How Would You Define a Positive Peace?

February 20, 2014

How Would You Define a Positive Peace?

by Sue Chehrenegar


Every year, I try to get to one special breakfast, one that is always held on the morning of April 29th. The group that hosts that special event provides those attending with the chance to enjoy a beautiful spread. That spread is laid-out in the kitchen and dining area of a building that is just blocks from where I live. Therefore, I can simply walk to that building, and I have a great excuse for eating as much as I want.

Of course, this article is not meant to focus on the food that is served that day. This year, I enjoyed two particular aspects of that annual event. First, for some reason, a bird chose to start singing as we were eating our breakfast. That was a real treat, because the historical occasion that had brought us together was associated with chirping birds. It took place in a garden, a garden outside of Bagdad.

From now on, I will always link that garden to this phrase: positive peace. That is a term that I heard the morning that I listened to the birds chirping. I heard it from a friend, a woman who had been attending a series of talks, talks that were given in the same building.

According to her, one of the speakers, a professor at UCLA had spoken about the value in considering the meaning of a positive peace. He indicated that it differed from a peaceful interlude, a time when there was no fighting and no thought of initiating such an action. At such a time, people might enjoy the peaceful nature of the existing situation, but none of them had chosen to follow the path that promises to transform a peaceful interlude into a time when any thought of violence has been wiped from the mind.

During such a period, the general population would think that any violent act seemed totally meaningless. There would seem to be no reason for acting violently. Such actions would not be viewed as a means for reaching an acceptable goal.

I see a positive peace as being a time when the world has come to understand the benefits attached to consultation. During a true consultation, no one who sits at the table tries to claim any idea as his or her own. Rather, each person puts-forward an idea and lets the others use it as a foundation, one on which a plan can be built.

When a plan has been formed following a consultation, no one person can take credit for its success. By the same token, no one person can be blamed, if the plan does not succeed in accomplishing the desired end. A failure should not invite fighting, but instead it should encourage further consultation.

During a positive peace, people would consult about how to solve problems. As they consulted, there would be no finger-pointing. After the consultation had ended, no one would start back biting. No one would try to gossip about what had been said by someone else, during the consultative process.

In my mind, political parties would seem out-of-place in a world where peacefulness had taken-on a new meaning, one that meant more than just the absence of violence. After all, loyalty to one party would suggest a dislike for the other party. Obviously, a willingness to show a dislike could be seen as an act that could not be used to ensure maintenance of a peaceful situation.

I did not hear the talk about a positive peace, but I have no difficulty forming my own ideas about what should be the principle characteristics of a world that has arrived at such a state. It seems to me that anyone who has chosen to work towards achievement of such a state has certainly chosen to have a meaningful life. Those who have chosen a different path may find out too late that their violent actions have managed to rob their life of meaning.


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