Garry Davis said that world peace begins with each of us putting the earth first: “Because it is your world! You are the ‘center’ of it. It revolves around you! You were born to it. And willy-nilly, you are already in it; in fact on it! And like it or not, you are therefore responsible for it … for the good and the bad. What is required is our individual commitment to one world and humanity first, and ourselves and our particular country second.”
In a recent tweet, spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said that world peace starts with the individual finding personal peace: “The creation of a more peaceful and happier society has to begin from the level of the individual, and from there it can expand to one’s family, to one’s neighborhood, to one’s community, and so on.”
When we recognize that the individual is a microcosm of humanity and that peace is a life-long process, the individual can seek both individual peace and world peace simultaneously. World peace depends upon the intertwining of the one and the many seeking peace.
Finding Inner Peace and Outer Peace
When we learn and build inner peace for ourselves as individuals, we can expand our knowledge and skills to help others learn and build outer peace.
If we see people in need, people suffering, people facing oppression and violence, we must find a way to help them. It could be speaking up or speaking out, lending a hand, checking in, sending clothing, making a donation, offering a shoulder to cry on, sharing food, providing free medical or other support, offering a safe haven, etc. In other words, we should act towards one another non-violently.
The term “non-violence” defines an action or state of being by using the opposite of how we should act as part of the term. Because people should focus on what we need to do to achieve peace, rather than what we shouldn’t do, it is important to use a positive term to describe how we can effect change in our world, both as individuals and collectively. Encouraging people to “act peacefully” is no longer enough to achieve dramatic change in how humans interact. We must now compassionately insist upon peace in our own lives and in our collective interactions. I suggest we use the stronger term “peace insistence” instead of “acting peacefully” or “non-violence.”
Peace insistence* is more than a commitment to acting non-violently. It is a question of ensuring that your interactions, your behavior, and that of others be conducted peacefully, that you consciously and consistently choose peace over aggression, and that you begin by finding peace in your own heart and mind.
The underlying elements of peace insistence are love, empathy, healing, and moving together and toward one another. Individual peace and world peace require us to move beyond non-violent action to peace insistence.
Peace Insistence through World Citizenship
If individuals do not have inner peace, it is difficult for them to participate in endeavors to build external peace in their surroundings, let alone build a loving, accepting, just, free, sustainable, and peaceful community.
Institutions reflect the values and ethics of those who create them. If individuals have suffered violence, exclusion, discrimination, harassment, poverty, oppression, etc., then the institutions they make will likely consciously or subconsciously have those experiences weaved into the fabric of the organizational structures, policies, politics, and milieu.
The current system of national division encourages killing, greed, and environmental degradation by exalting profit and competition over societal health, demanding incessant economic growth that favors the few over the many, and maintaining power dynamics with inherent structural violence.
The national-focused framework for human interaction values war and preparing for war over peace and building peace. Just one quarter of the trillion dollars that national governments spend on maintaining and “defending” fictional borders, would be enough for local communities to successfully deal with abuse, human trafficking, power dynamics, gender and different-identity othering, illiteracy, homelessness, corruption, global warming, toxic environment, and the lack of conflict analysis and resolution/non-violent communication skills.
At this point, humans have created too many complex problems threatening the earth and humanity’s survival. These problems can only be handled with complex, indigenous and unified processes. Humans do not have to agree on everything in order to agree that we would rather have a world than have none.
Causes of violence and conflict are rooted both in local and international frameworks, in our individual lives and in the wider society. We cannot apply processes of peace to resolve the root causes of violence with either/or approaches: local peace requires world peace; world peace requires local peace; and all peace requires individual peace.
By developing peace insistence skills and an understanding of our common identity as world citizens, individuals and institutions can be of value to each other in the process of dealing with root causes of negative conflict and violence. (Read Part II here.)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.