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The quality of peacemaking is not forced

Peacemaking should not be left for emergencies. It should be a way of life, a way of being.

 

To leave peacemaking for emergencies means that it is not typical or normative. It goes along with the mistaken notion of peace as an absence; as the interval between two conflicts.

 

Notice how we give each other permission to be kind, helpful and talk to strangers at times of emergency and crisis. Then we go back to “normal”. What if the only real point of the crisis was to prompt people to be kind, helpful and talk to strangers?

 

What if breaking down barriers and expressing solidarity were normal dispositions rather than responses to emergency? What would the world look like?

 

Listen to the urgent undercurrent of news commentary. Why are we always running out of time to prevent tragedies?

“Quick, get the parties to agree on a ceasefire in Aleppo...

The secretary of state is flying in immediately for urgent talks...

There is going to be another humanitarian crisis in Mosul if something is not done immediately…

Tensions are mounting fast in the South China Sea, where an anxious brinkmanship is theatening...

Too late! Iran and North Korea may already have nuclear capability...

The asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru cannot last another day...

Stop the boats! Stop the Mexicans! Stop the Muslims!...

We cannot be vigilant enough against terrorism."

 

What do we notice? Rising anxiety, urgency, emergency, time running out. Where did all the time go?

 

Perhaps there was plenty of time between the emergencies that we were filling with extremely important works, like fuelling the next emergency. Forget the content of these conflicts for now, and merely consider the emotional wrapping. The last thing this anxious and urgent media bombardment would prescribe as medicine is to relax and meditate. It makes a mockery of gentle, little actions of peacemaking. Because these are worthless when that nasty group over there wants to blast you off the face of the earth, right? That must call for strong measures and strong rhetoric : “Get out of the way you weak peaceniks and let the muscle take over. Brute force is all they understand. There is no time to waste”. And this is how a climate of fear is produced.   

 

Peacemaking is not a rush, and is not made in a climate of fear and anxiety.

 

A climate of fear and anxiety results in mindless destruction. There are many clever salespeople who can sell this climate convincingly; and it usually comes in a package deal where rights are disregarded, and policing and militarisation get exaggerated and heavy-handed. The real risk is that the populace in whatever corner of the globe may be fearful enough to vote for it. Or they may be angry enough. Anger is just the active, expansive side of the emotion of which fear is the contractive state.

 

When we abandon reason, we automatically observe in the enemy the absence of reason.

 

We convince ourselves of the need for brute force when we decide we are dealing with “bloodthirsty monsters” or “reckless barbarians” or criminal elements leaking across an unsealed border. If they menace us in their subhumanity, we need never reflect on the reality of any ideas motivating them, let alone ideologies and religious ideals. Interfaith conflict and its resolution makes no sense until we reject the pervasive anti-intellectual malaise that insinuates, or downright says, that thinking is impotent; ideas are meaningless fluff; only money talks, and only stuff counts; and our hedonistic wallowing in it, like pigs in mud, is what our life is about.

 

When only stuff counts, we find that people are in a mighty hurry to keep the conflicts going.

 

Peace is in no hurry. It is unflaggingly patient. It waits until its conditions are fulfilled.

 

There are no short cuts. No quick fixes. No easy solutions, where a strong person or a strong gang can make it right for the rest of us. If peace does not come, it is because we have chosen something else. If it comes, it will be because we choose it to be the everyday norm - our constant and gentle companion in ordinary times.  

 

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