IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Reflections on violence, peace and faith

Since much of the world thinks of this period (ie the New Year) as a time for reflection and assessment, I thought I would continue in that vein as well.  Here are a few things on my mind.

1.  Acts have consequences.  This should be obvious, but I wonder if in the heat of the moment it is not often forgotten.  In the context of conflict and tension, the impact and ramifications of one’s acts are magnified.    So, it would be wise to think out what one is doing carefully.  However, when strong emotions are involved, this is not often the case.

2.  The problem with revenge.   First, let me state that in a (reasonably) well structured social order, criminal acts should be punished (how, to what degree, etc… remain complicated questions).  However, outside of this context, revenge is problematic.  I always try to keep the following “calculation” in mind.  Assume there is an act of violence.  That’s one.  In response, we carry out another act of violence (in the spirit of revenge, etc…).  That’s two.  Assume the other side does not see what we did as justified and they react violently to it.  That’s three.  I think you see where this is going.   Refer back to point one above:  we have seen so many examples of this dynamic, noone can claim ignorance of where it leads.  And yet, it happens again and again; to the extent that a violent conflict acquires over time its own momentum (whatever the original stakes were). Which leads me to my third point.

3.  Don’t even bother to talk about peace until you stop the violence and commit to listening to the other side.  You might be able to “manage conflict”; but you can hardly go beyond that (assuming you want to).  This is fundamental.  If your goal is peace, then you have to be ready to take certain steps, and you have to be committed for the long run (if anybody knows any shortcuts, please let me know).  Conflict management, while worthwhile, does not imply the same degree or type of commitment.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, what are called “peace processes” are too often more about conflict management than peace.

4.  We should not let ourselves become resigned to violence, and or let it be banalized.   I appreciate that this happens as a kind of psychological defense.  Otherwise, how could one live knowing that genocide is happening somewhere.  Still, if things are ever going to change, somehow we must not lose sight of the scope and intensity of what is occurring around us and the conviction that this is not “normal” in any sense.  The latter probably requires faith that something better can and will emerge from the turbulence of the present.

…or to quote John Prine:

“Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go”

(Angel from Montgomery)

IGbarb says:  “Keep the faith!”

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January 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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