If you want to understand why world peace has not been achieved, think of the world as your appartment or flat or house, as the place where you live. Now think of cleaning this place after not doing that for a long period of time.
At first, you are faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. But then you start to get things into order. Slowly but surely you see progress and eventually your home is spotless. But after just a couple of hours, a day at most, you begin to see new dirt appearing, smears on mirrors, spots on windows, dust on a cupboard, a hair in the shower, all these little things that happen because you’re alive.
So, to keep your home clean, you have to continuously keep cleaning. If you don’t remove the spot on the window now, it will only get dirtier. The same goes for the hair in the shower, the water stains in the sink and so on.
You now have the option to do this perpetual cleaning or let the dirt accumulate again until you cannot stand being in your home and will have to take several hours to clean the mess up again. You could also vacuum seal your house or burn it down, to stop from ever having to clean up again. Most of us, I dare say, will opt to clean regularly and some of us will clean whenever it has become unbearable to live there. (Or you have family coming over. If it’s friends, they just have to live with it.)
Noone in their right mind would vacuum seal the house or destroy it, so that they do not have to clean up anymore. (Although we might consider it several times.)
World peace is like this spotless home. The little spots of dirt are conflict, things that come up, just because people live together. You can immediately take care of them. Or you can shrug them of and let them accumulate. This is how a misunderstanding or a dispute can become a conflict, which can then turn violent. Every conflict has a reason (or several), which could have been kept in check, if only people had taken the time to address them at a moment when they still were managable.
We may learn two things from this:
1) Peace demands constant vigilance! Injustices and discrimination, clashes of cultures and economic inequalities (aka ‘the spot, the smear and the hair’) in whatever form, must be looked at as soon as they appear. Brushing them off as hypersensitivities, facts of life or meaningless will not lead to them going away or even staying what they are. They will only become worse.
2) No one in their right mind would condone burning down the house they live in so that they don’t have to deal with the dirt. Why then is military action (as in: burning down other peoples houses) seen as an effective form of intervention?
I am not saying that one should just stand by and watch. Not at all! We have to look at the two things together (and realize that our metaphor has its limits). Everybody has to keep the dirt in check. And everybody has to talk his neighbor or roommate down, if they are about to burn down the house in frustration. That too is intervention.
Some conflicts are extremely old and complex. They take a lot of scrubbing. But we can’t just throw the soiled carpet out or sell our house and buy a new one, because there is no “outside” of the world and there is no new world to buy. We need to be vigilant about this or people will die.
Of course, just as dirt appears because we live, conflicts develop because we live together. We need to accept this as a fundamental truth. And we need to keep addressing these conflicts, work on them and thereby keep them small. Prevention is better than intervention.
Our house will never be spotless, but at least we can see to it that it is a nice place for all of us. (And who knows, guest might show up at any moment. What would they think?)
So: Keep scrubbing for the dream! (I can’t think of a better slogan now, I need to clean my kitchen.)