I’ve been writing a series of articles, three so far, on peace cultures for a newsletter at my church. These cultures, twenty four in all, are covered in a website called Peaceful Societies, www.peacefulsocieties.com. These are existing societies that are peaceful, that is, they have little or no conflict within their societies and avoid conflict with other people. This is unusual in the world today. There is a great longing for peace in this world and yet it remains illusive. For that reason I thought it would be worthwhile to find out how these peaceful societies manage to exist and capture that peace. What characteristics do they have that other non-peaceful societies lack?
In comparing these peaceful societies, one with the other, I found a considerable range of difference, indicating that there are a number of ways to achieve peace. Yet there are enough that is common to all of them to make it possible to draw some tentative conclusions. When I have finished the articles—about three to go, I estimate—I hope to be able to characterize what makes a typical peaceful society. Then comes another question: does the average nation of today really want to be peaceful?
The disturbing fact that comes to light in the process of reading about the societies of the website is that all of them are looked down upon by their neighbors. Most of them are small, simple cultures existing with few possessions. They are not the ideal of any modern society and their peaceful existence is not enough to interest any modern society in joining them. The modern society regards other things as being of greater importance.
Which leads to a question: despite all our posturing about wanting peace, are we, a modern society, that interested in peaceful living? We say we are but if we had peace, would we want to maintain it? A clue to the answer is the fact that many peaceful societies in the world have been destroyed by more advanced societies or nations that considered the possession of land and the pursuit of riches more important than peace. Most of the time, the more advanced civilization was so interested in selfish pursuits that it didn’t even bother to question what it was it was destroying or even admit that it was doing so. Evidence exists of the fact that such advanced nations still operate in that fashion, our nation included.