IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Traces of past violence

I was preparing a bit for the next Peace Prayers meeting, which will focus on the the Culture of Peace.  In poking around the Net, I came across a document (in French) which included some very interesting observations about how the past sort of hangs around to influence our current thinking about war, peace and violence.  Actually this is pretty obvious:  in our cities and towns how many statues and streets are named after people (men in most cases) who were military figures, and who (perhaps for good reason, mind you) became famous for war and in some cases massacres.  Monuments were not built exclusively in response to military victory, but many do commemorate large scale acts of violent conquest.

OK, but one can say “well, that was then…that was how those people thought and felt in those days”.  Fair enough.  But it seems to me if so many public works reflect historical violence (and worse, perhaps, victorious violence) it would hardly be surprising if they contributed to the persistence of a certain power-oriented way of thinking about international affairs.  Put simply:  “We are great today because we have produced great political and military leaders who we remember for conquering and exploiting other peoples”.

Furthermore, today many people(s) are asking questions about identity, national and otherwise.  Most quests for identity start by considering one’s past; and here again, for many societies that leads you straight to such observations as “we are who we are because we conquered ‘them'”, or “we are who we are because we established an empire and imposed our language and culture on millions”, etc…

If you are not convinced about this, I invite you to consider the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (see below),  commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to commemorate his victories.  It is a throwback to the victory arches the Romans built from time to time.  If you know France and French people at all, you know that this monument is very important to them, and is a major symbol of the “grandeur” of France which they hold dear.  Also, this huge monument is not going anywhere.

What to do?  Well it seems to me we need to build more monuments to non military achievements.   If our culture is evolving more towards peace (I said “if”) we should see more scientists, artists and humanists literally and figuratively put on a pedestal.

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June 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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