Does believing in peace garantee that I am peaceful?

Are you what people believe?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

We often hear words from the mouths of politicians about peace: that it is necessary to keep the peace; that it is of paramount importance; that we live in greater peace than ever before; that it is necessary to educate for peace, etc. But if at some point another country treads on their toes, the first thing they do is threaten them with things like “nobody wants a conflict, but we are willing to defend our country” and the same applies to other things: oil wells, small isolated islands with a strategic value, etc. It is enough that our “security” is affected for people to take up arms and forget those pretty words. It happens on a small scale in our lives too. I want to be at peace, but also that people do not raise their voices against me, that they do not insult me, that they do not disrespect me…because if they do I will jump down their throats. Despite the fact that I may tell myself that I believe in peace, that I am a pacifist and I go to protests for non-violence. Does this not seem a bit strange?

It seems that what we say is one thing and what we are prepared to do is another. We should investigate this contradiction in more detail. Explore within ourselves, not as an intellectual exercise, but querying our internal processes.

I said previously that a perception of security is something that we seek. It is true that it is one of the basic needs of any animal and we are one. We are frightened by all kinds of things, such as a person or situation that causes us vulnerability and insecurity. But this vulnerability and human insecurity is very personal and subjective. We may worry about things that for others are trivial. Each of us has our weak points in relation to what confronts us.

Must we attack someone else just because I personally am worried about something they did or said or are going to do? Can we perhaps not see that our feeling of threat is quite subjective? Do we always have to pay attention to our personal fears? Why would I react if I realised that I were only acting out of fear? If I realised that, I would not come out with such a violent reaction and I might decide, at that moment, to respond in a better way, that was more considered and more conscious on my part.

In my daily life there are opportunities for me to be aware of these violent responses. And just by observing when they arise, they become weaker and then I am able to act in the interests of peace. Not a peace based on words, but a peace that I cultivate with awareness and good humour. External peace never exists if there is no inner peace. Reacting spurred on by fear, insecurity, vulnerability and discomfort, only leads to violence of a greater or lesser extent. When I become annoyed, there is violence inside me because something has happened that I disliked. That violence, when we lend it wings, when we fail to observe it, creates disorder, incomprehension, insensitivity and those on the receiving end of the annoyance feel violated, “rightly so” and defend themselves. There we already have our own little war. These are our small acts of violence that arise because we do not pay attention to the internal causes in each one of us. I am peaceful when I handle my responses, in a conscious way. Peace is an individual task. Nobody is going to bring us peace, if we do not do it ourselves.

Do you not agree?