Towards a culture of peace

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Τhe inner apprehension of the spirit of peace
The inner apprehension of the spirit of peace is a matter for each one of us; it has individual and collective dimensions. The semblance of a conflict between individual and group participatoriness in affairs is fundamentally based on error. We can begin from this point to change our attitude towards events. Individual responsibility is involves personal disarming and an end to envy. Envy is a source of contention and finds its complete manifestation as consumer omnipotence of desire, and bottomless narcissism.

The acceptance of the Self is a starting-point for peace, but this love for the Self is not consistent with the exaggeration of desire.

A systemic approach to the question of peace
Peace is a question which is going to concern us at all levels: at the level of our objective of a different everyday life, in our relationship with nature, and in the relations between states. These latter relations are the preferential field for an understanding of peace and for its achievement.

Peace is a state of affairs which has many dimensions and fields of reference. It has a dimension and field of reference within ourselves, in the day-to-day routine of our inter-personal relations and in our relations in the philosophical field of existence, with nature and with the other forms of life. It also has a similar dynamic in the development of mankind, in the development of local communities and peoples, and in inter-state relations. It has a definitive dynamic which is derived from the fact that it serves as the basic field of security, which, when offered to us, is always accepted; but we ourselves must be able to offer it both to others and to ourselves, without giving a lower priority to freedom and the necessity for sharing.

The most difficult thing for our acceptance of peace is for us to realise that it is based on a balance between supply and demand, and that we must become capable of accepting it and supplying it both to ourselves and others, and not only of receiving it as a field of privilege for ourselves. It is our belief that this is the initial nodal point, and, therefore, if we wish to approach the question of peace systemically, we must do so in relation to our dispositions, motives, and bearing capacity. This bearing capacity is regulated by how symbiotically developed we are in relation to the environment, and also to our own inner structure and functioning, with our self. These levels and the different dimensions are linked to one another. At these levels, we have transpositions and processes which are psychological and functional, and which, in the end, can either work transcendentally and constructively upon institutions as advocates of peace, or frustrate them and transform them into advocates for collision, a conflict of extremist competitiveness, and, in the end, war.

The gradations of the state of peace
The gradations of the state of peace is another point which is in need of systemic analysis, since we have, in reality, an indirectification of a conflictual reality, and of competitiveness, through filters and at various play-acting or functional levels. It should be noted that the issue of peace presents itself as a structural problem of man.

If we approach it with the tools of psychoanalysis and the analytical method of the science of psychology, we shall see that there is a constant deviation of man towards conflict with reality, even though certain positive features stem from this conflict. Primarily, this conflict is connected with the fact that man exists as an identity and, in this sense, is not a mirror of events or a passive recipient of reality. Thus, identity acts primarily as refutability, as a partial and as a transcendental factor.

We have come, however, to the point where this primary constructiveness must be raised to a higher level. Otherwise, there will be grave side-effects from its linkage with other mass levels of approach to the issue of peace. By way of these levels, the issue of peace – or war – takes the shape of a decisive point of choice for politics and for the masses who take part in them.

It seems that this systemic approach to all the dimensions of the issue of peace is evolving into a field of an interdisciplinary approach and co-operation, since the various levels of approach and the different dimensions are linked preferentially with different sciences of man. We can proceed to certain assessments, not only by means of the human sciences, but also of the totality of science more generally. Certain assessments with regard to this issue are definitively linked with action and reaction, with the finding of balances, with invariability and evolution, with entropy and the enthalpy of structures and systems. Thus, the necessity for a multi-dimensional systemic approach to the matter of peace becomes apparent.

We can find a common denominator in the meaning and in the discourse through a final time – bound reference for everything we are doing now and which seems to us so very important and vital. One such issue which is so deceptively important is that of domination, of our individual and collective distinction and projection. Through the final reference to time, the meaning of all these tendencies is revealed, when, in the end, of all these things, what will exist will be the stars and the universe, which, moreover, entirely overlooks even the most glorious history on earth as a matter of no worth. It is somewhat like this that Bulgakov’s White Guard concludes.

If we make such a projection into the future, we can in theory understand peace as permanent compatibility with the world.

But why has this not succeeded as an undertaking? Why are we prisoners of this recycled and habitual frenzied transitoriness? This is a question which calls for psychological analysis, and for a new light to be cast on the science of psychology. In parallel, it requires an estimation of the intensity of this problem in history. At the same time, so many religions and philosophical world-theories have been at times perceived – frequently, even by their founders – as active forms of poetic licence, as sayings without any backing in practice. Thus, the play-acting passions are seen as definitive, even though, deep down, revealing inertia.

Here we now see a fundamental point on which we could concentrate a peace education. But this education would, in all probability, fail, because human vanity, the expectation of a false sustainability, our self-deception about our viability, about its scale and meaning, keeps us active on small wheels on a course as to which and with which we have, in the last analysis, very little connection in reality. In a strange way, what makes the commodity culture, the culture of the market and of communications dominant is the fact that they play with this tension of the present and with this fragmentation of time and of Being. This fragmentation is so effective precisely because there is a choice which we have made in advance. This is the prior choice of play-acting self-deception in the game of sustainability. We function as ghosts of reality, with all the anthropogenic environment, and, in order to achieve this, we try to isolate the present as if it were a field of oblivion of the very distant past and the very distant – though sometimes also the immediate – future. This fragmentation is, in the end, the essence of the market, of communications and the performance, which we ourselves give, in order to establish fields of identification of our self with very brief periods of time, and in this way to escape from what we feel annihilates us, from the great dimensions of time.

In the end, we see how unified – anthropologically – the question of peace is. Whether we approach it through what shapes us directly and by circumstances, that is, communications, the market, the commodified basis of life, or through inner dramatisation, our psychological fixation, or, in the end, as a field which is linked with a breach in transcendence, through our actions in expression of religion, philosophy, and ideology, this inconsistency brings about breaches in ideas and, among them, Peace within man.

This is the great problem for that transcendence which applied as a Hegelian cause, and not only as a cause concerning the transformation of man’s daily life, thus demonstrating that, without transcendence, the extrication of man from selfishness and from the division which is employed by the vanity of each of us and leads all of us to an illustrious absence is not possible. This cause is generated as a dedication to abstract thought which silences selfish interests. This dedication to abstract thought is combined with the ultimate referral – as we have said – to time. The eloquent description of this given by Bulgakov is connected with our capacity for transcending this consumerist division, the consumerist and commodified culture and communications of the present, our captivity within its topicality and its ‘theatre’. Without abstract thought, transcendence, and reference to the Logos, nothing of all this can happen.

It can be seen, then, that the design of peace is a field upon which all the sciences can and should converge. Similarly, all the dimensions and approaches should also converge systemically upon it.

The problem of peace links together the dimension of inwardness and transcendence with the management of everyday life as that appears in consumer demand, with the quality of life as the most acceptable concept of well-being. It also has to do with our ability to link, both as individuals and communities, subjective and objective values, such as happiness and prosperity, with the broader international relations of societies, through relations of mediation in the major totalities by means of institutions and with the option of a field of values, ideas, and relations, and, to summarise, by the reflection which the methodology of economic development and prosperity makes on inwardness.

The feedback of inwardness acts both by means of the market, as an institution, in the process of production and consumption, and by the reciprocal disregard for peace on social scales and inter-state tension. It also operates as a conveyor-belt from our self to inter-collectivity relations, by transposing an internal crisis into an inter-state or international field. This occurs because we are unable to take in the situation as a form of stress which devalues man and alienates him from his self. The situation demonstrates the necessity for a unified approach to the issues. It suffices here for us to recall that the communications charge of each day operates as a selector, apart from its function as a stress-generating factor, as we move towards the future, towards our self, towards others, and towards wholeness.

We are only at the beginning of a peace education. A more real period of peace which can start will begin if we permit it to by our individual and collective choices in the coming age.

It is now that opportunities are arising for us to complete our achievements in terms of institutions and consciousness, to articulate together the institutional and the conscious and to make them much more compatible and symbiotic with one another, instead of their acting against one another as counter-forces. On the one hand, the institutional is called upon to abrogate selfishness or separateness – or inactivity and passivity – and, on the other, the role of consciousness is to eliminate a mechanistic approach and the appropriation of institutions by the holders of power. Thus it is necessary for us to restore positive synergy and advocacy between institutions and consciousnesses.

Another future achievement will be that which will lead the diachronic – that which is on a large time-scale and the virtually eternal – to militate with the present in favour of its happiness-orientated character, and thus for the Presence, which is the advocate of what is enduring, to be articulated into the present. The present and the enduring can be reconciled and can be brought to a more rational and conscientious ‘theatre’, to a poetics of the present and duration which is far more fruitful in human life.

It is time which is the factor which, because of our own immaturity – which, of course, we did not consciously choose as beings of nature and evolution, but which, nevertheless, we experience and can manage – seems to cause a fracturing for us. It is that dimension which leads us to war and to alienation.

In this way, fear of time arises. Time and death function as communicating vessels, as communicating dynamics. Time exists in contradistinction from space, which is the field of our familiarisation, and through this we are brought, in a certain way, to a maternal, friendly dynamic, to a prospect of gaining time. Nevertheless, all this approach is a false approach to sustainability, and a false relationship.

We are capable of arriving at a more substantive and fruitful manifestation of our relations with space and time, at something similar to the happy relationship which we can have with the maternal and paternal presence. Time acts as a field of the super-ego which minimises our value. Moreover, in an illusory way, our competitors – our environment- act as a focus of time, as competitors for our time. All this error can be terminated, and we can arrive at a culture of peace.

In order to succeed in this, we need the support of the positive message of religion, the semiology of philosophy, science, and dialectics, together with an aesthetic pluralism, a political and economic practice which will meet basic needs of us, in a way which does not cultivate envy and excessive inequality, but gives us the sense that the environment is not a field of competition, but a field of reciprocity. To see the environment as a field of reciprocity is the object of the quest in all the dealings of man with man, in the relations of economic players, and in relations with nature. However, we must not be led in this way to an ideological one-sidedness which loses the sense of the measure and of proportion as regards action, nor to see the players exclusively on the basis of nature. This would be a spectacular failure.

In planning our undertaking, we must take into account the Design. It is structured, however, on the fact that the nature of things is given. The juncture is specific and given, and upon this we create the best and in this way the sense develops that the good militates in favour of happiness. This eternal oversight, the oversight of eternity, militates in favour of the moment, and the moment militates in favour of eternity. We can place our hopes in this fruitfulness in order to escape from alienation. Alienation is the most impassioned and most lasting enemy of peace.

By means of this multi-dimensional systemic approach, it becomes clear how much politics itself must change, how much it must intensify its qualitative and synthesising character, and acquire a poetic dynamic which will inspire and bring out attributes in people, and not constitute a field for administrative or theological power.

Yiannis Zisis, writer

(Photograph by Yiannis Zisis)