peace ???

8 Sep

Classes have begun, which means a few things:

1. I will have more to think about

2. I will have less time to write on this blog

3. I will be eating a lot more $5 footlongs from Subway. Since the powers that be decided to install a Subway on the first floor of the Elliott School, I somehow can’t avoid them. Try as I might.

But since this is only the second week of classes, I’ll use this precious free moment to toss around a few things from one of my classes.

One of my classes this fall is Intro to Conflict Resolution. It’s going to be a doozy. And depressing. I’ll report back on this in three months.

Here’s what we covered today: 1. What is Conflict? 2. What is Peace? 3. What is Violence?

Don’t answer too quickly.

Conflict will involve two groups, and their pursuit of incompatible goals. As well as attitudes and beliefs. And behavior. And a context.

Peace: is it the absence of violence? Is peace to be maintained, or is it to be obtained? Is peace stopping war? Or is it building a just society? And these terms – “peace” “just society” – are laden with political beliefs. What I perceive as just may fly in the face of what another group perceives as just. But somehow, this doesn’t stop us from chasing after these things.

Violence. This is defined by some of our readings (Galtung) as the cause of the difference between what we can potentially achieve and what we actually achieve. If the world has the means to cure malaria, but does not, and millions die each year of something that could potentially be cured, this is violence. If we did not have a cure, it would not qualify as violence. But who is the agent of violence in this scenario? Who is to be held accountable? With this definition, there will always be violence, as there will always be groups of people who are not achieving what they could potentially achieve.

At this point, this just begs more and more questions (which I’m not opposed to). Because as our professor pointed out, the entire field of conflict resolution is partly about answering the question: how do we change the future? How do we not only stop current violent conflicts, but also change structures that can escalate beliefs and attitudes into violent behavior? How do we not only make peace, but also build it?

And the scariest part is that, as was pointed out in my last class, things can always get worse. And you can always make things worse. International intervention in Rwanda prior to the genocide in 1994 is an example of this. I might also argue that the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement may be another example. Tread lightly, with fear and trembling.

So on that note, I leave you with a song from le meaningful band de jour:


5 Responses to “peace ???”

  1. Lesley Miller September 9, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    Hey Betsie!

    I just want you to know, that while I don’t understand all these things you’re studying, I do appreciate you writing about them. It’s fun to hear about what you’re learning, even if it’s tough stuff. I’m so glad you’re in this program. We miss you. 😦

  2. Emily Frei September 9, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    The only way to achieve or obtain peace is to get it tattooed… on your wrist….

  3. Myrna September 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    Thought provoking Bets… particularly the bit about ‘peace’ being a constructed category. Now that I think about it, of course that’s the case, but like so many other values we throw them around as if they are self-evident to everyone in all places and times. In your class did you also address changing notions of peace through history? Violence through history?

  4. Betsie Frei September 10, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    1. Thank you, Lesley. I miss you guys too, and my awesome Sacramento pad.
    2. Em, good point.
    3. Myrna: Yes and no. Mostly we’ve talked about how WWI sort of changed everything when it comes to war. And also about how you could say that a few hundred years ago, when life expectancy around the world was at around 40 years, this couldn’t have qualified as violence. But now, when a woman in Japan can expect to live three times longer than a woman in say, Sierre Leone, violence is present. But I think you bring up an interesting perspective that is worth considering further…

  5. Ana-Maria October 6, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    Interesting that after trying to define conflict, the next logical thing would be to think of the opposite- peace. However, as you know from the Development in Africa class, peace is not really the opposite of conlict. Cooperation is. And it is much easier to define cooperation than peace!

    And I appreciate the Mumford and Sons insert. My favs.

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