PEACE IS WORTH PAYING FOR

MARVELLOUS OGUDORO

“Fire, fire”, my father screamed as he tried to alert our neighbors to a fire in their apartment. Many members of our community who were at home at that time mobilized available relevant resources including fire extinguishers and joined hands to resolve the crisis. That incident and the opportunity it gave me to experience crisis and the value of a cohesive community was thought provoking for me.

 

As I sat opposite my dad in the living room, in a bid to analyze what had just taken place, I had a realization. This was the closest I had come to dealing with a disaster. My life was full of so much assurance and protection, that I had become oblivious of the suffering of others. I was not conscious of the plight of those who lived in war zones and refugee camps. I had overlooked those who ran away from a place they could no longer call home. Those who had lost loved ones to the wars and terrors I could only behold on television. I thought about all those who did not know peace. Those to whom that word was only a distant idea.

 

What scares me is the possibility that I represent the norm, and not the exception. The ignorance and indifference that surrounds the issue of peace deprivation is monumental. A lot of us let each day go by without taking steps towards global peace. We fail in this area probably because we are not directly affected. We stay away from it and try to build walls to protect ourselves.

 

I tried to imagine myself solving this problem, because as English Writer H.G Wells noted, “If we do not end war, war will end us.” I pictured myself as a head of government or a delegate at the United Nations and how I would make decisions that would ensure global peace without regard to race, gender or economic background. I imagined myself as a person of influence, a general in the army or maybe even a religious leader and how I would use my office to ensure that wars were avoided at all costs. I thought about strengthening ties with ‘enemy’ countries and how that would result in a peaceful world.

 

But slowly as I began to slip out of my dream world, I realized it would take huge sacrifices to bring my dream to fruition. I worried about the people I would have to oppose and the unavoidable wars I may have to fight. I noted that war is a lucrative business for some people and threatening to cut their source of livelihood will not be easy. It has been noted that some countries spend several billions of dollars on their military annually.

 

So I questioned myself on some more practical ways to promote peace around the world. I remembered having my first chemistry class and how my teacher taught me about the scientific method. He had explained that scientists start problem resolution with its definition. I tried to do just that. I tried to define the peace I wanted to see in society, the peace that would put an end to suffering. Here is my definition: Peace is a state of mental or physical harmony both for individuals and their Communities. It entails serenity and an absence of fear. This is the peace I want to work for, the peace I wish for my family members and the larger world I belong to.

The crucial question is, what makes this peace elusive? What prevents harmony and cooperation from being the norm? Sadly as I began to answer my own questions, I realized that peace has many enemies.

 

Ignorance and indifference seem to create an enabling environment for chaos. When we watch conflict and mass killings on television and feel indifferent, we become part of the problem. When we make no effort to improve the lives of those suffering, we become more or less equal to those who put bullets through skulls.

 

Poverty and scarcity also play major roles in inhibiting peace. In environments where people have to fight for their daily meals, peace cannot be guaranteed. In the absence of the basic necessities of life, only the fittest survive, and the violent hold others to ransom.

 

Education plays a big part in peace building. Educated people tend not to engage in physical fighting and bloodshed but seem to prefer more diplomatic approaches to solving problems.

The display of violence as a normal way to relate with one another by the media is also alarming. Between the years of 1994 and 1997, the United States of America National Television Violence Study (1997) revealed that 60% of all Television shows contained violence and that in 73% of violent scenes, the aggressor went unpunished. We sow the seeds of discord in this way.

 

Our resistance to change and the unfair discrimination present everywhere you turn fuels conflict and denies us of peace. Outraged by the unfair treatment given to them, the less privileged tend to rebel and often throw a once peaceful society into discord.

 

We sometimes also refuse to accept that there are better, more peaceful ways to do things and solve problems. The belief that violence is the best way to solve problems has been embraced by many. Peace, however, remains so precious that even those who disrupt it have the tendency to miss it. So how may we make our world a more peaceful place?

 

The first step is to give people hope. Hope is the belief that something better is coming. It is faith in a reality that does not yet exist. Hope is essential because when we know and believe that a better society is truly possible, we would be more willing to work for it. We have to be aware that our current state in the world is not the best we can achieve.

 

After hope, deliberate efforts have to be made to address inequality. Opportunities should not be made for certain groups alone. Everyone, no matter their identity should be able to experience freedom. We must teach our children the values of respect, harmony and equality.

 

We must make our societies flourish and ensure that infrastructure such as electricity and internet access which promote security are functional. We must promote the idea that peace is not weakness but the true form of strength. We must also prepare our armies to fight those who

will refuse to lay down their arms peacefully. Doing all these and following these steps faithfully should guarantee a peaceful world.

 

So I sat late into the night, discussing my dreams of a more peaceful world with my parents who asked me “What will be the opportunity cost of this goal? What is humanity going to have to give up or acquire to create this ideal society.” So I sat quietly in my chair, I tried to come up with the best possible answer to their question. Here is my answer.

 

Peace will come at a cost and humanity will be taxed for it. It will require individual and collective effort. As a collective, we have to invest in education. It is the bedrock of a good society and without it, even a seemingly peaceful society will crumble. We have to make sure that every person, irrespective of race, gender and economic background has access to quality education even if this means getting out of our comfort zones. Parents should spend more time with their children and not leave them in the hands of television and computer screens.

 

Peace will cost us money. This money would be used to build infrastructure, set up global campaigns and fund research on social change. When adequate infrastructure is in place, members of society no longer need to struggle for resources because there will be enough to go round. Campaigns need to be set up around the globe to promote a conscious effort towards peace. These campaigns will emphasize the need for diplomacy and patience when resolving an issue while still working hard to abolish gender, race and sexuality discrimination. This is because as Franklin D. Roosevelt noted “we know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom.”

 

Money will also be spent trying to equip the world’s military with the resources they need to eliminate those who threaten global peace.

 

Our leaders will also pay a major price for peace. They would need to demonstrate the willingness to give up some of their privileges as leaders in order to promote the common good. As Pope Francis said recently, the good things we need, with peace at the heart of all of them are realizable if we do not leave their accomplishment in the hands of only the politicians. Peace will cost us some of our individual and collective privileges but will give us good health and enduring progress in return.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Disclaimer: This essay was submitted by the author to the 2017 Queens Commonwealth Essay Competition

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

© 2020 Marvellous Ogudoro

marvellous.ogudoro@hope.edu