Saturday, September 21, 2013

Civility and Peace

I was in Washington, D.C. today, and happened upon a celebration on the west lawn of the Capitol Building. It turns out that today was "International Day of Peace". Sponsored by the United Nations, it was declared as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.

One speaker was U.S. Ambassador (ret.) John W. McDonald, the originating founder of the day, as well as a host of other advocates. One of the speakers explained, "As a collective, Human Beings are not generally nice to others that don't fit to a social norm. That could be ethnic, religious, sexual, or based on ability."

Wow. That struck a cord with me since it collided with my internal definition of civility. Does that mean as a collective, humans aren't civil? What is the difference between civility and peace? Can you have one without the other?

What is peace? From Wikipedia we get:
Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality, and a working political order that serves the true interests of all.
In a previous blog What is civility? I brought together some ideas about what civility means. One of those ideas centers around civility as a behavior, not necessarily a mindset.

This means to me that we can still act civilly without necessarily being peaceful, and likewise can be peaceful without necessarily being civil. While the two concepts aren't direct descendants of each other, they do seem to be in the same family and perhaps as close as cousins, if not direct siblings.

I guess what triggered my reflection was the notion that "human beings are not generally nice to others". Like doctors who spend the majority of the time treating illness, perhaps this speaker had experienced more than a fair share of people not being nice to each other. Or perhaps I'm being culturally myopic as a sheltered American, brought up in a country founded on Christian values. While some may internally struggle with people who are of different beliefs, abilities, ethnicities, ages, socio-economic levels, et cetera, I believe our values teach us to be somewhere on the continuum of "Tolerant - Civil - Understanding - Accepting - Loving - Oneness".

Funny enough, as I was pondering that particular thought, a new speaker stepped up and started talking about a "Oneness University" in India, and a way of thinking that encourages connectedness and compassion towards others. Their experience is to attain an awareness or deepening through meditation and such.

Another speaker at the event, left us with an additional thought to consider:
"You can't have external peace without first having internal peace."
I guess that follows the old adage, "If you want to change the world, start with the person in the mirror."

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