The overriding theme of Solutions For Peace is tapping into solutions that create permanent peace that benefits all. When the world returns to its old attempts at striving for peaceful negotiations, we can see how peace itself gets unwoven before our very eyes. It’s not that the negotiations themselves are not worthwhile. But the attitudes each party brings is often a far cry from the needed change for permanent peace to take hold.
Peace depends entirely upon the intentions of those seeking it. When peace is truly chosen and embraced, its powers of transformation will be felt by all. But unless it is chosen, and most of the time true peace is not, each side will have to pick up the broken pieces again, and face further confict, further bloodshed, further unrest. “Peace negotiations”, especially between enemies, can easily fall into the trap of being window dressing for simply restating one’s hard-line positions, giving in only a little, and fearing losing more in the outcome. We often see the peace negotiation as a Win / Lose or Lose / Win scenario, and in either case there will be a loser in the process. The loser in fact is both sides, because this tactic doesn’t choose peace, it invites further conflict.
When one chooses true peace, everything else follows. Peace is as tangible as a high ocean wave on top of which an expert surfer carefully balances himself. Yet, to climb up and ride this wave of peace, one must let go of all obstacles that prevent one from attaining it and staying on it. To achieve this remarkable balancing act, the peace seeker must hold certain attitudes firm in his mind and drop others.
One important attitude is intention. If we seek peace with the intention of serving solely or mostly the interests our self or our people, then we will be thrown off the wave. Peace cannot be coerced into serving narrow interests of a single person or group. Either we embrace peace for all, or we experience peace for none. This is simply because peace does not make the distinctions we humans make: peace doesn’t divide people into religions, countries, races, genders, or classes. Peace sees the universal value and benefit of all, for all. Peace embraces the value of oneness, for it is oneness that Peace itself seeks to express. And the value of oneness is seeking the highest benefit for everyone.
Yet, how do we seek the highest benefit for all? It may sound good in principle but how can it actually work? It means that we truly listen and strive to understand the other side’s issues, concerns, and positions. To do this, we have to step out of our shoes, and listen to a viewpoint that may be vastly different from our own. Married couples who have a difficult time communicating are often asked to engage in active listening. One technique in active listening is to simply repeat the other person’s perspective without judging or commenting on it. Similiarly, when nations and other adversarial groups engage in negotiation, hearing clearly the others views, and simply stating them may be an important first step. At this point, no one has agreed to anything. But listening is a first step, perhaps a vital one.
The next step is to see where there could be some agreement, while setting aside the more volatile areas of disagreement. Willing to make smaller incremental agreements shows goodwill. And such goodwill may help in dealing with the areas of greater contention. Where there is agreement, each party must commit to carrying out its willingness to follow through on these smaller agreements.
In some situations, one side or other may be responsible for not upholding certain past agreements. Those failings should be immediately addressed and rectified, especially if the other party insists upon it. It is important to admit one’s responsibility and acknowledge the truth of it. Admitting responsibility is often difficult, especially because some people see it as a weakness to express one’s faults. Yet human civilizations will never evolve past our primitive ways of acting and reacting through violence and bloodshed, until we are willing to admit some of our faults. Making mistakes is human nature, but failing to admit our errors is perhaps the greatest mistake of all. Sometimes such an admission can clear the way for further negotiation, once the other side hears the acknowledgement of responsibility. Admitting responsibility may have political consequences back “home”. But a person who is willing to show responsibility and recify past errors will go very far in setting the table for peace to happen, and is a true leader in creating peace.
At every stage of the “peace process”, peace must be acknowledged as the foremost aim, and that each side is willing to go to any and all lengths required to find the peace. Sometimes during difficult negotiations, we may need to take an action that “feeds” the peace. A small positive action such as sending food to the poor of one’s adversary could show a goodwill gesture. It’s interesting how few times nations feed the peace, when the expense is minimal. It is as if we think that peace is about boundaries or troops or goods, when it may have more do with simply making positive gestures.
One issue that often arises is not to use threats as a means of wielding power. We teach bigger, stronger kids that they shouldn’t use their strength to bully other kids. How ironic that adults can’t practice this simple lesson in foreign relations and conflict resolution. While we bemoan the bully in the playground, adults practice bullying at the negotiating table. We threaten to bomb the other if we don’t get our way. Bullies do not admit faults. It’s the nature of the bully to use force and coercision to get their way, while ignoring one’s own mistakes, and casting a spotlight on the enemy’s shortcomings.
Many peace negotiations fail, because each negotiator goes in seeking the best deal for his or her own people, and giving in as little as possible. This may be politically smart, for politicians thrive on representing the “interests” of their people and showing they stand tough and firm often wins cheer and applause from their home crowd; yet hard stances do little to serve the long-term interests of peace. And ironically, Peace always serves everyone’s highest interests, and no one will come away the “loser”.
Self-interested peace negotiating is hardly more enlightened or beneficial than haggling for a Turkish rug at a bazaar or clamoring for a lower price of shares on the stock market, as if peace can so easily be bought or sold. Peace is a great prize that stands above such pettiness. Peace is based on the principle of Oneness; if peace is not seen to benefit all as One, then it cannot be achieved, no matter how hard one fights for it.
But if we shift our intention and create solutions that benefit all, suddenly the wave of peace that seemed to be impossible to climb upon, lowers itself to us and we merely can step upon it to enjoy the ride. Like surfing, staying on the wave of peace is a balancing act, often requiring adjustments to keep peace alive and well.
To continue this balancing act while riding the wave is “feeding the peace”. Further acts of kindness and goodwill toward ones adversaries will signal the ongoing intention to further and strengthen the peace for all. In an atmosphere of peace, people will often lower their armor and shields, and reveal their human faces: their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Under that atmosphere the world changes. Once adults have made their commitments to peace, the children of the adversaries will grow up feeling the warmer regard for the other. And this bodes for a lasting Peace, with the promise of greater joy and harmony and positive exchanges in the far horizon.