Thursday, September 21, 2006


Dawn, International Day of Peace, eastern Australia, 21 September 2006
Today is September 21, the annual United Nations International Day of Peace, so if you're feeling warlike, stop it.

The meaning of "peace" is disputed (of course...) but Wikipedia does a short round-up of options and I like this one:
[...] in the Great Lakes region of Africa, the word for peace is kindoki, which refers to a harmonious balance between human beings, the rest of the natural world, and the cosmos.
This sort of "harmonious balance" takes effort, I think, which means that global peace is not always conducive to individual feelings of peacefulness. Typical hippy-trippy images of massed peace campaigners smiling at each other over candles suggest that peace means the absence of conflict, but I would argue (argue?! Hell, I'd fight you!) that peace isn't necessarily the way of individual "peacefulness", but instead requires hard work: self-discipline, sacrifice, effort. It's easier to be selfish than it is to be generous and co-operative. Peace takes effort.

I see an illustration of this notion in a true story told by Jane Goodall. Her speech to the National Press Club of Australia was broadcast on ABC TV yesterday but there's no transcript unless you pay for one (grrr). I'm guessing she's told the story hundreds of times before anyway, and there's a version of it in this article. I posted the relevant extract over here.

It's the story of a chimpanzee who was terribly wronged by humans, and of the man who intervened at a critical moment - at the potential cost of his own life - to help. I'm not entirely sure what I think this says about global peace, but it's in there somewhere, tangled up in notions of heroism, justice, co-operation, doing good, and respect for life.

Peace be with us, reader. Let's hope.