Kim Them Do
The traditional meaning
Peace is not a modern concept: its meaning is rooted in various traditional cultural systems, especially in the ancient Chinese philosophy. One of the most prominent Chinese philosophers is Lao Tzu (6th BCE), the author of the Tao Te Ching. In his writings, he insists on the peaceful effects of water and wind.
Although these things are too soft; but they are more effective means than rock and iron. For this reason, he argues that intelligent leadership should consider them as a useful military strategy.
In contrast, Mo Tzu (468-391 BCE), argues from anti-war perspective that love is a universal human virtue and that peace is the most respectable human goal of and is within reach. Put simply, he said: “Do good to others, and others will do good to you, if you hurt them and they will hurt to you“.
Most importantly, Kung Fu Tzu (551- 479 BCE), the author of The Analects, contends that the peace is a state of social harmony and the ultimate human goal.
To realise this, he suggests that one should treat one´s subordinates as one would like to be treated by one´s superiors.
Peaceful ideals are also rooted in the Judeo- Christian philosophy. It is generally agreed that Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions all have elements of bellicosity in their early history.
The God of Abraham, Moses, and David is portrayed as a bellicose figure in the Old Testament and the Israelites were merciless warriors. Over time, this tra-dition has been changed from the Christianity.
Based on the message of peace, love and nonviolence the New Statement prescribes the best example Jesus: “My peace I give unto you“ as he declared in his message.
Unlike the religious tradition, the peace was not a prominent concept in the Hellenic poleis. In antiquity, there were no systematic concepts of peace or war. Thucydides, the author of Melian Dialogue, suggests that the structural balance of power must be maintained to establish peace in Hellas.
In his History of the Peloponnesian War, he states that agreement among nations is important and that politicians must to their utmost to avoid breaching it. Even on the battlefield, the generals should keep treating the adversary with respect and fairness. Thucydides focuses here on peace between Athens and Sparta, rather on a global scale.
In this light Aristotle´s Nichomachean Ethics promotes the role of trade and co-operation in reaching peace, although in reality many ruthless wars were fought in ancient Greece.4
The modern meaning
Today, there is much discussion in the peace studies literature of the diverse meaning of peace. In the broad sense, peace may be perceived as happiness, harmony, justice and freedom and there is a growing consensus about its two sides: positive peace and negative peace.
Positive peace is the desired state of mind and society. A peaceful state of mind is based on the individual´s inner peace and a peaceful state of society denotes harmony among its people.
Negative peace is the absence of war or other forms of conflict and is more supportive than positive peace during negotiations because a lasting suspension of rivalry is urgently needed.
In fact, negative peace is not always the best alternative because it is a political will of the stronger over the weaker. Pax Romana maintains its negative peace through repression by ruthless dictators under Roman law. Although this negative peace was long-lasting, it relied on slavery and a despotic regime and was not true peace in any sense.
Most researchers pay more attention to the important role of the positive peace. Arguing that direct violence is more visible and its outcome is more dramatic, they focus on the structural violence in their explanations of the cause of the conflict. In so doing, they look more deeply at the structure of the social, cultural and economic institutions of the countries concerned.
In fact, both dimensions of peace are equally important and complementary to each other. Negative peace highlights the harmony within oneself and with others and the spiritual tranquility which are desirable modes of being while positive peace underscores the structure of violence. Both are fundamental to the creation of peaceful ideals.
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines many different aspects of the world peace: a freedom from civil clamor and confusion, a state of public quiet, a state of security or order within a community provided for by law, custom or public opinion mental or spiritual condition marked by freedom from disquieting or oppressive thought or emotions a state of mutual concord between government: absence of hostilities or war.
In summary, we can assume that peace is love, harmony and justice and that peacemaking and peacekeeping are a pressing priority for humankind.