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April 14, 2024 

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Often revered yet frequently undervalued, peace is a cornerstone of human existence. It encompasses almost any situation or relationship, from personal to international. Peace denotes harmony, tranquility, security, and freedom from violence wherever it’s applied. 


International Peace


International peace is “the absence of armed conflict” and broadly characterizes most interactions between nations. Consider the relationship between Mexico and the United States, for example. Their interaction remains harmonious and tranquil without direct armed struggle. 


Peace also encompasses security or “freedom from danger.” Even in the absence of war, the presence or threat of danger disrupts peace and security. Guyana currently lacks security and peace in this sense after Venezuela threatened to seize part of its territory. The threat of war will continue hanging over Guyana even without active fighting. 


Despite challenges, international peace remains highly desirable, representing a harmonious and mutually beneficial security arrangement. Harmony, a foundational component of peace, describes a situation “when things seem right or suitable together,” while security entails “protection” from “attacks by foreign countries.” Together, security and harmony promote a situation where nonviolence is mutually advantageous. 


Unfortunately, politicians often manipulate the concept of peace to justify war and acts of violence. For instance, all parties involved in the escalating conflicts in the Middle East justify their actions as necessary for achieving peace. However, such claims are inherently contradictory, as peace is “freedom from war and violence.”

Domestic Peace


Domestically, peace signifies the absence of armed fighting “within a country.” Civil war represents one extreme, though civil wars like the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen frequently become international contests. However, domestic peace extends beyond the mere absence of violence to encompass the “freedom from civil disturbance,” as civil disturbances disrupt societal harmony. 


Civil disturbances, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, serve as symptoms rather than disruptors of peace. This 381-day boycott disrupted the entire community and eventually led to violence, including the bombing of the home of boycott organizer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension,” wrote Reverend King. “We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.” 


Similar to international peace, domestic peace is universally desirable. Peace and harmony motivated Dr. King to pursue a more harmonious society via protest, but peace also motivated his adversaries, who sought to quell the protests. Just as politicians may misuse peace to justify war, authorities sometimes misappropriate peace to justify violent crackdowns, while protestors misconstrue peace to justify violent confrontations.


Situational Peace


Peace can apply to any situation and be interpreted depending on the context. For instance, international peace focuses on the situation and relationship between nations. Spain may experience international peace without an active war, but civil disturbances in Catalonia have disrupted domestic peace in other ways.


Peace can also be applied to a situation or moment to describe a “lack of noise or bustle in a place or for a moment.” Places like libraries and cemeteries are often considered peaceful in this sense. Situational peace also describes tranquility or a state “free from disturbance,” such as the calmness felt among singing birds.


Situational peace maintains its meaning and function when applied globally or locally. World peace, for instance, can be seen as situational peace applied worldwide. However, situational peace differs from international and domestic peace in that situational peace is only desirable in specific contexts. Settings like hockey games and construction sites aren’t typically associated with peace, yet they serve their respective purposes effectively.

Interpersonal Peace


Interpersonal peace extends beyond specific situations, describing “harmonious relations between people.” Peaceful relationships are balanced, secure, and mutually suitable. Interpersonal peace can manifest in various degrees. For example, peace can equally describe two neighbors who never exchange more than a wave and two who talk every day. 


Regardless of their nature, peaceful relationships often contribute to peace in broader contexts. Harmonious relationships among world leaders are more likely to foster international peace than hostile relationships, just as a harmonious couple is better equipped than a quarreling couple to maintain a tranquil home. Acrimonious relationships often escalate into broader conflicts, but nurturing peace in other senses can also help sustain strained relationships. 

Inner Peace


Interpersonal peace and practical cognition ultimately depend on a more specific sense of inner peace or peace of mind. In this sense, peace is "freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.” Disturbing thoughts can trigger fear and anxiety, disrupting mental security, tranquility, and peace. Emotional peace entails effectively managing internal conflicts, maintaining emotional balance, and gracefully navigating mental challenges. 


Individuals who are unable to find emotional balance and mental security will constantly experience fear and anxiety, making them perpetually unable to form effective relationships. Without inner peace, finding interpersonal peace is impossible, and without effective relationships, communities soon become dysfunctional. Consider former President Donald Trump, who frequently expressed fear, anxiety, and a lack of inner peace. His discord strained the United States’ most critical relationships both domestically and internationally and led to several deadly riots. 


Lacking peace in one sense is never a justification to violate peace in another. However, fostering inner peace can lead to interpersonal peace and stronger relationships. Peace thrives when bonds and relationships can endure disagreements and conflict. While peace perpetuates itself, inner peace initiates this sequence. When more people find peace of mind, human relations will naturally become more harmonious, and world peace will prevail.

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