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The Definition And Understanding Of Peace In Terms Of Respecting Others

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When many are asked what they desire for humanity above all else, a very common place seems to be “world peace”. This comes as no surprise, as people seem to naturally see the importance in the presence of peace manifested in reality. However, very few can accurately define what peace means to them. In Ronald Reagan’s opinion, he says that “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict through peaceful means”. I happen to agree with him, due to the fact that as natural as it is for humanity to covet peace, conflict is bound to arise just as naturally. However, what peace really is the maintenance of fundamental respect times of conflict. Therefore, it can be argued that peace is not a blanket term for widespread agreement, but rather founded on respect for others’ potentially diametrically-opposed views.

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This is because I believe that the foundation of democracy-equality- is vital for true peace to be reached (as can be seen with what is termed the “American Experiment”). Furthermore, if conflict arises- and opposing beliefs by extension-, then another fundamental idea of peace must be acceptance of diversity. Also, widespread understanding and agreement is another key aspect of maintaining peace as well- as was argued by Jean Rousseau with his publication of the Social Contract. True peace lies in equality, and where equality lies, conflict naturally arises. This is best demonstrated in the foundations of democracy: the belief that everyone has a say. In fact, it has historical roots as well. For example, during the height of the British Empire, classism was at its height as well. The British were much more highly regarded than their Colonialist counterparts, and this caused tension- and eventually war- between not only Britain and the modern-day United States, but eventually the downfall of the British empire as well. This is because inequality stems from a lack of humanity, and peace must exist in juxtaposition to respect.

Arguably, that is why the “American Experiment” of modern-day democracy succeeded where British monarchy failed: because the notion of “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” (Thomas Jefferson) gave every individual a voice, which leads to general peace. However, the American government is also founded on disagreement. One can argue that constant conflict does nothing but cause a rift in a nation, and ultimately, the world. By this logic, does embracing different views (essentially, democracy), not limit the presence of peace? However, conflict is a consequence of individuality (an essential part of what it means to be human), thereby meaning that respectfully debating people’s different beliefs is not only healthy but leads to growth and ideological progress- of which peace is a natural byproduct. Therefore, the promotion of peace in this aspect would be to continue humanitarian efforts to further democracy globally to ensure that everyone’s voice is being heard, and therefore further peace as well. This can be done through education and humanitarian aid.

Stemming from the idea of fundamental respect, another crucial facet of peace is acceptance of diversity. Although overall agreement on all matters would certainly make life easier, it would greatly hinder humanity’s progress as a whole. That is why the presence of many ideologies side by side is important. However, the acceptance of diversity is where true peace lies. This is perfectly illustrated in the nation of Singapore. Singapore is known for being extremely multiracial and multireligious, yet generally quite peaceful. In fact, it was rated the safest country in the world this year. One might think that the fundamental differences in Singaporeans would lead to widespread tension and conflict (and at one point it did, as is demonstrated in the 1964 riots). However, when the government made peace and mutual respect (or more specifically, lack of “ethnic chauvinism”) a priority, peace blossomed. This is because there was a higher unity than religion or race, unity of nation and eventually, unity of world.

This can be implemented to promote peace especially with regards to education, as kids are very easily influenced and respect for others cultures and beliefs should be normalized to prevent future tension between certain groups. However, in order for all of this to occur, there needs to be an underlying understanding beneath it all. This understanding is that everyone agrees to not infringe upon anyone else’s freedom (despite the fact that they can) in pursuit of a greater good. This is done not only for this altruistic pursuit, but also for a more practical, selfish reason: ensuring personal safety. This is aptly illustrated in the philosopher Jean Rousseau’s The Social Contract. Here, Rousseau argues that we all have Natural Power to do as we please, and that there is a sort of “social contract” in which we give this power to the state or authority in exchange for widespread safety, and essentially, peace. The term “contract” insinuates that this is consensual, which many people would argue it is not due to there not actually being a physical contract or time and place in which they agree to these terms. However, how can something be non consensual and still be a widespread understanding? The answer to this is simple: participating in and benefiting off of society is consent in and of itself. That is why we are allowed to punish people when they break this so-called “contract”, because punishment and accountability are very much needed in the maintenance of peace as well. An understanding of the so-called “social contract” can be used to propel peace in the world through educating people that maintaining peace benefits them specifically as well as humanity overall.

Therefore, the very definition of peace must then be to maintain respect for others in times of ideological or escalating conflict. This is more specifically done through constantly striving for equality, acceptance of diversity, as well as a widespread understanding and agreement to attempt to maintain balance for the sake of personal and general well-being.

15 April 2020

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