From the July-August 2011 PNL #806

CJ Dates

In a conversation recently with some friends, we were discussing peace, and whether it is an attainable goal. One friend of mine said some things of interest.
“Men have been trying forever to create peace. There are always those who will destroy and undermine the efforts of making a peaceful world. For these reasons, I see no incentive for supporting peace efforts. They are a lost cause.”

Two things immediately struck me about this statement, and maybe you feel the same as I do.

First, “there are always those who will destroy and undermine,” does not seem to me to be a feasible excuse for not attempting to create peace. What follows is a narrative which I’ve heard but not found any written evidence for.

Singer-songwriter and reggae genius Bob Marley was the target of an assassination attempt during his career. He was shot, but the bullet missed any crucial organs. At the hospital, he asked for release because he had a concert the next day. The doctors released him from the hospital against their better judgment, and Marley went on to perform. After the concert he was asked by an interviewer why he left the hospital and chose to risk his health and perform. He responded with something to the effect of, “The men fighting to make this world destructive are not taking a day off, and so neither can I.”

This is my point. Can the presence of evil in the world energize peace-makers rather than enervate or discourage them?

Second, “men have been trying forever to create peace.” Really? Trying? Do we try to create peace as courageously as we try to solidify our careers? Do we try to encourage reconciliation as vigorously as we try to catch television and movie premiers? Do we demand peace as often and as strongly as we demand cell phone service, web access, satellite reception, and amenities for ourselves? For many of us, the answer is clearly “no.” We receive what we seek. It is not harder work to create peace than it is to create any other aspect of our lifestyles. It is just refocused work. If we did indeed demand peace as intensely as we can demand these other things, it may have been attained right now.

Even if I am wrong, the fact that peace has been demanded in the past does not make it a null point of interest today. People have demanded new technology and better economic standing for all of history. The fact that we haven’t perfected it does not discourage anyone in pursuit. Even today, there are those all around the world who work diligently for peace. Yet it still eludes us based upon the mass of passivity that flows from the vast majority of our populations. Again, if this passive action could be redirected in quantity with the same intensity, maybe peace would not be such an unachievable goal.

Think today: Do I demand peace and reconciliation as intensely as I demand other things?

—CJ Dates