So often when I talk to people about war or peace I hear the same lines that seem to be ingrained into people’s minds. One outlook usually goes something like this:
“Ya, well, it’s human nature to war. We will never have peace.”
There are variations on this, but it is usually themed around the thought that there is something inherently violent within humans that makes us incapable of living a peaceful existence with each other.
Now I don’t think that some ultimate Utopian paradise is going to just magically appear if humans strive for a more peaceful existence, but I do think that there is a more peaceful slope we could be lying on. A slope where massive violent conflict no longer exists and where societies are more equitable, at least enough so that we are all given our basic human needs. I do not think that most humans are inherently violent; and I definitely like to think that most are good at heart but are sometimes lured into doing wrong because it was the easiest or most beneficial choice to them. I think we have been conditioned into violence and violent behaviour through thousands of years of fear, warring and violence in our cultures. Cultures can and do change over time, so this gives me some hope that perhaps we are not inherently violent.
Will there always be conflict?
Of course! As long as each human being is different, there will always be conflict. The thing is, it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Conflict certainly doesn’t have to be violent either. Conflict is about a difference of opinion. A difference of value. Sometimes it manifests violently. Sometimes, conflict brings about magnificent things. It is certainly necessary for us to learn and grow as a human being. It is the way we handle and look at conflict that is of most importance.
If we disagree with someone on an issue, we can handle it in several ways.
We can discuss it with respect, and listen to why the other feels differently about the subject. We can try to come to an understanding that we can both agree on.
We can state our own opinion and walk away without listening to the other side at all, knowing (or at least thinking) we are right.
We can shout it out full of cursing and insults and maybe come to an agreement or maybe not.
We can punch that person in the face and start a fight immediately.
We can go home and plan some hideous revenge on the other person and their family and friends and any else associated with them or that opinion for disagreeing with us.
And a whole host of other options within that spectrum. Some seem absurdly excessive and unnecessary, yet we sometimes choose to act this way. Why?
It may be easy enough to handle conflict for more minor disagreements, but what if someone violated your rights in grossly vicious ways?
There are always options to violence, even though they may not be the most attractive of option. How we handle conflict is usually based on how we’ve experienced conflict around us throughout our lives. If we have been taught through our culture and our teachings that violence solves problems; then violence becomes an attractive option for conflict resolution. If we’ve been taught mediation techniques in schools and at home on how to handle conflict in our lives, if we’ve learned to handle our emotions; if we’ve learned through our culture that life rewards non-violence– non-violence becomes an attractive option.
One of the biggest lessons society teaches us is taught in the way it treats us. If we are living in a society that respects us, respects our beliefs and our values; we are more likely to respect society. If we are living in a society where violence predominates, we are more likely to be violent.
The direct violence must stop and be contained. The structural violence must be diminished and full accountability and transparency must exist within the governments. And the cultural violence must be shunned and slowed until it no longer exists.
There is a way to a more peaceful slope and it starts with you. You have the power to make peaceful choices in your life. Choose to handle your emotions in productive and peaceful ways. Choose to live your life handling conflict positively. Choose to spread peace and love instead of hate. Choose to speak out against war and abuse. Choose to be at peace.