jueves, 23 de mayo de 2013
Peace is nowhere
Spirituality, Social Critique and Solidarity as Peace Education
“One should never go out looking for wisdom.
One can only begin by preparing a dwelling place for wisdom”
The present paper draws on one peculiar paradox expressed by the title: peace is nowhere, and peace is now-here. While the first one stresses both the non-objective condition of peace—it is not a traceable object—and its apparent absence in the world, the second one refers to space-time coordinates in affirming the challenge of both conceiving peace as real—and thus producing effects in this world—and affirming peace as resistance to the ideological ‘absoluteness’ of reality. In any case, the paradox points to recognize the mark of a lack in the world, which nowadays has been called ‘peace’. Peace designates something that likely does not exist as such, and simultaneously something whose reality humanity feels deeply compelled to affirm.
At the same time, the phenomenon of globalization entails nowadays several challenges. On one hand, economy seems to impose itself as an all-encompassing objective truth holder (Dupuy, 2012) while neoliberal values dissolve the relationships along with the conditions of possibility of meaning for life (Dufour, 2008). Corresponding to those tendencies the Western world has witnessed the ‘awakening’ of forms of both truth and meaning based on science or alternative to science, i.e. spirituality. However, spirituality has been also exposed to the effects of the quantification of knowledge, uncertainty and disenchantment of the world. This has led to the proliferation of successful methods—usually quantified as ‘steps’—and techniques, invitations to be free in reducing rules and releasing passions, and the adoption of beliefs that highlight the spirit-material dichotomy or extol scientific knowledge as spiritual truth. On the other hand, the same globalizing process has been unable so far to solve the issues of want, injustice, hunger, oppression and poverty, which still shape the life of the majority of the world’s population. While spirituality may inspire solidarity, it can also unknowingly support structural violence. A more critical approach to spirituality such as that provided by critical theory may raise psychosocial awareness to avoid reinforcing structures of injustice and likewise, enhance political commitment through sound social criticism and effective solidarity.
In such a complex context both peace policies and personal existential quests are susceptible to the effects of ideologies that promise peace but bring about violence and/or anxiety. Indeed, the correlation between imageries and praxis reveals itself as deeply significant in shaping reality. In addition, the current situation of hegemonic pragmatism along with the apprehension of the imaginary institution of society (Castoriadis, 1997) make necessary more than ever awareness of the error and illusion within human knowledge as well as the need for a deeper understanding of the human condition to include the relationship with the other, and the role of uncertainty and an ethical perspective (Morin, 1999).
Consequently this paper elaborates upon the correlation between imagery and praxis as a way to transform reality within the limits of our finiteness—in line with Marxist thought and Lederach’s moral imagination (2010). Additionally, the use of terms usually understood as pejorative—lack, absence, and powerlessness—will serve to show the fundamental role played by negativity in the work of eliciting peace within our finite world.
A challenging situation for Peace Education
Peace is nowhere: the situation and quest for peace in the postmetaphysical era
People look for peace. In the political sphere, the last century witnessed two world wars and latterly a transition in the nature of conflicts from inter-state towards intra-state conflicts (Bercovitch & Jackson, 2012). Throughout the last sixty years the nations of the world have collaborated in creating several international organizations related to world security, development and enhancement of the dignity of human life. The transformation of the form of conflicts and the growing consciousness about human protection produced a modification in conceptions of peace too, and subsequently, in both the nature and objectives of organizations related to peace, for instance, the changes in orientation of the Responsibility to Protect. Thus, the division of negative and positive peace established that peace entails the end of direct violent activity as well as the provision of both sustainable and healthy processes of human development. In this way, through this conception peace became something measurable, traceable within the horizon of earthly objects. Whether this is peace or only the ideal of a particular contemporary socio-political model is part of the challenge presented by postmetaphysical thought (Gur-Ze’ev, 2010).
Indeed, postmetaphysical thought questions the reality of essences, metahistorical immutable entities and the feasibility of all-embracing theories. In other terms, from the postmetaphysical perspective identity or what confers unity, the ideas or the human mind’s means for effective knowledge about the world, and theory as something self-founded become practically impossible objects (Habermas, 1990). One of the immediate consequences of this is that peace does not exist as a real object or metaphysical entity, and if it does, it is likely that the human mind lacks the means for knowing it. In any case, whatever determines peace refers to a specific context, and therefore, to power struggles and politics of truth, i.e. to the political dynamics of authority and its respective processes of legitimation (De Certeau, 2003). Such a deconstructive operation entails a dynamics where contesting powers—and their corresponding conceptual apparatus—are evidenced and determined by each other. Some examples of this operation are the relationship between individual and society, or between narrative and narrator, where is hard to establish who determines whom. Neoliberal peace—an economic-based one—has shaped contemporary wars, and vice versa.
Accordingly, peace is determined by war, or more precisely, by both power and interests fostering war. This means that war-holders have the power to shape significantly both the relationship between nations or peoples and their ideal form of relationship: peace. It is therefore no surprise that the arms-producers promote commercial exchange, which is supposed to be the way to maintain peaceful relationships as an alternative to violence. Notwithstanding that peace determines war, the reliability of peace seems compromised by two situations: the urgency to counteract war—or direct violence—and the predominant conception of peace as a goal rather than a way (Gandhi). The ordinary conditions of war and conflict carry the expectation of peace as outcome, which lessens the consideration of peace as process and also its potential to exert more influence in shaping conflicts. Certainly war and conflict increase the quest for peace but under the current conditions, wherein people look intensely for inner peace too and peace seems to be nowhere, the urgency of peace may become a trap. According to the rationale of the globalized neoliberal world if there is high demand for peace, peace must be supplied.
Peace is now-here: peace in time of its technical (re)production
As has been shown above, the current quest for peace at the political and individual levels faces two considerable difficulties. First, the infeasibility established by postmetaphysical thought of both defining peace definitively and finding it within the horizon of earthly objects. Second, the high degree of demand for peace since it has been considered a scarce good and predominantly an outcome rather than process. The convergence of both issues set the necessary conditions for the emergence of a new phenomenon: the manufacturing of peace.
In fact, the technical progress seems to purvey an answer to the issue of peace when this is an impossible-untraceable object and at the same time it is highly demanded. On one hand, widespread violence and the growing angst related to both the lack of existential meaning and the inconsistency of current political communities make peace a primary necessary good. Peace has become a very valuable commodity. On the other hand, the hegemony of economy has influenced also the identity of knowledge to the point that even science is subjected to economic interests (Dupuy, 2012). In fact, “science is fundable research” said Ivan Illich. Production of commodities is the characteristic dynamic of the liberal system. By pretending both to fill every lack and desire with a corresponding commodity and to foster commercial relationships, liberalism seeks to provide peace, peace within individuals and peace between collectives (Dufour, 2008). Science through its methods and measurements develops a science of peace, which entails improving the capability—according to the scientific model of knowledge—of (re)producing peace. Hence the proliferation of methods pretending to provide inner or political peace is problematic, more due to their reduction of peace to a technical question than to their lack of effectiveness. Technical progress and the economy constitute the dyad enabling an effective concrete answer to the lack of peace: peace as a manufactured commodity (Panikkar, 1993B).
Although peace becomes attainable by manufacturing it, i.e. peace now-here, when and where it is needed, it also becomes more susceptible to be manipulated by economic or political interests. Just as in the case of the work of art, the technical reproduction of peace lacks a ‘here and now’ context (Benjamin, 2008): this manufactured peace has no story or link with the ongoing situation, it does not fit in the current lack. The response of technical progress to this objection has been the production of adaptable peace, techniques and methods for getting a peace corresponding to real needs. However, it is not implied that peace is just filling a lack or empty. Certainly the world must be transformed but this compelling conviction shall consider the question about if—and to what extent—an imposed and/or a ‘filling’ peace are really peace.
The quest for peace and the use of manufacturing peace to supply the increasing demand of peace in the world have an impact on Peace Education (PE) too. On one hand, the urgency for peace may lead PE to proceed uncritically in assuming forms of peace apparently good but innocuous—if not actually counterproductive. On the other hand, the considerable potential of education to reinforce or question power supporting structural violence provides an opportunity to examine the nature of PE as education or (re)production (ex-ducere or pro-ducere). Most likely there is a hardly dissociable link between education and (re)production, and which is observable through the analysis of relationships of production at the economic, social and political levels. Nowadays—maybe more than ever—the commitment to peace risks being an ideological weapon for supporting structural violence and injustice. This awareness along with the relational nature of both peace and war compels PE to provide a critical approach in focusing in the analysis of relationships.
Spirituality and education
A materialist proposal of spirituality
Whatever peace may be, the lack of it is deeply felt. Likewise, the awareness of diversity and difference has led to the understanding that a single perspective cannot solve the lack of peace. However, the suppression of difference has proven also ineffective in bringing more peace to the world. The relevance of the religious factor in the emergence and resolution of conflicts, especially through certain exemplary figures—Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama, etc.—seems to suggest that religions, or more precisely the spiritual traditions purvey an approach capable of managing and transforming human conflict. Indeed, within the contemporary postmodernist sensibility the required leadership frame for building peace is spiritual rather than moral (Comte-Sponville, 2004). One example of this emphasis on spiritual leadership is the significant difference between the importance conferred to looking for self-realization and freedom over looking for moral rules. The relatively recent derivations of science with certain forms of spirituality—for instance quantum physics—point to the significant role conferred to the spiritual dimension as a culminating goal of evolution. The turn toward spirituality has been also highlighted by the renowned peacebuilder J.P. Lederach in his book The Moral Imagination.
Nevertheless, spirituality is far from being uniform, and thence there are several conceptions of it. Not all the contemporary forms of spirituality—or what is named as such—lead to social commitment and moreover some of them foster disengagement from reality instead. Consequently, far from leading towards an integrated and complex experience and understanding of reality, spirituality in some cases broadens the gap between individuals and/or collectives, and reinforces alienation through imageries supporting structural violence. Even though some of these forms of spirituality overtly contradict science regarding the content of scientific propositions they share its rationale of technical reproducibility. In other terms, these forms of spirituality assume uncritically that their own knowledge—technical action—will produce peace. Spirituality turns then into another expression of fetishism of the Capital (Hinkelammert, 1985) or of instrumental reason (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1998).
If spirituality can support structural violence it will be necessary to identify another conception or criterion to discern whether the effective commitment of spirituality is to structural violence or peace. Alternative to those models of spirituality based on detachment from the world, Walter Benjamin proposes a materialist spirituality consistent enough to provide social commitment, a critical view of reality and transcendence. This materialist spirituality, presented in the fourth of his theses on the concept of history (Benjamin, 2008) holds three basic principles (Reyes Mate, 2009):
First, food and clothing, i.e. “material” goods necessary to live with dignity, are inexorably linked to “spiritual” goods. Second, the essence of spirituality is to fight against injustice, for the noble task of making it possible that everyone has something to eat, to dress with, and dignity. Third, spirituality is critical resistance that delegitimizes the victories of hegemonic power based on injustice. In this way, spirituality does not refer to another world in disengaging from this one, but dignifies it. The transcendent character of spirituality is realized through the dynamics of going from one’s own needs to engage with other’s needs. The potential to provide unity resides in the fight for justice and dignity. Such a fight denies legitimacy to injustice-based victories of any power and in doing so keeps history open to O/other since this world and its powers are not the ultimate reality. Even though it is a materialist fight, this fight leads to create a different world. Based on this model, spirituality consists in just relationships and the world created through them. Spiritual is the language of resistance, solidarity, fight, and the openness from the finiteness to the incoming other: peace, justice, etc.
Peace as spiritual reality
According to Benjamin’s proposal of spirituality, spiritual realities are neither objects belonging to a parallel world divided from this one—like invisible entities—susceptible of domination through knowledge and technique nor realities pertaining to the inner life of individuals like a type of private property. In both cases, the spiritual world would be a transcendental ratification of the status quo established by neoliberalism as ruling power: domination and private property. It is no surprise that contemporary wars are driven by business or related to economic concerns.
However, spiritual realities relate to economic interests and power struggles. Want and misery in the world evidence a lack, an absence that activates reason and political action. The questions raised by inequalities, the will for commitment in transforming the world, the rebellion against tyranny and the refusal to be in collusion with structural violence spur one to go beyond her or his own limits. The correlation between spiritual and material worlds refers to the quest for justice, dignity and meaning rather than to the action of alienating forces. Certainly, the operation of alienating forces in human dynamics is part of the spiritual feature of the human condition, but these forces focus on dominating and possessing, activities where creation is constantly restrained pointing to its suppression. Furthermore, both the value and meaning conferred to material goods is decidedly important since the daily fight of impoverished people turns primordially around getting food and clothing, and in this manner, this fight gives unity to their lives and in this sense, it is a spiritual experience.
According to Benjamin’s thesis, spiritual goods are not a booty but an active part in the process of resistance to injustice. This is why the consideration of peace as outcome tends to turn it into booty, an achievement of one or more powers, and thus, peace becomes a source of legitimation of those who “produced” it. The reduction of peace to political conquest or personal fulfillment subjugates it to technology’s rationale and particularly to the logic of power and domination. In this way peace becomes a part of the system supporting structural violence and loses its spiritual condition. In consequence, peace does not constitute any alternative to war nor can it provide any improvement to human life. Conversely, since peace belongs to what Benjamin calls spiritual goods it must be related to real lacks in the world, or more precisely, to the type of fights unlikely to be won. In short, spiritual realities entail deep commitment with human powerlessness. The latter is the essential condition to access the spiritual realm, i.e. to assume human powerlessness—passing through the “gateless gate” in Zen terms (Mumon, 2006)—constitutes the condition of possibility for a human spirituality embodied in both political and social life, a spirituality for the real world. Nonetheless, this is not defeatism but acknowledgement of the limits of the human condition. In other words, although spiritual goods require human participation, they are not totally dependent on human action. Consequently, while human action fulfills everything considered as necessary to reach peace, the latter may not occur anyway (Panikkar, 1993B). Peace is an unpredictable and uncontrollable event, out of reach of human power but not out of the horizon of human possibilities (Badiou, 1999). Peace as spiritual good breaks the rationale of (re)production without remaining excluded from the material world.
Mindfulness: peace cannot be taught but can be learned
At this point, the critical analysis done through both Benjamin’s proposal of spirituality in materialist and relational perspective and the conception of peace as something out of reach of human power—that can be neither produced or manufactured nor dominated—lead to a challenging conclusion for PE: peace cannot be taught.
This last statement requires some clarifications. First, it starts from the conviction that the pretension of teaching peace risks the support of ideological structures of injustice (Freire, 1970; Rancière, 2010), especially when peace is reduced to an object, method, policy or goal. Such an approach reinforces the logic of domination and dissolves the relational dimension of peace by eliminating its alterity, i.e. by converting peace in something dissociated and independent from human beings. Second, reason and technique are not excluded from PE but re-dimensioned. Far from being a refusal of reason, the resistance to technical domination over spiritual goods relies on the double conviction that reason must open itself continuously (Nancy, 2005) and that it needs to be open to the other or risk becoming ‘autistic reason’ (Bellet, 1992). Likewise, technique is more than mere means, it is an essential part of human identity as it has been shown by the correlation between evolution and technique, the fundamental role of language in the humanization process and both the analyses of Heidegger and Simondon (Heidegger, 2008; Simondon, ; Pérez Tapias, ). Third, to deny the possibility of teaching peace acts to preserve peace as belonging to the spiritual realm. Peace is neither object nor subject but an event, and as such it is not something that exists but that happens. Finally, the statement in question has to be complemented by paraphrasing Kant: peace cannot be taught but can be learned.
Accordingly, the role of PE is to set the conditions for peace to happen, even if it is not assured that peace will occur. From this perspective, what a critical PE may provide to people refers to mindfulness about the personal ongoing situation, the human condition and its limits, the current social situation, the status of relationships and the spiritual nature of peace. Through mindfulness—which requires persistent practice—the peace seeker/builder keeps present the fact that peace happens within relationships, and thus, the presence of the other shall be neither obviated nor subjugated. Moreover, the exercise of setting the conditions for peace exceeds the mere disposition of a space, it must be the expression of a personal/collective commitment within the awareness of the limits of both personal and human action. Personal action cannot completely dominate the other. Human action cannot control or predict everything, especially those events—like peace—involving others.
A synthetic and eloquent expression for what has been said so far is the following story of Anthony De Mello:
"Is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?
- As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.
Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?
- To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise."
Social Mindfulness for a Solidarity society
Peace and hospitality
Peace is neither a manufactured object nor something susceptible to be subjugated by the power of the subject. Conversely, peace presupposes otherness, the presence of the other with his/her/its alterity and vulnerability. Indeed, relationships entail a certain degree of vulnerability. The other can bring grace to life as well as death and wounds. Likewise, peace simultaneously makes human beings more vulnerable and stronger; peace humanizes through this ambiguity. In any case, even within such an ambiguity, peace must be able to make coexistence possible, which is also a form of reciprocal hospitality; therefore peace refers per se to hospitality.
The specific relationship between peace and hospitality may allude to at least three situations for peace: (1) Peace needs a dwelling place to occur (Panikkar, 1993A). This refers to the conviction mentioned above about the human incapability to produce peace, even though human action in creating the conditions for peace to happen is necessary. (2) Peace is a myth (Panikkar, 2002). Being a myth, peace becomes the dwelling place for humans, the foundation where human beings build on both their world and knowledge. Finally (3) peace relies on the tissue of bonds created especially through justice- and solidarity-oriented relationships. In this last situation, peace stresses its spiritual feature in an active sense. It creates and/or makes space for others in this world—whatever activity entailing to put oneself at stake, and perhaps ‘losing’ something, for making real the relationship with the other while making also possible both a just world and worthy life. Making space for peace makes sense because it also makes space for others, even for the unheard world that humanity is aching for. In short, peace is every step (Thich Nhat Hanh, 1992).
For the purpose of enhancing hospitality as an inseparable condition for creating a dwelling place for peace, mindfulness may be a significant help. On one hand, mindfulness can enable people to abandon power illusions (one’s own and those created by political powers) and to relate to each other to make space for peace to occur. On the other hand, social mindfulness—the explicit social feature seems necessary since there are strong tendencies to restraining mindfulness to the private individual sphere—can activate both social and political awareness to foster shared-mutual responsibility as well as effective compassion facing the suffering beings in the world. Social mindfulness as used here is a deep critical awareness of structures of injustice as well as of the frail nature of good, because while looking for doing good one can foster evil.
Mindfulness does not provide power but empowers, and given that mindfulness per se is insufficient, it asks for commitment, commitment not to ‘making peace’ but to making a dwelling place for peace. Mindfulness empowers one to commit to make space for others. Since neither risk nor suffering are denied, the whole of humanity can be embraced for the powerless power of hospitality. Certainly social mindfulness is neither the solution nor the infallible way to peace but it can provide a valuable help in both understanding and acting within the world without denying suffering nor giving up to despair.
Peace may be only a questionable illusion and it cannot be “obtained” neither through victory and domination nor through the mere acceptance of powerlessness. In other terms, peace breaks our way of thinking and practices, and in doing so, remind us that paradoxically, fulfillment entails both being “incomplete” (Bataille, 2007) and fighting for a just world with others. “It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us” (W. Benjamin).
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 According to the Latin etymology of the word ‘education’, educere is composed by ex: out, outward, and ducere: to lead, to rise, to command, to shape. Education refers to bringing out. In a broader sense education can be also rising up, contrary to the domestication process done by humanist education denounced by Sloterdijk (2006) in his “Normas para el parque humano”.