Can there be peace without war?

Dear readers,

This is me, your International Peace Ambassador. How peaceful have you been feeling lately from 1-10? If it’s a 2, let me tell you what will make you feel even less peaceful – looking up poetry about peace. Why? Because it’s all about the concept at the very other end – war. Hence, a question emerges – can we talk about peace without mentioning war? Or even further, can there be peace without war?

(I will try to answer these questions using my dear World Wide Web and the data gathered from my poetry event. There will be many questions, be prepared.)

1. Why was I looking for poetry about peace in the first place?

One day I got a message on Facebook from my writers’ association back in Latvia asking if I would be interested in taking part of their event. Apparently, they organize it every year, and have been trying to make it more international. So I said – why not (as I generally do).

One week later I was hosting a poetry reading event in Faenza about the topic of peace (read more here). Similar events were happening at the same time all over the world, the idea originating in Tukums, Latvia which was also the place of the main event – a concert in a train station featuring musicians, a host and a team of technicians managing a live broadcast of all the places where the readings were taking place. The connecting element – a paper dove being virtually given to the next organizing place. We also received it here in Faenza, standing in front of the train station, greeting the Latvian audience and reading a poem in Latvian. I thank everyone for supporting the idea, helping me to organize my first event here and finally sharing their thoughts about a peaceful world!

But… were the thoughts only peaceful and positive? How many poems did eventually talk about war? And was it due to the current situation in the world or for some other reason? Read below!

2. Can we talk about peace without war?

According to the participants of the poetry event, the answer is definitely NO (different language warning – none of the poems below are in English).

The task was easy – they only had to find a poem/poems about the topic of peace. Could also have been about your inner peace, anything. Yet, each of them were talking about the evils of war. Even mine, I know, guilty. I mean, partly, as the only Latvian poem here (also the longest one), is generally about the concept of home, yet still somehow manages to touch upon death, battles and war itself. Because it was just impossible! I could talk so much about how we associate war with peace and vice versa and that’s why we chose the poems, but it is actually the fault of the poets. Whenever there’s the concept of peace, there is war. Is it because the writers feel like people want to read about it? Is it because peace makes them feel very strongly about the opposite? Or is it just in some kind of a rulebook that these things just have to be used together?

But what if the one thing literally cannot exist without the other? What if they lose their meanings without its other half? Let’s find out.

3. Can there be peace without war?

According to the first search on Google:

Okay, thanks mommy Google, that answers the question. Case closed. Or is it?

But wait, how is peace a negative thing? Don’t we want peace?

Yes, this really is one of the definitions, also called the ‘negative peace’. It’s the POV of always being in a state of conflict, so the little pauses till another starts can be called peace. 

‘It is negative because something undesirable stopped happening (e.g. the violence stopped, the oppression ended)’ (Claske DIJKEMA, 2007)

Hmm… if there’s a negative peace, is there… a positive one?

Also, yes, thankfully. Surprisingly though, it does not mean a state without conflict. It just means that you manage conflicts positively – non-violently, with the aim of ‘restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population’ (Claske DIJKEMA, 2007). Basically, respecting the legitimate needs and interests of everyone who could be impacted. Or in other words, being a respectful human being.

So could we just live in a world filled with positive peace, please?

Well, the more I read about it, the more it looks like we are rather going in the other direction.

John Keegan, a military historian, argues that war started with civilization and looking back at historical events, they show that the more educated people are, the more they see what is wrong with this world and the more likely they will want to do something about it. And they will fight for it.

For example, each of the human rights that we take for granted nowadays were achieved through struggle. This happened first in one pioneering setting, and then, as particular rights such as to food and water, or to vote or not to be tortured, got codified, they became universal.’

‘The irony is that although we know a lot about waging war, we are not smart at making peace.’

This only shows that it is not very likely for us to avoid negative peace in the nearest future. We actually still need to figth for human rights! Sadly, we are not yet part of a society which could solve problems in the utopian way – non-violently, respecting each and everyone, basically, the definition of positive peace.

According to an article about the world’s most peaceful societies, it shows exactly that. They still mention war in their definition, but focus more on the harmony of the society.

‘In other words, peace is not just an absence of violence and war, but also people and groups getting along prosocially with each other: the cooperation, sharing, and kindness that we see in everyday society.’

Could we do that some day?


What can we learn from this?

Basically, peace and war are quite inseparable in the minds of people, which is portrayed in various forms of art (poetry in this blog but more in general). When we think about one, the other is in the back of our minds. The reason is that conflict is still all around us and it will be for a while, going hand to hand with our hopes and understanding about the world we live in. We are still shaping our society, and the process is quite impossible without struggle. Let’s just hope it’s for the best.

How peaceful are you feeling now?


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