War has probably been around since apes became humans, perhaps even longer, but since I don’t think apes think of it as war, let’s stick to humans.
Something that has been around as long as we have been around, can rightly be described as ‘part of our culture’.
So to begin with, war is part of our culture! It’s something that defines us. It says something about who we are. This can never be ‘ended,’ can never be taken away. Already I feel justified of my headline, but this is not why I claim that peace is not possible.
Now, there are several kinds of war, but let’s distinguish at least two: War for the sake of identity and establishing boundaries for this identity (stone age/tribal wars, me vs. you, we vs. them), and the more modern one; war in order to obliterate someone/something (Christian vs. Muslims, Muslims vs. Jews, Stalin vs. people of the Soviet Union, Hutus vs. Tutsis, most societies in the world vs. drugs/terrorism/extremism, etc).
The reason I am able to distinguish these two kinds of wars, is that we have words for them in our language (by language I mean language as a phenomenon, not language as English, Norwegian, Swedish, Swahili etc).
In order for someone else to be able to understand what you talk about, your words need to create images in your listeners’ minds.
With war, this is an easy task: soldier, bomb, grenade, tanks, uniform are all words that immediately creates images of war.
There are also lots of symbols in cities around the world that speaks clearly of war: warlords mounted on some animal with a raised weapon are memorials to celebrate and commemorate (heroic) acts of war.
And herein lies the problem: Language does not contain distinctions for peace. We do not have words that create images of peace in other people’s minds when we articulate them. We do not have symbols that speak peace, as ‘tanks’ and ‘grenade’ speak war. And no, a white dove is not a symbol of peace: for some it symbolizes freedom, for others it symbolizes spreading of disease. A white flag is a flag, only white. And a gun tied up in a knot is not peace: it’s a tied-up gun!
So what is peace then? Harmony? Stillness? People just going about doing their business? Joyous gatherings of people, all laughing and clapping their hands in ecstasy? I certainly cannot distinguish peace with words: I can look at a picture and tell immediately if a war is going on, but I cannot do the same for peace.
How can we have a vision of something we cannot see? Visions need to be concrete and tangible if it is to inspire others into action.
Instead, we negate. We express what we don’t want: Peace becomes ‘no military’, ‘no bombs’, ‘no suffering’, ‘no killing of innocents’ and so on. But as long as we say ‘no guns’, we do also say ‘guns’, and thereby actually manifest again what we don’t want. Which is why the peace movements of the world haven’t succeeded so far.
Is a world without guns a world in peace? Could be, probably not though. Is a world without weapons at all a world in peace? Same answer, this takes us nowhere, we need distinctions of peace, not negations of war.
There is nothing wrong with striving, however, and it seems that’s all we can achieve with the language we have; a continuous, never-ending, evolutionary strive for a world that can be described as…, as…, (see how hard it is?) ok, peaceful.
Do you have words that create images of peace in the other people’s minds, when you speak? How does a world in peace appear to you, what does it look like, how would you describe it?
If you can express this positively (not negating), please use the comment field and share!