My name is Nick Hathorn, I am in my fourth year at Nipissing University in the Political Science program and I am currently a research assistant here at NUPRI. My first formal encounter with NUPRI happened at the end of the 2011-2012 school year when I was approached to partake in NUPRI's first ever intimate conversation on the problem of peace with a friend and fellow student of mine. In February of 2013 I was approached by NUPRI to take over the position of their research assistant, which involved combing through the many enlightening interviews that NUPRI has conducted over the years. While working on these interviews I was presented with a plethora of thought provoking and thought challenging definitions of peace and the obstacles of peace. This post will discuss how my working with NUPRI has changed and supported my definition of peace through the various interviews they have conducted.
In the intimate conversation on the problem of peace that I took part in last year I was asked what does peace mean to me as an individual. At the time I took peace to mean inner peace. My definition then was that people needed to be first and foremost at peace with themselves and who they are as an individual. I believed and still do believe that if people are insecure with who they are, their ways of life, and their beliefs, it is more difficult for the insecure person to accept any beliefs or ways of life other than their own as valid or legitimate (Nick Hathorn and Matthew Welwood, Intimate Conversation on the Problem of Peace, April 21 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMNjOjVlm5g). When working on the interviews conducted by NUPRI I discovered that other individuals shared my idea of inner peace such as Claude Desjardins (Interview with Claude Desjardins, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-h4y9SME1E&list=PL5B9E20CABF823A88&index=3). Claude believes that this state of inner peace is achieved by having a balance of the masculine and feminine. I believe that Claude may be on to something here, there is no doubt that the masculine has long been dominant in society and could be very well be the cause of many conflicts in our societies. However I stand by my claim that inner peace is achieved by accepting who you are, how you live your life, and in your sets of beliefs. I believe that many conflicts (not all) can be boiled down, in essence to insecurity.
When an individual or even a country is insecure they have a tendency to otherize. An insecure person for example who is not secure in their religious beliefs may feel threatened by other existing religious beliefs and as a result will turn a person with those other beliefs into an other. What I mean is that human beings throughout history have often defined themselves through what they are not, this is what it is meant by othering. The Romans for example identified who they were by comparing themselves to the other, in the case of the Romans it was the Gauls. Every trait that Romans saw as being well un-roman was attributed to the Gauls, traits like cannibalism, savagery, lack of law and order, which turned the Gauls into a sort of monster that Romans could point their fingers at and say we are roman because we are not like them. When people or a state otherizes a group, they are indirectly claiming that the way in which these people live, who they are, and what they believe is barbaric and by extension is not a legitimate way of life.
It is this practice of othering that has led to wide spread racism, cultural intolerance, and prejudices that have been plaguing human societies for thousands of years. Countless atrocities have been committed on the claim that a certain group of people were different and other than ourselves. The Crusades for example where many thousand of individuals killed and died in the name of a peaceful god, was justified on the basis that Muslims and their different beliefs were in someway wrong. So long as people and states are insecure the practice of othering will always be prevalent in society. It is my belief that unless this practice of othering comes to and end we will never be able to achieve a lasting sustainable peace for all peoples. Brennain Lloyd (project coordinator for Northwatch) in her interview with NUPRI also claims that one of the greatest obstacles to peace is the practice of othering (Interview with Brennain Lloyd, August 19 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UrZJlwlLHU&list=PL640AB1163E63F093&index=3)
This insecurity occurs not just on the level of the individual but also on the level of the state and as a result can be found within foreign policies. The United Sates foreign policy, especially under the Bush doctrine, reflected their insecurity. As a result much of America’s foreign policy is governed by what is referred to as preemptive warfare or preventative warfare (both of which in my opinion are really just the same thing). Preemptive warfare like that of Iraq is meant to repel or defeat a perceived threat. The insecurity of the United States in my opinion has always stretched back to Pearl Harbor where the American’s were attacked without warning. Despite the wealth and military power of the United States, Pearl Harbor has left a permanent scar on their security. This scar I feel has put the United States in a state of paranoia and insecurity. The whole aim of preemptive warfare in my opinion is to prevent an attack on the U.S. by striking first and dictating where and how the war will be fought. This scar was further deepened after the events of 911, which caused the Bush doctrine and preemptive warfare to become the crux of American foreign policy. The United States due to these two events led the States to becoming so insecure that they began to use preemptive warfare as an excuse to attack the Middle Eastern barbarian that was created out of American insecurity after the events of 911. Even when there was concrete proof that Iraq did not in fact have WMD’s, America’s insecurity still led them to engage in a long a bloody war for no reason other than insecurity. Shirley Farlinger in her interview with NUPRI claims that we will never have a peaceful world unless countries like the United States change their foreign policy (Interview with Shirley Farlinger, July 20 2011, http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL113A5E8749A29457).
After going through the interviews conducted by NUPRI and being exposed to a plethora of definitions, I have become more secure in my own definition of peace. During these interviews many brilliant definitions have been given, for example peace with the environment, global peace, domestic peace, action vs. non-action, and each and every one of them is a valid definition of peace. What I have truly learnt here at my time with NUPRI is how multifaceted peace really is. My definition is merely one of many and is perhaps just a small part to the multifaceted puzzle that is peace. Many of these interviews do not discuss peace in terms of inner peace, instead people like David Tal claim that peace is the permanent dismembering of militaries and being able to have open communications with other nations (Interview with David Tal, March 2 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQim-DRi7r4&list=PL814AA21B25FD9721). While David’s definition in terms of military dismembering is quite different from my own does not make it any less valid due to peace being multifaceted. The open communication part of his definition however I feel is directly connected to my definition of peace. Open and honest communication between different cultures or peoples with different beliefs can only be achieved when both (or all) parties are secure within themselves. A person or a state that is insecure in its beliefs and way of life will be unable to accept opposing viewpoints. If an insecure person or state cannot accept opposing beliefs or ways of life, open and honest communication cannot be achieved. If honest and open communications cannot be held between people or states then we will never come to any sort of consensus as to how to coexist peacefully with one another.
States like individuals need to accept other cultures, ideas, lifestyles, and beliefs in order to coexist peacefully with one another. This acceptance comes from being secure with ones own lifestyle and beliefs. Once a state or person is secure in their own beliefs and ways of life, an open and honest dialogue can then be had to discuss how to overcome the many other obstacles to peace. So long as states and individuals remain in a state of insecurity the practice of othering will always be around and as a result we will be unable to ever create a peaceful society or even begin a dialogue about achieving peace. Inner peace, accepting who you are and then being able to accept others, is the first step of many in achieving a true sustainable peace.
Special thanks to Dr. Koivukoski of Nipissing University’s Political Science Department for this amazing opportunity to work along side him and aid him in the Agents of Peace Project that NUPRI has been working on.