Why Is Peace Elusive?

Why Is Peace Elusive?

By Arun Gandhi

President: Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute

arun gandhiFor generations human beings around the world worked hard to attain peace but their efforts ended mostly in heart-breaking futility leading to pessimism and worse. There is a wide-spread belief now that peace is unattainable and that civilization is doomed to perish by violence. When peace appears to be won through violence it is very temporary because violence subjugates the opponent. When we seek to control someone through fear of punishment or violence or superior force that control remains only as long as the dominant force is able to exert fear. Since human beings realized in pre-historic times that they could survive in jungles only by using force they developed a whole “culture of violence” that gradually came to dominate every aspect of human life. Our language, our behavior, our relationships, our attitudes, in short almost everything about the human being is now conditioned by the “culture of violence.” Generations have now come to believe that violence is human nature and one just has to live with it. I hope by the time you finish reading this chapter you will be convinced that violence is not human nature.

The question that most people ask is why then is peace so illusive?   Are humans incapable of living in peace?  

If I can say that I have understood Gandhiji’s philosophy of Satyagraha, or nonviolence, then I would say the answer to that question lies in another question: What do we mean by Peace?  Can it be said that a nation lives in peace because they are not at war with anyone?  Yes, we have ended wars and attained a semblance of peace at various times in history.  Most people point to the peace after World War II but let us not forget that while WWII was touted as the war to end all wars the world, or parts of the world, have been involved, and still are, in more than 300 wars since. 

The problem is we have focused all our attention on “Physical Violence” and not enough on “Passive Violence” that all of us practice daily consciously and unconsciously.  Physical is fighting, killing, murders, beatings, rape and all the other acts of violence where physical force is used, while “passive” is the kinds of violent acts where no force is used and yet what we do or don’t do causes people to be hurt directly or indirectly.  These could be classified as discrimination, oppression, greed, wasting resources, poverty, insensitivity and so on.  Gandhiji would say it is “passive” violence that fuels the fire of “physical violence” so how can we put out the fire if we don’t first cut off the fuel supply?  Since we are all equally responsible in committing “passive” violence we have to acknowledge our weaknesses and bad behavior and then “become the change we wish to see in the world.”