Positive peace, and negative peace

Peacehenge is about the intersection of monumental art and peace.  During a recent trip I took to Britain, I visited the acclaimed Peace Studies department at the University of Bradford and met with Neil Cooper, the head of the department.  He talked about the importance of understanding different kinds of peace.  Positive peace is where people live in a community characterized by safety and security, but also justice and the absence of oppression.   Negative peace is where there is safety and security but there is oppression, repression and an absence of basic human rights.   It is also a condition immediately after a cease fire, when peace breaks out, but it is a condition of the absence of violence versus a situation of peace and overall stability.   The ideal goal is to reach and sustain a situation of positive peace.

As a commentary about contemporary America, clearly while many communities are characterized by positive peace, we cannot say positive peace is a general condition in US communities when, for example, high school students feel compelled – in the wake of a mass shooting where more than a dozen of them are mown down at school by an individual with an assault weapon  – to march to demand their schools be safe places to attend.  Cities where the rate of homicide is high, such as Chicago, where in 2017, 560 individuals were murdered, are not peaceful places.  One could argue that the South Side of Chicago, the context for much of the killing, is a war zone.

Achieving peace and maintaining it are simple goals, with complex solutions.  JT

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