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Can We Achieve World Peace?

To know how to achieve world peace, we first have to define it. When we talk about peace, we’re envisioning more than just the absence of conflict. It’s about creating an environment where harmony reigns, where needs are met, and suffering is minimized. So world considers the interactions not only among people, but also between humanity and nature; while peace, in this context, entails establishing a situation where resources are fairly distributed among all living beings without harming the environment. As such, world peace is about ensuring that everyone has access to the essentials for a decent quality of life while minimizing suffering and negative environmental impacts.

Is such a state achievable? Can we sustainably feed the world’s population without destructively depleting our natural resources? Should we consider measures like limiting population growth or resource consumption? Moreover, we must grapple with the complexities of human diversity. Does peace look the same for everyone, or are there individual or cultural variations? And do all humans truly desire peace, or do some prefer a system that allows individuals to accumulate more resources than others, leading to conflict?

To address these questions and work towards global harmony, we need a multi-faceted approach that considers politics, education and society. Policies that prioritize environmental conservation, equitable resource distribution, and social justice, can pave the way for a peaceful world. By promoting understanding of environmental sustainability, empathy, and conflict resolution through education, we can cultivate a culture of peace from a young age. Finally, by fostering dialogue, collaboration, and mutual respect among diverse groups we can bridge divides and build solidarity within and between societies. Ultimately, achieving world peace requires a collective effort. It demands a global commitment to values of compassion, justice, and sustainability.

Karin Schann, Madrid

It is tempting to omit the ‘How’, and answer the remaining question: ‘Can we achieve world peace?’ – in which case the answer is: sadly, probably not, at least in the foreseeable future. However, it is a most desirable goal. And let the goal be framed in the broadest meaning of ‘Peace’ – namely that ‘the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and justice shall prevail throughout the world’.

Since the earliest hominids left the trees, there has been chimpanzee-style conflict between groups, over territory, food, sex. That probably motivated our spread out of Africa and eventually throughout the world. Throughout history there have continued to be conflicts over land, resources, religion, ideas. For some three centuries now the driver of human development has been capitalism, and the world has seen great, but very unequal, progress. But capitalism fosters competition, greed, exploitation, injustice – and hence more conflict. With a world population now over eight billion and the limited resources of one small planet, mankind must find ways to live in harmony, with justice for all. It may take an existential threat, like global warning, or another pandemic, or an impending asteroid strike, to galvanise all nations into positive, cooperative action. Response to climate change is the immediate imperative, and must be addressed through fairer sharing of the world’s resources and technological knowledge, and greater justice for all nations. Boosting the authority and financing of the United Nations is a first step, together with strenuous efforts to improve health and education worldwide, and the relieving or even elimination of poverty and food shortages. As John F. Kennedy so presciently said in his inaugural address: “This will not be finished in the first 100 days, or even in the first 1000 days, nor in the life of this administration… But let us begin!” The future of humanity demands that we wake up to our collective failings, and take concerted and continuous action to eliminate them.

David J. Morris, Oxford

It often seems that the history of humanity is one of war and conflict: that it is human nature to war against each other, and so war is unavoidable, and peace impossible. The ancient Chinese philosopher/military theorist Sun Tzu wrote that diplomacy must be favoured over war, but acknowledged that sometimes wars must be fought. Even saints such as Thomas Aquinas have written about when war is justified rather than simply condoning pacificism. Therefore, it might be good look at the reasons for warfare, and asking whether these could, to any degree, be remedied, creating an at least partial world peace.

The greatest causes of warfare are arguably, extreme nationalistic sentiments, causing parties to stake a claim to a specific region over which they desire greater sovereignty or social-political rights. This is the case even when these claims are expressed in other terms (‘a jihad’, or a ‘crusade’, against ‘unbelievers’, or ‘terrorists’, etc). So if we could assuage extreme nationalist sentiments, we may go a long way towards securing world peace.

To achieve this, we might be well-advised to create a greater culture of diplomacy between nations: seeing war as a symptom of failure, and something relied on only as a last resort (if our own nation is invaded or attacked). Even if this is difficult, costly and time-consuming, it must be preferred over war. We may also encourage greater respect for other nations and cultures, by supporting international treaties and legislation defending their rights; and create greater social, political and economic cooperation between nation-states. All this may prevent the growth of animosity between nations. Arguably, the existence of the European Union has averted the European-led warfare that marred the last century, bringing lasting peace to its previously antagonistic member-states. We may even appeal to our common humanity above all cultural and nationalistic concerns: after all, every human alive has a common ancestor, perhaps as little as eighty thousand years ago. Therefore, if we are both more considerate of other peoples’ rights to self-determination, whilst being simultaneously more aware of our common humanity, we should be going in the right direction towards – and, perhaps, eventually achieving – world peace.

Jonathan Tipton, Penwortham, Lancashire

When the UN Charter was adopted in June 1945, following two catastrophic world wars, it set as one of its objectives to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Since then, the United Nations, the world’s foremost institution of global governance, has dedicated billions of dollars towards peacekeeping and peacemaking initiatives. Yet although these interventions have had some positive outcomes, they have fallen short of delivering global peace. Even now the world is experiencing several active wars, in regions such as Ukraine, Sudan, Gaza, and so on.

The 193 UN Member States are currently engaged in intensive intergovernmental negotiations on the Pact For The Future. One of the key Chapters of these discussions is on The New Agenda for Peace. One of the major stumbling blocks that will inhibit general consensus, will be the narrow national interests of Member States, and geopolitical rivalries amongst the big powers, particularly the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. The foremost dilemma confronting a global order of the sort envisaged in the founding provisions of the UN Charter has been how to balance the interests of nation-states as nation-states against those of nation-states as members of the ‘international community’. And to truly do justice to the notion of international community, member states need to achieve harmony with each other. For that to happen, member states need to exercise solidarity with each other, rather than being driven by realpolitik of the sort championed by the likes of Henry Kissinger.

Karl Marx made the bold claim that “the philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Philosophy has an important role to play in the pursuit of global peace, as the world needs re-interpretation. The global peace architecture such as the Security Council still resembles the post World War II order, close to eight decades after the formation of the United Nations.

Masotsha Mnguni, New York

If peace means not only the absence of war, but also harmonious social conditions, the means to achieve and maintain it will be as dynamic as the world’s diverse political, social, and cultural ecologies. Top-down abstract approaches to peace – like those envisioned optimistically in Dante’s On World Government or pessimistically in the fictional totalitarian states of Huxley’s Brave New World or Zamyatin’s We – are not about people. They are about ideas of people. It is not surprising that these abstract theories do not account for the variance of human experience. In treating people as an undifferentiated mass, universal theories of peace fail to recognize humans as individuals, and not just political creatures. Perhaps that is why, against the powerful urges at the transnational level to nullify, or at least ‘bracket’ (to borrow a phrase from Carl Schmitt’s Nomos of the Earth) conflict, top-down approaches to peace have lacked the widespread success once anticipated.

Real peace, not abstract notions of peace, occurs bottom-up. It appears not as a legal duty but as a societal norm. Peace is not legislated; it is constructed. Universal peaceful traits, such as humility, restraint, and forgiveness, become meaningful only when understood in terms of individual lives. So to effect change, peaceful values must be advocated for within a particular context, and account for the sentiments, passions, and experience of individuals.

How best to promote peaceful values, then? Perhaps the best place to begin is through education. As Hannah Arendt said in The Crisis in Education (1958): “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it”, and how we prepare our children “for the task of renewing a common world.” It seems that if ‘we’ are seeking a common world where we can live harmoniously with each other, the first step is teaching that peace is a virtue that’s honored by our society, and infused in our cultural understandings of what it means to be ‘us’.

Chris Swartz, North Potomac, Maryland

There are many aspects to this question, not least according to whether one is an optimist or a pessimist. It’s well known that people underestimate the duration and cost of a project even when it’s their profession, because people are generally optimists by default. Only pessimists are realistic. I’m in the latter category.

There are a number of factors that mitigate against world peace – the primary one being that humans are inherently tribal and quick to form ingroup-outgroup partitions, as exemplified by politics the world over. In this situation, rational thought and reasoned argument take a back seat to confirmation bias and emotive rhetoric. Add to this dynamic the oft-repeated phenomena that we follow charismatic, cult-propagating leaders, and you have a recipe for destruction on a national scale. This is the biggest obstacle to world peace. These leaders thrive on and cultivate division with a demonisation of the ‘other’. The focus for all of society’s ills becomes an outgroup identified by nationality, race, skin-colour, culture or religion, etc.

Wealth, or the lack of it, is a factor too. Inequality provides a motive and a rationale for conflict. It often goes hand-in-hand with oppression, but even when it doesn’t, the anger and resentment can be politicised by populist leaders whose agenda is more focused on their own sense of deluded historical significance than actually helping the people they supposedly serve. As you have leaders who refuse to compromise, you’ll never find peace. Only moderates on both sides can broker peace.

So, while I’m a pessimist (or realist), I do see a ‘how’. If we only elect leaders who seek and find consensus, and remove leaders who sow division, there is a chance. The best leaders are the ones who bring out the best in others and are not just feeding their own egos. But this is easier said than done, as we are witnessing right now. For as long as we elect leaders who are narcissistic and cultish, we will continue to sow the seeds of destruction.

Paul P. Mealing, Melbourne

World peace could be considered at the global, country or individual level.

Addressing the global level first, countries are often incapable of acting in a responsible global-centric away if left to their own devices. But the United Nations currently has the same degree of utility as a chocolate teapot. Key changes would be to remove powers of veto, enable it to make proper enforceable decisions, and give it the wherewithal to actually enforce those decisions. This requires giving the UN a standing army and the powers to force countries into mediation. There would also need to be some beefing up of the powers of the International Criminal Court which UN members should not be allowed to resign from. Finally, there would need to be proper agreement on things which are not currently ‘owned’, such as the oceans, the Arctic/Antarctic, air space and other planets.

At a national level, much harm has resulted from the election of narcissistic sociopathic megalomaniacs intent only on consolidating their positions. Elections are often a sham. It should be possible to draft robust constitutional guidelines enforceable by the UN which countries would need to adhere to. Also, the effect of religion on the quality of countries’ governance and legislation is highly debateable, and it is likely to be beneficial for religious principles to be made subservient to the laws of the country. Borders create a natural tension with other countries. In the long term it would be beneficial if countries were more of an administrative unit than a fortress. But this would require major policies of wealth and resource redistribution in order to avoid mass immigration from developing countries.

At the individual level, the human race has become the predominant life form because of our capacity for learning, planning, and developing. Unfortunately, with this has come acquisitiveness and competition. It seems likely that with the greater influence of technology there will need to be some alterations in the concepts of work, progress, and wealth acquisition. If individuals can focus more on cooperation, personal development and contentment, this is likely to feed into their nation’s foreign policy. Education and encouragement of social-responsibility will also have a part to play.

Julian Stafford, Cambridge

But can we? After WWI, and to a lesser extent WWII, there was the cry of ‘never again’ – but we did it again. Our species carried on doing what it has done since history was recorded, and has continued to find reasons to destroy and to kill.

However, there has been a change. Since the first atomic bombs in the 1940s there has been continuous research and development by very clever people in nuclear weaponry and other weapon systems. We know this not mainly from seeing the results, but by being aware of the expertise, secrecy and funding put into them under the heading of ‘defence’. Our principal defence against using these modern weapons has been our belief that by using them our species would risk extinction. We have proxy wars instead, restricted to old-fashioned ‘conventional’ weapons so the casualties are regarded as acceptable, provided escalation to nuclear weapons is avoided by the sponsoring powers. We hope this will last; that there will be no nuclear exchange and so no extinction. But we are human beings, and given our motivations why would we expect this to continue? There does appear to be an instinct within our species to fight, and it appears to be sufficiently strong under the ‘right’ circumstances to outweigh all other considerations. Our time may be relatively short.

There are alternatives. These would need humanity to reject fighting and change in ways not experienced before. Amongst other things there would need to be changes in people’s attitudes to national leaders, to each other, wherever they live on our planet, and to our own individual sense of worth and worthiness.

It’s difficult to be optimistic.

Steve Hubbard, Beccles, Suffolk

From peace platitudes to the most powerful anti-war advisories and caveats, to the utmost in heart-rending songs, through the TED talks, to the centuries of sermons, poetry and music, to the lengthy and profound peace advocacy in books such as The Iliad and War and Peace to Fromkin’s A Peace To End All Peace, to UN publications warning about the catastrophe of nuclear weapons… None of these philosophical commentaries, songs, poems, histories, or political science investigations have, for the last five thousand years or so, brought us a general and lasting peace. And we are now, incredibly, possibly at the start of another world war.

It’s not that these great and wise counsels aren’t insightful and valid; it is that they’re all preaching a sermon to a species wired to be essentially aggressive and avaricious. It is true that humans can behave in a prosocial (peaceful) manner. But when our frequent violent and gluttonous behaviors emerge, worldwide disasters such as war and greedy exploitation endlessly result.

So, what can save us from our profoundly stupid and socially immature actions? Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society (1969) is a brilliant neuroscience study and program by Jose M.R. Delgado and his Yale colleagues that advocates for, and demonstrates, the use of Deep Brain Stimulation (brain manipulation) for human prosocial (peaceful) behavior.

“Frankenstein!” you say. Yet brain interventions are currently effectively being used therapeutically in brain and mind disorders from epilepsy to Parkinson’s to depression. But what’s this got to do with our general ‘healthy’ human behavior?

Effective prosocial scientific correction may be still some years away. But a prosocial, psychocivilized, society is a realistic hope! The most urgent scientific challenge is understanding human behavior. End the futile preaching. Support a true cure – a scientific correction for our heretofore terrible human nature.

Tom Baranski, Somerset, New Jersey

In early Greek thought, peace, a state of affairs caused by what Martha Nussbaum calls ‘fostering natural and social circumstances’, was considered a prerequisite for a flourishing life.To truly live well required favourable circumstances such as prosperity and good fortune, as well as a prevailing peace that ensured safe sanctuary and fertile ground for the provision of our needs.

What then is ‘peace’? A helpful starting point might be with the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, who argued that peace is a set of social arrangements where violence is absent. In his essay Violence, Peace and Peace Research (1969), Galtung further argues that peace is not simply the absence of overt physical aggression but also requires the removal of deeper structural violence that pervades institutions and wider society. This broader definition of peace sees peace-building as the creation of institutions and structures that sustain peaceful societies.

The pursuit of any utopia or positive goal-oriented endeavour, however, always runs the risk of perpetuating the very violence it purports to reject, since such projects contain assumptions which have the potential to generate forms of oppression. In Beyond Peace Education: Toward Co-Poiesis and Enduring Improvisation (2010), Ilan Gur-Ze’ev argues that “‘peace’ in a less than perfect world is a terrible condition” and that there may be circumstances under which it may justly be challenged or even violently resisted. Such views are also echoed by the likes of Herbert Marcuse in One-Dimensional Man (1964), his critique of the neo-capitalist order, with its “comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom.”

So despite its rhetorical appeal, world peace in a less than perfect world is neither attainable nor, arguably, desirable. All utopias are, in essence, manifestations of power where individuals vie for hegemony so as to impose their particular vision of the good. The flourishing life, therefore, is not to be found in any universal ideal, but instead, in what Gur-Ze’ev labels a ‘negative utopia’: a society characterised by a rejection of ultimate ideals, ideologies, and dogma, in favour of a state of ‘eternal diaspora’ and a ‘homelessness’ that rejects an actual ‘promised land’.

Daniel Janke, Bristol

My thoughts:

On a large scale, world peace is probably impossible, but I agree with Daniel Janke that that may not be the worst thing. Even the people that you consider yourself at peace with, whether that be a friend or a family member, you still have disagreements with. There is no one person that you can have a completely peaceful relationship with. It’s frankly weird if that ever manages to be possible. Relationships break up because the people in the relationship believe that they don’t argue enough. This seems counterintuitive, but its a fact that total peace is not inherent to human nature. How can we achieve peace when peace is not what we started with. It’s like trying to perfect a bike but you were never given the wheels. Society was fundamentally discordant from the beginning of time, and achieving world peace may be nothing more than a dream that people don’t realize may be more harmful than helpful. I agree with Daniel Janke that peace in our society would probably include a greater power that would have to regulate anything and everything without room for error, without room for ruptures in the “peace”. Tension is not peace. Mental restlessness is also not peace. Humans could never like something if they did not dislike something first. I guess what I am trying to say is that deviating from natural human tendencies in favor or strict regulation in order to achieve perfect peace is probably a bad idea, and, like Daniel said, may impose greater risk to freedoms and peace than we think. The best we can do is try to make non-violent conflict more prominent, and change our discord to forms not that of war or any other harmful form. So maybe peace is not a world without discord, maybe peace is better understood as a world without harmful discord. A world in which disagreements occur in harmony, and where peoples’ values rest on preserving peace, not preventing discord.

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