Peace is an almost universally held value, yet seemingly as elusive as happiness. Few would explicitly claim to not want to see peace in the wider community. However, human actions very often contradict explicitly professed values.
Firstly, what exactly is peace anyway? What must be in place in order to achieve it? What are the foundations that peace must rest upon?
Einstein argued that problems cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them. It serves us to question our own thinking (or lack of it) as well as our deeply held beliefs in pursuance of this elusive goal. Could it be that developing our thinking is the way out of the maze?
Lets start by defining terms. Wikipedia says this “Peace is a certain quality of existence which has been sought after, yet seldom found in a long enduring form, since time immemorial. In a behavioral sense, peace is generally understood to be a lack of conflict and freedom from fear and violence.”
Below is a summary of what the Oxford, Mirriam Websters and online Dictionaries have to say about the meanings of the word ‘peace’.
- Tranquility, Non-disturbance. An absence of intrusive noise or some other interference. A state of calm.
- Freedom from distressing thoughts or emotions; feeling at peace, unworried or unconcerned.
- Harmony in personal relationships – peace within a family, rivals at peace.
- Agreement between governments, cessation of hostilities, and an absence of war.
- An absence of violent social disruption – keeping the peace, no looting angry mobs, agreement to uphold the rule of law.
The Foundation Stone of Peace
But the mainstream definition is incomplete. Surely a definition of peace must also include ‘the absence of force and coercion’.
It is forceful intrusion that disturbs and disrupts calm. It is force and violent coercion that are the tools of war. It is force and coercion that subjects people to cruelty or controlling and exploitative relationships. It is force and coercion that breach the peace, incarcerate, kill, maim or rape.
Also, peace is much more than just the absence of war, violence and force. Peace is a state of mind. Specifically, one that would not even consider the use of force. Peace is a maturity of consciousness that has learned that coercion is not in one’s rational self-interest and benefits no one in the long term.
The non-aggression principle lies at the very heart of the concept of peace. To open the door of possibility for peace, aggression and force must be absent. We all know that we don’t want to be coerced, forced to do things against our will, or aggressed against. All we need to do is logically extend this insight into a guiding principle of moral behaviour. And to bear in mind that principles are universal – meaning they apply equally to all people, everywhere, always. When we replace force and coercion with persuasion and negotiation we lay the foundations for the way of peace. And this requires us to think, and to think outside the box – outside the Matrix.
Peace is frail and can be destroyed. Whether the peace of one man or that of a nation. It takes a long time to grow and nurture into being and yet can be destroyed in a moment.
The freedom to be left alone unmolested is essential for the experience of peace. If we are to build a peaceful society The non-aggression principle is the foundation stone. A Peaceful society can only result from voluntary human interactions based upon a respect for individual rights. And thus a peaceful society can only exist hand in hand with a free society.
Meanwhile, in the Matrix
Here in UK, the widely accepted mainstream form of parenting is authoritarian – to varying degrees. It is a model where the parent dictates what happens and children comply. Bedtimes are imposed, eating schedules and habits are imposed, almost everything is effectively imposed upon children.
When teaching/modelling behaviour it is often forgotten that the method is the message. And the method of forced compliance and subordination to authority goes largely unquestioned.
Most parents send their children off to school each morning without consideration of the moral implications of compulsory attendance schooling – that is, coercive subjugation to authority. Once at school children are immersed in a system that is based upon force and coercion, albeit very subtle. Beyond a few cosmetic choices the child’s schedule and activities are imposed. Voluntarism is not the order of the day, attendance and homework are compulsory. You are punished if you don’t do as you’re told. This is the institutionalisation of the use force and coercion. Again, the method is the message and children are systematically taught by implication and by direct experience that ‘might is right’ and that it is both acceptable and effective to use force to achieve compliance.
Another fundamental supporting pillar of the mainstream belief system is that the coercive nature of government is a necessity beyond question. Yet if we consider it immoral to use force face to face with each other as a principle of behaviour, why do we allow this principle to be reversed for the actions of institutions and governments? How can be it be morally consistent and ok for any institution to coerce any man or woman? The answer, of course, is that it can’t be and it isn’t. Force is immoral whoever or what ever institution uses it.
Few people question the morality of the way government is paid for by taxation. Yet when we genuinely examine this concept, when we truly want to understand its true nature, we can see that it is theft! Obtaining consent by threat of fines or jail time does not alter the immorality of taking money by force. In the Matrix people simply dismiss this as an unfortunate necessity and promptly avoid thinking about it anymore.
This is the Matrix – the unquestioning acceptance of ideas as given, as not to be questioned. It is not surprising therefore, that young people grow up learning that force gets things done and that coercive means justify allegedly desirable ends. Presto, we raise human beings who speak the language of coercion. If we add to this the frustration and disenfranchisement that these young people experience, if we consider that they have little to no hope of achieving the rational goals of home ownership and reasonable wealth accumulation, it’s unsurprising that aggression and violence erupt in one form or another among people so raised.
Now lets take the red pill and step outside the Matrix for just a moment. Remember, don’t get lost down any rabbit holes, aim for a 30,000 foot overview – look to see the bigger picture.
Outside the Matrix – the seeds of a peaceful world
Some may simply call it being open minded, but however you look at it we have to address our core assumptions about what is acceptable, what is moral, and what is likely to result in peace. By doing this mental work and choosing to put the non-aggression principle at the heart of everything we do, we can begin to see the glimmer of a peaceful world outside the Matrix of conditioned acceptance.
You don’t have to be particularly intelligent to think your way out of the box. The main qualification is a strong desire to know the truth. In order to leap from a soft and comfortable world of ignorance into the uncertain and challenging (yet rewarding) world of searching for truth, a self-initiated kick start is required. Deciding that one wants to know can only come from within. It is vital to appreciate that switching ourselves on cognitively is the source of all our power. Human consciousness is volitional. The essential prerequisite for a successful life is to decide to get into the driver’s seat of our mind – because the mind is the manager of our life.
The case for peaceful parenting and the reasons to avoid coercion in the raising of children is straight forward and almost self-evident if we stop to consider the arguments from a non-defensive place. Perhaps discussing how to raise children it isn’t everyone’s niche, yet for peace to prevail men and women must cease to speak the language of coercion and force that they learned in their childhood. We cannot consistently claim to want peace yet also not be interested in this issue! Parenting must change. Smacking children must end. Authoritarian parenting must give way to reasoning with negotiation, persuasion and demonstration. A slightly more challenging path perhaps, but clearly the road to peace.
The moral case against coercive schooling is similarly persuasive, as well as the case for more effective learning through voluntary engagement of interest, harnessing curiosity and a contextual desire for knowledge. Institutions of learning do have their place but the basic self-education required by everyone is easily attainable without the need for compulsory attendance schooling.
If we think in principles, the insights of non-aggression and peaceful voluntary interactionsare more easily extended into all walks of life. Being willing to question our most fundamental assumptions about life is what breaking out of the Matrix is about. This is because our behaviour reflected in the practices we support and the institutions we support contradict our insights of morality born of personal experience.
There are more assumptions that nestle around the concept of peace that are equally false yet often given unwarranted creedence within the mainstream belief system. In pursuit of peace some people believe we should never get cross, or loudly express frustration and dissatisfaction when appropriate. But anger is a useful motivator towards change and it must not be repressed or denied.I will get angry when I see abuse, torture or enslavement.
Similarly, the pursuit and advocacy of peace does not imply that we should all be pacifists. Aggressors must be dealt with and the use of self-defense is vital to preserve peace in communities. It is misguided to relinquish any use of violence in all circumstances. Ayn Rand said that “All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.” I will fight to defend the weak who are being aggressed against, in the greater context of making peace.
Peace requires thinking and questioning deep rooted assumptions
Many cultures agree that peace is born out of enlightenment or ‘higher’ consciousness. Many feel that if we become more conscious the world will be necessarily be more peaceful. But they do not ask ‘what does it mean to become more conscious?’ and ‘how do we achieve it?’ What action leads to increased awareness, greater knowledge and increased wisdom? The answer is, by a process of thinking. The first cause is wanting to know – taking the red pill.
Our uniquely human form of conscious is characterised by a conceptual awareness. This is what distinguishes us from the animals and the apes – our faculty of reason and our ability to conceptualise. But what does this mean? This means the ability to see patterns in reality and to group things with similar attributes and common characteristics into concepts. Instead of describing every four legged animal with fur that barks and has sharp teeth, we can lump all of those things into the concept, dog. We use concepts all the time, they are not some stuffy intellectual irrelevance. We begin to zoom out to that 30,000 ft view when we begin to see patterns within concepts, and patterns within the patterns etc. This is how we increase awareness. This is the only way to understand more and gain more knowledge. This is the only way to enlightenment, or to higher consciousness.
Increasing our conceptual awareness requires proactive thinking, self-initiated mental activity of asking questions and wanting to know the answers. This is the way to enlightenment and to peace.
The Matrix discourages thinking and at the same time encourages feeling. yet feelings are not tools of cognition and they give us no accurate information about reality. As men give up on thinking they rely more and more on their feelings and a spiral of descent is established in the opposite direction of enlightenment. The end game is a battle for supremacy among irrational whims. And this necessitate the use of force.
The only way out of the Matrix is by a process of rational thought – simple but not easy.
Reason is the road to peace
We desperately need a whole new culture – one in which we can thrive in peace. This new culture must be rooted in reason. Everything else springs from this rather wide concept. It is rational for us to educate ourselves and want to know, it is rational to look after the environment, it is rational to know how to be healthy, it is rational to not pollute, it is rational to not coerce fellow men, it is rational to respect individual rights, it is rational to think and to identify reality accurately, it is rational to live peacefully.
It is often said that we need to ‘reconnect with nature’ in order to find peace. This is true. Awareness of our place in nature is a logical part of rational living and shouldn’t really need to be listed as a specific primary requirement because it flows from the broader concept of being rational.
I hope you are inspired by this post and I wish you a more enlightened and peaceful 2018 as together we seek to educate ourselves to improve our own lives, the lives of those we love, and build a peaceful world.
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