When I was a lad and then a young man and a young academic, peace used to be an idea we studied, debated, marched for. It was a central concept around which movements and university centers were built.
Now I cant recall the last time I heard someone arguing about peace. I’m sure there are still researchers and activists working on peace issues. But it has dropped from public consciousness as a topic or even as a goal. Why?
I only have some hunches.
During my time with the concept of peace, I saw it incorporate conflict. Peace was getting a bad name as a wooly-headed, utopian idea of the young and recently stoned. So, we built right into the concept of peace â€” and into the names of the academic centers dealing with it â€” the idea that peace is not the absence of conflict. A peaceful world would still be at odds with itself. Otherwise, we’ve defined peace into unattainability.
Over time, perhaps (remember, this is a hunch), the focus shifted from peace to conflict studies. First, peace is such a high value that putting it into an academic centers name makes the center sound partisan. And Lord knows, we wouldn’t want academics to have a partisan bias in favor of peace! Second, it’s far easier to be practical and helpful about resolving conflicts than about bringing peace.
I have no problem with this â€” if these hunches are correct â€” except that there’s still a role for thinking about peace. For example, we hear lots about cyberwar, cyberterrorism, and cybersecurity, but comparatively little about what a cyberpeaceful Net might look like.
Is it time to give thinking about peace another chance?