The Oxford English Dictionary defines peace as “freedom from civil unrest or disorder” and “public order and security”. Judging by this definition and the current global political climate, I think it is safe to say that we, as a society, are not particularly peaceful at the moment.
From riots breaking out in the wake of racial injustice, to a global pandemic which put every existing societal injustice under a magnifying glass, to catastrophic treatment of the environment, 2020 has been a year with enough unrest, disorder and instability for an entire decade. It seems, however, that this year is far from done with us: There is probably more to come, and we need to be prepared.
Cynicism in the Face of Disaster
Sometimes, I find it difficult not to become cynical in times like these. When I watch or read the news, go on social media or speak to anyone outside my immediate social bubble, I am met with an onslaught of information about what is currently going wrong in the world. I, too, am guilty of succumbing to exasperation, of perpetuating the attitude that people will never be peaceful because, at the very core of their being, they are belligerent and evil. World peace sometimes seems like a child’s dream, something so far removed from reality that we cannot help but scoff at it.
This attitude, however, is not particularly productive. If everyone becomes as cynical as this, and no one believes that we can improve the world, we will never be at peace.
Realism and Optimism
The world needs optimists – because every activist, every speaker, every person who actively seeks the situation of others, is just that: an optimist. Of course we have to be realistic. We have to see the world for what it is before we can actively seek to improve it. Still, we need not become jaded and cynical for that. Realism and optimism can sometimes go hand in hand. We can observe this in many current activist movements. Those urging for climate justice definitely see the threat that global warming poses, but they are convinced that there is a way to stop it. The Black Lives Matter movement is aware of systemic racism and actively seeks to abolish it.
As the business student Rut Yirdaw argues in her TEDx talk, world peace is most definitely possible. It may even be less remote than we think it to be. However, it is obvious that we have a long way to go and need to take the first step, now.
Today, on the World Day of Peace, it may be the right time to start.
Header image by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash