture but understanding that the world is made up of millions and millions of personal relationships, and those are things that we can work to improve. The may to gain world peace is to be aware of the way you treat the people you come into contact with and make peace that way. Anyway, there is so much to say regarding this topic, but there are so thoughts.
.-= Chris´s last blog ..Discount Tire Stores =-.

David February 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Very well said Chris, I’m with you. World peace is an abstraction; it can’t really exist except as a function of millions of small actions and interactions. I think the way there is to work on the quality of those small actions.

Cooper February 3, 2010 at 1:55 pm

hi i’m writing an eight page paper on the impossibility world peace for school and i was searching the internet for hours looking for different opinions and ideologies to help me kind of get an idea of what other people think about it. and i have to say, your article was just what i was looking for.
thanks a bunch!

David February 4, 2010 at 3:25 am

Right on Cooper, I like helping people with their homework. Good luck on your paper. Have fun with it.
.-= David´s last blog ..The End of Negativity – Raptitude Experiment No. 5 =-.

Murali February 4, 2010 at 10:35 am

Well put. I am slowly coming to the realization that to help the world, I need to change myself first. In any case, are you sure you are not my twin, albeit a more eloquent one?

You might find this quote interesting:

“Until a radical change takes place and we wipe out all nationalities, all ideologies, all religious divisions, and establish a global relationship – psychologically first, inwardly before organizing the outer – we shall go on with wars.” – J. Krishnamurti

David February 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Hi Murali. I suppose it is possible both of us have a twin we don’t know about :)

Krishnamurti is brilliant.

Cassandra March 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I get where your coming from because man has always struggled with each other and there too many of us for world peace to happen. It just wont happens. Its part of nature.

David March 14, 2010 at 12:57 am

Yeah. And I don’t mean peace is not a noble goal, not at all. I just think we’re really getting ahead of ourselves and missing smaller, less idealistic opportunities for peace.

Janos November 15, 2010 at 8:30 am

You say, and i agree: “…we’re really getting ahead of ourselves and missing smaller, less idealistic opportunities for peace…”

The roots of world peace lie in practical issues: …the quality of social relations in a society is built on material foundations…

As long as “we, the people” continue to accept our status as wage earning latter-day slaves, we will continue to fight among ourselves and sanction our governments to fight other tribes who “threaten our way of life”.

What can we do? I do not know, but it is *not* “nothing”.

Darryl April 4, 2010 at 6:50 pm

To me, world peace is not so much a goal as a direction, like on a compass. The striving in that direction (whether or not total worldwide peace is achieved) changes countless lives affected by war and violence AND inescapably, one’s own inner programming. In a sense, what we do changes us just as the changes we make in ourselves affects what we do.

haley March 9, 2011 at 7:08 am

you are right. and if anyone shall disagree with me then they are a fool. simple. humans are just too diffrent.

David March 9, 2011 at 7:15 am

I wouldn’t go quite that far. There’s always room for different schools of thought. I don’t really think the problem is that we’re so different, but that we act so unconsciously. We’re usually unaware of why we do what we do and what effect it’s likely to have.

haley March 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

hmmmm… let me rephrase that. Humans all have diffrent perceptions on what is right and what is wrong, who is right and who is wrong.

haley March 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

and if we each cannot learn to accept eachother than you are exactly right.

Sylvia March 9, 2011 at 11:55 am

I’m with you folks, but I’ve been thinking about how all this came about. If the bible story of Babylon is true, then God changed the language and cultures of all people and sent them into the world. Fast forward to today and your article and comments, it seems as though mankind may have been set up to fail from that point forward – even to self destruct.

haley March 10, 2011 at 7:13 am

Thank You!!!

Andrey July 22, 2011 at 6:28 am

I have huge respect for people who go beyond, who start big movements, who found charities for world peace.

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Waseem December 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I agree with you David. I always wonder that almost every one that I know or I talk to or I listen to through media or read about; wants peace. I haven’t come across any one yet who wouldn’t want peace, apparently it seems that there is no one in this world who wants violence or wants to disrupt the peace of the world then why it seems impossible to attain peace!! You are right; it seems impossible because first of all, most people think that absence of violence is peace whereas, it is extremely important to understand the difference in internal and external violence. We usually think that killing of innocent citizens is the only violence that needs to be stopped; yes, it will definitely help to minimize the human suffering and it must be stopped anyway but that’s no guarantee of world peace. First of all, even to stop the killings of innocent people around the world; people involved in so called global peace process need to change their approach towards their own thoughts and behaviors; unless they make fundamental changes in their own personal lives, introduce themselves to basic human morals and values, develop sense of sacrificing and compromising and kill their superficial pride and ego; till then, I won’t see it happening either!!! But you are right, peace process has to start from within ourselves. we have to start doing what we can, instead of thinking and talking about what is beyond our control and even beyond our imagination because it is not possible for us to estimate the level of lust and greed involved in the global political and economic arenas. Well, I have to leave now; will talk to you later. Thanks

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