Peace and its Follies

How shall I find the help I need?
Shall here a thousand volumes teach me only
That men, self tortured, everywhere must bleed
And here and there one happy man sits lonely?
                                                                               – Goethe

Peace and its Follies

World Peace. It rolls off the tongue nicely. Celebrities, politicians, in fact, public figures of any kind have bandied this phrase about so much that it has rendered it meaningless, valueless. But let us not judge the term by the perversion it has undergone. Let us go back to the basics and examine the concept as it was in its original state.

Is World Peace attainable? And if so, is that necessarily a good thing?

Let us begin by addressing the first question.

World Peace is put forward as a utopia. A world where every human being gets along and prospers without harming his fellow human being. Where one can attain greatness without leaving the other in the dust, where all of mankind walks hand in hand from glory to glory. This, then, is the goal. Very well, how are we to go about it.

Race, gender, nationality, physicality, sexuality, cultural hegemony, historical prejudice, religion, culture and economics. These are just a few terms that can be named off the top of one’s head when considering just how many things divide mankind. Can all of these be overcome? The problem we face today is, we see these issues as individual issues needing individual solutions, or at best, problems that are interrelated. No one sees these issues as a single tree that has branched out from a single overwhelming factor. Evolution.

A certain Charles Darwin put forth a certain theory that subsequently went on to be proven. Darwin himself must not have imagined how vast the scope of his theory was. What the “survival of the fittest” means, what the existence of the survival instinct means is that every creature, given the chance to help its own cause, even at the cost of the other, will act to help itself or its kind survive. This is an animal instinct, and humans like to believe they have risen above it, but it is prevalent, if not dominant, throughout mankind. Fierce education mingled with fierce determination of will has produced exceptions. We have all heard stories of selfless sacrifice, if there is such a thing. However, the fact remains, the vast majority of mankind, or any other species on earth, has no qualms going to any extent to get a headstart in the rat race that is survival.

Now, seen through this light, one begins to perceive all the above mentioned terms of differentiation as mere tools. The British used “The mission of civilizing a Barbarian country” as a tool to drain India of its wealth of resources. We were called barbarians, and we believed it. And we merrily played along while they stole out the backdoor carrying our treasure. The white man called the black man a lower form of human being, and united the Western world in this belief, until a whole continent of people were enslaved. Hitler used the Jewish Race as the scapegoat to unite Germany in retaliation to French excesses. America used Islamophobia to justify attacks on Arabian countries.

Everywhere, every propaganda, every justification is a thinly veiled attempt at superiority, or a desperate cry for survival. Humans have it ingrained in them to step on corpses on the way to progress. No civilization in all of mankind’s history has prospered without having terrific violence in its past. It is, simply, the way it is.

Let us assume for arguments sake (though we would be wrong) that the survival of the fittest was not the root cause. Let us take each of the terms of differentiation as a problem in its own right, interlinked with the other problems intricately, but a separate entity nonetheless. Even so, can such a plethora of differences ever be overcome? When, in the same country (ironically enough, a democratic country), there can exist a journalist who doesn’t blink twice before flinging insult in the face of a religious figurehead in the name of freedom of speech, and an extremist who believes any insult to his religion is justification enough to carry out an act of terrorism; which naïve creature could even hope that peace could prevail even for a little while on a global scale?

There can never be a solution to man’s fear of the unknown. And the world is too large, mankind too diverse, for differences not to exist. Education proves inadequate to fight the instinctual reaction of man to shun or destroy that which seems foreign to himself rather than insquisitively learn about it before he judges it. Man will remain a man, and violence will remain an integral part of him.

“Almost everything we call ‘higher culture’ is based on the spiritualization and intensification of cruelty – this is my proposition; the ‘wild beast’ has not been laid to rest at all, it lives, it flourishes, it has merely become – deified.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Now to address the second question. Is World Peace a good thing?

The first answer to come to one’s mind would be, “Yes, obviously.”

But the first thing that comes to one’s mind usually does not have a lot of thought behind it.

Friedrich Nietzsche postulated that war, conflict, dissent, dissatisfaction, revolt, revolution and cruelty were all necessary cogs in the machinations of human progress. It is almost a form of purgation in the Aristotelian manner that he professes works to the good of mankind. If one glances through history ( a worthwhile endeavor) one will find that the greatest leaps that man has made progress wise have come from times of tumult and warfare. The might of American Space programs relies heavily on Nazi science. The slavery question prompted concerted research into human psychology and race to investigate if one is really inferior to the other or is merely believed to be so. The oppression of Germany by France through the Treaty of Versailles ended up providing the impetus for uniting the whole of Bavaria with such an excess of fervor that they held the rest of Europe in a tyrannical grip of terror for almost a decade. Mankind has a wonderful habit of blooming to its full potential when under duress. And Nietzsche’s argument is that for this very reason, evil is needed, if only to spur the good on to greater heights.

A world at peace would have stagnated. There would be hesitations before every step forward. Everytime progress could be made, it would be weighed against its possible side effects and collateral damage and ultimately given up. That the whole species of man will advance in unison is a vain dream with no attachment to reality. In the real world, you always need a pioneer to light the way before the rest of the masses follow. But right there comes a divide. The pioneer’s task is the toughest, must his reward also not be correspondingly the greatest? If yes, then he is at a position more elevated than the rest, which distorts equality, and there can be no peace without equality. And if no, then we fall back into Karl Marx’s argument, and a simple google search will give you the disastrous consequences that any attempt at large scale Marxism has brought upon mankind.

Incidentally, in case the above remark misleads you into believing this article is pro-democracy, the very concept of democracy itself is flawed. And in the context of equality, this becomes all the more dangerous. In a democracy, all men are proclaimed equal, right at the outset, this leads us to a contradiction. According to the “logic” of democracy, the opinion of an educated, trained professor of Economics and of an uneducated, ignorant old villager carry the same weightage when deciding who is to be elected Finance minister. Democracy treats people as equals, when they are not. This results either in oppression of the masses or of oppression of the intellect. And none of the scenarios are pleasant ones.

This same thinking overflows into the wishful concept of World Peace. As mentioned before, peace cannot exist until there is complete equality in mankind. A man, seeing another above him, will necessarily wish to rise to his level rather than remain below. It is only natural, only fair, and indeed this aspiration is the reason we have advanced so far from our caveman days. But aspiration is a short step away from ambition and ambition can be squarely blamed for 80% of our world’s issues today.

These arguments do not even delve into the practical consequences of world peace. How is one to control overpopulation? How is one to control the already overaccelerated usage of our resources. And most importantly, what will then provide the impetus for humans to move forward?

The choice, in the end seems to be this. Peace at the cost of progress, resulting in stagnation, or progress while accepting collateral damage as a necessary cost that must be paid. The delicate task of mankind is to keep alive its repugnance for barbarianism while recognizing and accepting that barbarianism is still and always will be an integral part of the human psyche.

In conclusion, Peace is a noble objective to keep before oneself, but it is an erroneous one. To revert back to Nietzsche, “Life is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and, at the least and mildest, exploitation.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

This, seen objectively, is what life constitutes. The choice of accepting it or spending one’s life fighting against it, remains a personal one.


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