Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.Matthew 5:9
Controversies seem to follow us everywhere, with anyone. From the dawn of human history, it appears that we have never grown tired of fighting one another. According to archaeological records, aside from natural threats, one of the primary causes of death was murder. Our ancestors frequently ended their lives by being killed. In tribal communities, outside of one’s known circle, everyone appears to be regarded as murderers. We may have a notion that hunter-gatherers lived peacefully. While this is true to some extent, killing was also quite prevalent in their social lives.
Does the agricultural revolution make humans peaceful? Not necessarily. Because of this ascent innovation, they are relatively free from the constant starvations and tribal conflicts in the accumulation of the food supply and eventually wealth, which caused the birth of civilization, a large scale of institutional systems. When it comes to conflicts, the situation worsened. Humans entered the era of more brutal warfare. There is a power imbalance among people in the systems, which got more and more sophisticated until recently. We don’t have any decades without wars on a global scale.
The Industrial Revolution made humans unprecedentedly wealthy and healthy, despite some exploitative situations because of the progress of modern-day medical and hygiene advancements. The global population skyrocketed, which is evidence that we are wealthier and healthier than at any time in the past. The achievement is remarkable and commendable. Did we become peaceful in the same way? Not necessarily.
In the twenty-first century of the information age, while the AI Singularity appears to be near, it seems we are still engaged in constant warfare. On the surface of the earth, we never miss any conflicts and territorial disputes, as if we cannot live without fighting. Does living mean fighting? Does living mean killing one another? If that is the case, what an irony our lives are!
Let’s take a look at the micro perspective. The smallest of our living units is a family, if not a tribe. Do we live peacefully among family members? On one hand, love among family members is fundamental, which we never miss. On the other hand, it is also true that conflicts are always apparent in this small circle. One of the top cases for murders is due to conflicts among family members, as well as among couples, which seems universal throughout our human history, from the tribal era to the postmodern AI/information age. Is domestic violence part of our human nature? We strongly love one another, and to some extent, we strongly hate one another. Too much love is not so different from too much hate.
Based on historical facts, we have to admit that humans are never peaceful. Even among so-called peacemakers, they cannot help but fight one another, mostly due to different opinions, ideologies, and ways to achieve what they call peace. We fight for peace. And when we get tired of fighting, ironically enough, peace emerges itself due to the lack of our intention to fight.
Whether from a macro or micro perspective, we can never escape the situation of conflicts. Why is that so? There are several reasons:
- Differences in opinions or beliefs: People may have different opinions, values, or beliefs that lead to disagreements and conflicts.
- Competition for resources: When resources such as money, power, or territory are limited, people may compete with one another, leading to conflict and aggression.
- Perceived threats or injustices: People may feel threatened by others or perceive injustices, leading to feelings of anger, fear, or resentment.
- Misunderstandings or miscommunications: Misunderstandings and miscommunications can lead to conflict, particularly when people feel they have been unfairly treated or misunderstood.
- Past experiences or histories: Past experiences, such as trauma or abuse, may lead to conflict or aggressive behavior.
- Group identities and loyalty: People may feel a strong sense of loyalty or identity with a particular group, leading to conflicts with those outside the group.
- Power imbalances: Power imbalances, such as those that exist in hierarchical relationships, can lead to conflicts when one party feels they are being unfairly treated.
Ironically enough, these things are inevitable as long as we live together collectively. What one single person can do is very limited. Even reproducing and keeping one’s own species is impossible without the cooperation of others. By two persons, it seems we are complete, and by a set of groups expanded and developed, we were able to move our society and civilizations forward. Without collaboration, we can never make ourselves prosperous. But then, because of collaboration, we can’t avoid conflicts, just as we can’t avoid cancer cells in the complex biological entity.
Diversity is a must for survival and creativity. As we live against various threats, both internal and external, the more diverse our options, the more chances for survival and creativity. Something novel means something different. Without embracing differences, we can never be ready to achieve novelty, which is the essence of our creativity.
Diversity is a must. And yet, we humans seem not yet fully ready to be inclusive peacefully. The only remedy is that we have to accept the fact that we are not yet ready for true inclusiveness. Let us accept our incompleteness. As long as we are full of ourselves, we can never be ready for this patch. But we are on this path. Only this recognition makes us humble enough to keep on this path.
Who is our enemy? Is he or she who attacks you your enemy? Not necessarily. Our enemy is ourselves, who are not ready to seek peace and love ourselves.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.Luke 6:27-28
Conflicts seem to be a constant aspect of human existence, stemming from our differences in opinions, competition for resources, past experiences, and group identities, among others. While diversity is necessary for survival and creativity, we are not yet fully ready to be inclusive peacefully. Nonetheless, accepting our incompleteness and recognizing that our true enemy is ourselves, who are not ready to seek peace and love ourselves, may be the first step towards a more peaceful and inclusive world.
Image by Blanka Šejdová