Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Individual Obstacles to Peace

Having spoken to a number of individuals in the past couple of weeks about the obstacles to peace in our world, it has become abundantly clear that many of the most pressing obstacles are caused by our individual flaws. Danielle David, a young woman and avid volunteer studying Psychology and Religion at Careleton University in Ottawa, the most important obstacle to peace is ignorance and a lack of desire to know more about what is going on in the world, an complete inability to separate oneself from one's own "stuff". This was quite perceptive of Ms. David and we decided to think about it a little more--could it be that our North American culture, the culture of "I" and "Me" and "Mine", could be the main obstacle to peace? Or is it more than just a North American phenomenon?

We spoke with Marianne Elliott from New Zealand this week and the discussion was quite enlightening as throughout our 40 minute conversation on peace with the ex-UN peacekeeper and now yoga instructor, we came to the realization that it is not just a North American trait to be obsessed, or perhaps simply preoccupied with one's own problems. Marianne spent a number of years working for grassroots NGOs and larger organizations such as the UN with the hope that she could affect peace in the world. What she realized in participating in discussions with individuals in conflict was that they too were preoccupied with themselves, though perhaps in a different way. In her experience, individual motivations often overshadow the final destination in discussions of peace-building and peacekeeping missions. If you come at peace-building from a position of anger and resentment to those disrupting the peace, Marianne believe, then how can you possibly expect a peaceful resolution? A valid point, given the inherent lack of peace associated with anger and resentment.

So if we as individuals are the problem, then how can we solve this problem without becoming more self-absorbed. Danielle David and Marianne Elliott, women or different ages and upbringings, from opposite ends of the globe have found the solution in themselves. Both seem to agree that in order to build peace you must first have knowledge, in Marianne's case, knowledge of yourself and your motivations, in Danielle's case, knowledge of the world around you.

When you reconcile the two perspectives on individuality as an obstacle to peace, it appears that you have arrived at a coherent and all-encompassing solution  to this specific problem--that is: know what the problems are around you that you would like to fix, and come to terms with the reason that you feel the need to fix them.

So what do you think? Does this seem like a valid and effective way to approach peacekeeping? If so why, and if not, why not?

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