The Point of Peace: Part 2

Image by David Peterson.

The Point of Peace: Part 2

Pax Americana, by and by, is a derisive term to represent efforts of the nation to impose its will on other peoples and nations. Like all forms of “peace”, it’s a product of economic expediencies and social artifices bent on benefiting the imposer itself.

That brings us back to the very definitions of violence, what many consider the opposite of peace. In the article Liberal Pacification and the Phenomenology of Violence [1], the authors brilliantly challenge the understand of violence as either one of two forms: Direct or Indirect.

“Violence is a tool or instrument deployed for particular purposes, such as deterrence or compellence.” [1]

Direct violence is simple: it’s both overt, and can be measured. This includes the obvious such as mortality, but also can include violent acts of bodily harm and destruction of property.

Indirect Violence is more subtle, but results in the same ends: death or destruction to both intended and unintended targets. This can be the collective actions of one social group against another. I find this category of violence of important note, as many people in the United States and abroad would agree this “indirect” violence is what both protesters and activists seeks to end. That institutions seem primed to slowly destroy certain communities intentionally is an open debate, but the argument has merit whenever a member of that community loses their life. Thus, the discussion of violence and its use has seldom been more pertinent.

The article presented does not discount or even challenge the above two categories of violence, but rather challenges that understanding by adding a third: pacification. Pacification as violence is the restructuring of social institutions to affect anything the “aggressors” deem desirable: economic, social, or cultural paradigms. Thus, “peace” is defined by a constant assertion of power over some for the benefit of others.

Pacification. Implicit in this “new” definition is how structures are inherently violent if the impose the peace. The example given is a walled and gated house, replete with barbed wire and a security guard, to protect against a theoretical assailant bent on robbing the house. The structures “pacify” the ability of the would-be thief to gain entry, and are thus inherently violent.

As I asserted in Part 1, peace is a myth. To be precise, I said that external peace was a myth. The concept of pacification as violence confirms that the appearance of external peace is simply the will of some over the will of others, locking things into a form that is maintained by structures, systems, and prejudices. If these things breakdown – even momentarily – direct and indirect violence blooms.

There are vast collections of quotes available on how peace does not exist. Most imply, or say directly, that peace is an internal state one develops when one is free of most mental and emotional conflict. I’m not sure I agree with this understanding either, but it does address the need for people to be capable in the moment, rather than hopelessly trying to “de-conflict” life at the expense of harming others.

Let us return to the issue of Pax Americana. The keeping of American “peace” has been the output of largely liberal structures for the better half of the 20th Century, according to the referenced article. These scholars assert that while these liberal institutions (democracy, free-markets, and global institutions) might claim to have made the world more peaceful, they have in fact made the world more violent when we knowledge pacification. The violence seen globally might be seen as an example of this pacification breaking down due to the current pandemic.

Violence is everywhere, and in everything. A mother and daughter arguing about homework, a simply change of lanes whilst driving, or the daily application of the Law. All human interaction involves the integration of wills, as each person gives ground or takes ground.

That is my point in the offering this simple analysis and discussion of “peace”. There is no absolution in conformity, no justification of a person’s life if it is simply peaceful by conventional definitions. Instead, free people of Western Democracies would do well to analyze the hidden pacification of cultures and economies to determine what they truly believe. To sacrifice one’s way of life or structures just to allow others people to flourish is in itself, a form of pacification. Individuals and groups have decided what the order will be, and they impose this order by violence. Whether it entails rioting or censorship is immaterial: the decision to value one thing above others is a violence act. Even allowing for “all things” is a decision, and thus violent.

I’ll end with a scripture from the Christian Bible. It’s important to understand, especially withing the context of Western Imperialism. While some modern scholarship has tried valiantly to denude Western Culture of its Christian underpinnings (a form of pacification to fight pacification, I’ll add), I ask the reader to consider the following scripture from a place of academic rigor:

12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.”

Matthew 11:12, New International Version.

Translations vary, but the words “violent people have been raiding it” also is interpreted as “been forcefully advancing”. [9] To believe, practice, or assert anything is to be violent.

Prevailing cultural attitudes in Western Democracies have legitimized new forms of pacification in the name of non-pacification, as if to free all people of any influence or imperative in their lives. The imposition of this, however, is simply another set of cultural, economic, and educational structures that violently seek to dominate other groups. This kind of violence is inevitable.

To live is to be. To be is to press in on the world in your own unique way. Individuals share values and identity, and this predicates a conflict with those who have other values or group identity.

But in the West, the “sovereignty of the individual” seemed the aim of society. This is also a very contentious topic, one that I will tackle in another post.

Peace then, in my opinion, is found when a person questions their need for identity by way of external means, daily, yet is able to non-violently navigate the conflicts and confrontations they face in the presence of other people. No direct, indirect, or pacification needed. This comes when a person finds an internal identity that needs nothing external to frame it.

If only there was an ideology, religion, or philosophy that gave us some idea of how this can be achieved? I hope you’re laughing.

From a non-Violent Jesus Christ, rejecting the sword to die innocent; a seemingly repentant Miyomoto Musashi putting down the sword to embrace the way of the Buddhist Monk for the second of half of his life; or Marie Curie applying her incredible discovery of radioactivity to treat cancer: most of human action has been bent on making life worth living, whether through meaning or through comfort.

Jesus’s challenges to the Jewish world were indirectly violent, as they weakened the hold of certain authorities that could face death if their ideologies were rejected. Miyomoto Musashi was the embodiment of direct violence, killing opponents decisively. Marie Curie faced off with the violent truth of cancer, a condition that one could say continues to have such an impact on Humanity as to impose its own structures on the world.

To conclude, the point of peace is to provide certainty. This might be certainty of identity, certainty in resources, or certainty in group identity. Peace is the imposition of one’s will over themselves, or over others. The former is desirable. The later is not, though it’s inevitable in society.

I suggest you impose yourself…on yourself…daily. The world needs those who find internal peace by waging their own internal conflicts, and not the petty one-upmanship that comes with earning peace through conformity.

[1] Ilan Zvi Baron, Jonathan Havercroft, Isaac Kamola, Jonneke Koomen, Justin Murphy, Alex Prichard

International Studies Quarterly, Volume 63, Issue 1, March 2019, Pages 199–212,

[2], Chapter 12, and Footnote “d”

Published by JeffStover

Writer and Poet.

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