An excerpt from ‘Peacefulness: Being Peace and Making Peace’. In chapter eight of the book Steve Killelea looks at ‘Positive Peace, systems thinking and the problems of our age’. You can purchase the book on Amazon.
Peace is transformational. If We consider the people who have most inspired humanity throughout the ages – the great figures like the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ – they had messages of peace that shook their ages and have remained with us ever since. In more recent times, the worldwide admiration felt for Nelson Mandela was in large part due to his prosecution of peace and forgiveness in post-apartheid South Africa. The great peacemakers attract attention because they change our world, while inspiring us to become more civilised and better human beings. And yet the way in which peace transforms is often imperceptible. What we tend to notice instead is its opposite, violence, and peace is typically understood in negative terms, as the absence of violence, or the fear of violence. Peace may be one of the most important elements for human flourishing, but the catch is that we are often not especially conscious of its existence, only its absence.
Looking at the dominant challenges facing humanity today, such as climate change, decreasing biodiversity, over-population and the availability of fresh water on the planet, just to name a few, it quickly becomes evident that, unless we create a world that is fundamentally peaceful, we will never achieve the levels of trust, cooperation and inclusiveness necessary to solve our problems. Therefore, peace has become a prerequisite for the survival of society as we know it in the twenty-first century, and this is different from any other epoch in human history. In the past, peace may have been the domain of the altruistic, but, in the twenty-first century, it’s in everyone’s self-interest.
There is an urgent need for peace, not least because, peace is especially pronounced in state-to-state relations. The development of advanced weaponry, especially nuclear bombs that can destroy the planet many times over, has highlighted the urgency of the need to maintain peaceful relations between nations. Likewise, the advancement in small arms and explosives means that even small forces can wreak havoc.
This new age is one in which, by necessity, humanity must now shape, sculpt and manage its environment. We must be the architect of biodiversity and the natural systems upon which we depend. If humanity is to survive and flourish, we need to find a way to live with Nature, rather than exploit Nature. As systems theory shows us, change is non-linear and, unless we continue to seek ways to live in harmony with Nature, our ever- compounding the problem will bring us to a tipping point. The tipping point, once passed, will be a profoundly disturbing epoch and one that we will not be able to backtrack from. Needless to say, a positive change of global proportions must be set in place.