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  • Writer's pictureLaura Perry

What is peace?

Peace is often described as the absence of war, but I'd like to suggest that instead, it's the absence of violence, which is a broader concept that includes war. I'll get to what I think it involves the presence of shortly. But first, let's look at the concept of violence.

Violence is defined as swift and intense force, rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment, or an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power. So it doesn't necessarily have to be physical, but it often is. A knee on the back of the neck is violence, but so is the abuse of political or legal power to keep people from voting or moving up in the world.

Western culture is founded on violence. Colonialism is violence against whole cultures. Racism is violence against ethnic groups (there's a reason the term is micro-agressions: even the tiny stuff is violence). Capitalism is violence against natural resources and the labor force. All the "isms" are different sorts of violence against different groups: sexism, ageism, ableism. Oppression of any group (members of the QUILTBAG community, for instance) is violence.

It's all about those in power taking what they want, regardless of the consequences to anyone else. Behind it all lies a kind of selfishness, greed, and lack of empathy that I find truly disturbing. And it suggests that what these people want, most of all, is to be separate from others, from their fellow human beings, set apart and above them.

So what's the opposite of violence? If all the "isms" are about selfishness and greed, then maybe their antidote is empathy, selflessness, caring for our fellow human beings and our environment. Maybe that's what peace really is: not just the absence of violence, but the presence of connection, community, empathy.

If we're all connected, helping and supporting each other, then we have the motivation to solve our differences in ways that don't negatively impact others. Our current culture, especially in the US, doesn't reinforce interdependence or community enough to negate the effects of selfishness and greed that our society also encourages. But it needs to. That's what we're working toward, I hope.

To me, that's what peace really is: not just the absence of violence, but the presence of community in a way that allows everyone to work toward being their best selves. No one is an island, as the saying goes. It takes a village... a community... the connection that builds a web of support for a life lived to its fullest, in safety and peace.

That's what I want for us all.

I bid you peace.

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