The Distant Dream
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.”
The lyrics to this familiar John Lennon song voice a hope for humanity that is held by many of us. Throughout history, there have been countless wars, murders, persecution, and overall violence. Fittingly, where there are war cries, there are songs of peace.
Historically, the rise and fall of nations has been a result of the never-ending power struggle between civilizations and people in general. The earliest known civilization, the Mesopotamians, organized armies to settle disputes over land and water rights. After that, as new civilizations emerged, there were conflicts about land and resources. As there was more and more contact between peoples, some groups were seen to be more powerful than others, depending on resources, wealth, and developed militaries. This was what started the building of empires, and civilizations that were more powerful began conquering others and taking their resources by force.
Being that most of these empires had an all-powerful ruler controlling the fate of its citizens, there was not much pronounced opposition among these citizens, especially the lower classes. Even if there was public opposition about these violent means of control, any written accounts from these times were recorded by people of power who held a high position in their society. The affairs, hopes, and dreams of the peasants have been lost in history.
Looking at history in the 20th century, it can be seen that this struggle for power did not diminish throughout time. Although they may be good for protecting each other, alliances proved to involve many countries that had nothing to do with the initial problem. This became a major issue as many of the countries entered World War I. In World War II, these alliances made this power struggle even more deadly. The reign of building empires based on a strong sense of superiority to other countries is what fueled the Axis powers in this conflict, while the resistance of many other countries banded together created one of the deadliest wars in history. Even after this was resolved, there were still conflicts between nations, as there has been incessantly through history. Tensions between countries stemmed from government, to race, to religion. Even without being at war with countries, there remained fear among citizens, which created great prejudice. Similar prejudices live among us today because of the “war on terrorism” that has been so broadly broadcasted for years in many countries.
Throughout all of this violence, was there any attempt to resolve things peacefully? The biggest peace movement of the past hundred years was unarguably that of the 1960s and 70s, when thousands of people protested the war in Vietnam after it had been so grotesquely illustrated for the first time on television. This opened people’s eyes to the apparent cruelty of war. However, a fair argument for the rationality of war is that the lives of some must be sacrificed for the lives of everyone else and for justice itself. This is ironic, considering that this is essentially saying that in order to have peace, we must have war. There must be a better way of conflict resolution than this.
There are several methods of conflict resolution. The first is to simply avoid the conflict, not addressing it and essentially ignoring it and postponing the solution. This method many times does not work over a long term, especially if only one of the parties chooses avoidance. Another method is negotiation and bargaining, one often used between nations. Negotiation is oftentimes used in addition to other tactics, and only works if each side stays true to what they agreed upon.
Of course, avoiding a conflict or trying to negotiate a solution is not always effective. In circumstances in which the conflict stems from matters of belief, there is not always an easy way to compromise. For example, some countries run a certain kind of government, perhaps a dictatorship, that does not give as many rights to citizens. Other countries with a republic or a democratic government do not believe that any countries should oppress their people this way, so they intervene in the name of the greater good. Conflict resolution between countries is usually done by force in some way. We still negotiate things, but it seems that negotiation is only done after there has been much loss on both sides.
Some notable peace activists that should be mentioned in order to look at a possible solution to all of this hostility include Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, Harriet Tubman, Peace Pilgrim, and Eleanor Roosevelt. These figures all worked for different causes, but all in the name of peace for all. From anti-war demonstrations to sit-ins, to music, these people made an impact on the world by speaking up and taking a stance. If everyone did something about a cause they believed in, the world would be a lot closer to simply respecting one another and showing compassion towards everyone.
The problem is, some people try to make the world a better place based on what they believe, but by doing so, they are hurting people. As we are now in an age where terrorism is so common and people are being killed in the name of religious superiority, it seems that we are repeating history. This problem only escalates as the victims fight back, seeing themselves as righteous and the attackers as evil. They, then, are becoming the attackers. It is a vicious cycle that keeps resurfacing itself, caused by different groups for different reasons, but resulting in the same thing: destruction. It is true that war, once won, can help people who have been oppressed to be given a new beginning. In fact, sometimes violence seems to be the only way to deal with problems in the world. Does it have to be this way?
A possible way to reduce war and violence between countries is to have a global government, in which all countries are a part of. This plan for our planet’s governance has been talked about for years, but does not have the support of the public. This would be a completely novel system, if implemented, and may or may not actually work. Of course, in theory, this would help everyone to work together and make universal decisions on important issues. This would further prevent violence and dispute between countries because everyone would “be on the same page”, so to speak. However, this may just be a dream. A world government would take a tremendous amount of organization, and it would be debatable as to how much power this government would have.
It is difficult to address such a broad topic as world peace thoroughly in one paper. Even so, I believe that in order to make our world a better place for everyone everywhere, each and every one of us needs to make some changes. Dispute often comes from misunderstanding, arrogance, and vengeance. We need to learn about other cultures and how to problem solve better. We also need to be more compassionate to people in general, and not think of ourselves as superior to other countries, groups, and people. Finally, we need to have less retaliation and take the concept of “being the bigger person” to a larger level, being kind in the face of anger and loving those who hate us. I believe that this is the best solution for humanity.