Is Peace a Privilege or a Right?

By | March 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Beyond AEGEE | Tags: , , ,

Something is in the air. A sense of unrest that seems to me has been lingering for the last year or so. We have all read about various protests and conflicts in Turkey, Ukraine, Bosnia, Venezuela, and many other places, and these events have really made me think.

I will say right away that I do not consider myself an expert on world affairs. Sure, I follow the news and I try to stay updated with major events as much as I can, but quite frankly, this is not my primary area of interest. I get my news from media sources I consider reliable, and I listen to my friends who are directly involved in these situations, but I do not feel confident in saying that I know all the in-depth facts. However, from all that I read and heard recently, I started wondering about where our world is going. Are we progressing, or are we holding our development back?

I’m not blindly idealistic, and I think it’s normal that there are conflicts of interest in this world, but it is up to us to decide how we want to approach these conflicts. As a pacifist, I believe that violence is never the answer. It would be nice if we as a global society were progressive enough to realise that in the long run, violence only causes damage, even if you “win” the battle. It would be nice if problems could be solved constructively, to minimise damage, especially for innocent people who should not suffer the consequences of a battle they didn’t want to fight.

But this is not how the world is working right now. It’s 2014, and as much as I would like to believe we have learned from past conflicts and wars, the truth is that as human beings we follow certain patterns, almost in a vicious circle. When a human being gets a taste of power, it’s an intoxicating, exhilarating feeling. But power is a tricky, dangerous thing. It can bring out the good in you, but I think that almost inevitably, it will also bring out the bad in everyone. Let’s not fool ourselves, we all have a dark side, and I think that whoever you are, if you get in a powerful position, you will take advantage of the perks that come with a position to some extent. Maybe it will be relatively harmless, but maybe, as it seems to be the case with certain politicians, your power will blind you, and your actions will harm innocent people who are in a less powerful position.

It shouldn’t be like this, of course. Ideally the role of politicians should be to represent the interests of people who elected them, but is that really the case? We tell ourselves that we live in democratic societies, and in theory we do. But in practice? I am not so sure.

There is a quote from Bob Dylan’s “Union Sundown” that rings true to me:

Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that’s better left unsaid.

We are caught in power struggles between people with different interests. They convince us that their interests are our interests too. They divide us. They make us fight each other. But what are really my interests? My interest is living in a productive society, not a society where people are dying because they have different opinions on certain matters. I think that no matter what your political opinions are, you can agree that senseless deaths are tragic. Look at it from a human perspective. People who die in these conflicts are not numbers. They are someone’s family members, someone’s loved ones, just like you are. They are people with hopes, dreams, and ideas, just like you are.

Even though a lot of people tend to characterise me as a “people person”, I don’t think I would necessarily say I love people, but I do understand them. Even if they come from different backgrounds or even if they have different opinions, I understand what we have in common, what is universal to all of us: the experience of being a human being.

And so I’m following the news, and I’m talking to my friends whose freedoms are being stifled, who are worried about their safety, who are concerned about their immediate future. At this moment, uncertainty is their reality. Once upon a time, it was my reality too. When I was a kid, my country was in a state of unrest. Luckily, I was too young to remember most of it, and I didn’t lose my loved ones. But there are some things that stay with you forever. When I see a movie from the early 90s, sometimes I think to myself: “Wow, these actors were filming this, and people were watching it in cinemas, while people around me were dying.”

And now, I am the one going to cinemas and watching movies, while people in other areas of the world are dying. I can concern myself with things like where to go out on weekends, or what TV show to watch when I’m bored. But some people have bigger concerns in their daily lives right now. And I feel privileged that I don’t. But when you think about it, isn’t that ridiculous? The fact that I feel privileged for not having to worry about people shooting at me or trying to restrict my rights? I want to live in a world where peace is not a privilege, but a right.

Written by Antonija Parat, AEGEE-Zadar & Network Commission

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