by: Don G / @TheJetsettersLifestylePodcast
Peace cannot be bought or sold; it is a gift from God. The famous man of peace, Mahatma Gandhi would say, ‘Peace is the reward of itself’. Peace is the essence of our existence; it is the freedom to pursue our dream. It’s our ability to express ourselves; it is the opportunity to relate with others understanding, good will and cooperation. Man’s love for peace is universal.
Peace generally is defined as complete freedom from disturbance, a state of tranquility. It refers to periods or times when there is no war or fight among nations. Peace is the most expected and desired goal of human beings and is referred as the absence of violence and war (Galtung, 1969, pg.167). Jonah Vincent Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist, mathematician, and the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies was a pioneer of peace research, supporting the non-violence conception of peace. He calls it ‘negative peace’ (Galtung, 1969).
In a broader view Galtung emphasized on both the negative and positive conceptions of peace. He simply defines negative peace as absence of violence. This means absence of all kinds of antagonistic attitudes, behaviors, wars and confrontation. The negative conception of peace was developed by peace researchers in the 60s where in war, confrontations were the main impediments to achieving peace. But the situation continued till in the 80s and then radically shifted towards positive peace. Human beings are by nature peaceful. War does not prove that humans are fighting animals; even the act of war does not affect the least in humans’ spontaneous love for peace.
However, war has a direct, deadly and immediate impact on human life and health. Through the early 20th century, up to the start of World War II, the vast preponderance of the direct casualties of war was uniformed combatants, usually members of the Armed Forces. Although non-combatants suffered social, economic and environmental consequences of war and were victims of what is now called “collateral damage” from military operations, civilians were generally not directly targeted and largely spared direct death and disability from war. Since the second World War, the proportion of deaths to civilian non-combatants has substantially increased, and civilian non-combatants have increasingly been targeted during war, with tactics including abduction, rape and ethnic cleansing.
War and other military activities cause serious health consequences through negative impacts on the physical, biological, economic and social environment in which people live. Post war effects are wide spread, and can carry short term or long term effects. Soldiers experience war differently than civilians, although both suffer in times of war. The effects of war also includes mass destruction of cities creating long lasting effects on a country’s economy. Armed conflicts can have indirect negative consequences on, infrastructure, public health provision and social order. These indirect consequences are often overlooked and underappreciated.
For centuries we have seen casualties of war; soldiers who have suffered various physical injuries and scars that last their lifetimes. Until the 20th century little was known about the emotional effects of war on soldiers. Until soldiers were studied psychologically it was difficult for those in the mental health field to understand what happened to them. You may have heard of psychological disorders associated with war, such as shell shock or ‘combat stress reaction’. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a diagnosis made by doctors on a regular basis for patients who have suffered major traumas such as rape or a car accident. The disorder was first discovered in soldiers from the Vietnam War, yet their symptoms had been synonymous with war veterans from hundreds of years before.
The actual emotional effect of war on soldiers can be distressing and it seems so unfair to the family and friends of veterans that after all they’ve endured, to return home and continue to suffer. PTSD and shell shock are essentially manifestations of the brains attempt to cope with trauma, failings to do so adequately. With PTSD in soldiers, the sufferer will often recall and re-experience the specific trauma of war, perhaps when they dream, or even when they think or close their eyes. Hallucinations are not uncommon either; with soldiers feeling as if they are back in the traumatic war environment. Hallucinations can manifest during sleep, while drinking and during normal wakefulness. Soldiers who suffer from PTSD will also react strongly to anything that reminds them of the trauma and attempt to avoid it. This often means a distinct reluctance to mix socially, due to loud noises that remind them of bombings, or crowds of people reminiscent of trenches.
It’s no surprise, once you begin to comprehend the hell that soldiers experience during war. The horror of war can make it difficult to those who experience it to never be the same ever again. Some soldiers become unable to form close bonds with loved ones after returning from combat and believe that reluctance is due to the fear that they will eventually leave someone behind. Veterans of war who experience PTSD without adequate counseling and care often do not marry or have children, perhaps because they have experienced near death experiences and find it difficulty letting go of the idea that they may die.
War can be and has been proven to be a deeply scarring experience for many soldiers. Yet, some veterans of past wars have recovered from their traumatic experience with the right care. Douglas MacArthur once said, “the soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldiers who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds scars of wars.” Peace is not merely the absence of war or violent conflict and it is more than simply the absence of war. Peace is a positive thing. Through positive peace, Jonah Gultung gives references to the absence of all kinds of social inequalities and injustices. He refers to these inequalities and injustices as the structural violence of the society. From this perspective, peace is defined as presence of things positive, ranging from integration, justice, harmony, equality, freedom etc… Gandhi emphasized structural development for a peaceful society through the non-violent political movement. When asked by an Indian Times correspondent ‘if freedom is attained what will be your relationship with the British?’ He replied, ‘the lion and the lamb will live together harmoniously.’ The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace. Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be achieved through understanding. War is hell, but truly one can also say that peace is priceless.