From the Editor

By Metta Spencer

“Peace is boring. Peace is what you rest in after you’re dead.”

Well, yes, that’s true if you think peace is the opposite of conflict. But It’s not. Peace is the opposite of violence. Thank heavens, peace can contain an endless amount of conflict, which is a good thing because conflict is not only inevitable but even essential to progress. Conflict is an incompatibility between human intentions or between different understandings of reality. As long as there are human beings there will be conflict, but there need not be wars and violence. Peace activism seeks to reduce violence, not conflict. Peace workers try to wage important conflicts without injuring anyone.

As Popper showed, we can never reach the truth, but we can get closer to it by eliminating false theories. The theory left standing after a definitive competition is probably closer to the truth, but it too may be eliminated later by a different and more powerful theory. It is the duty of a scientist to fight hard for her theory for, if she concedes defeat before it is really tested in battle, she may be mistakenly eliminating the better theory.

In society too, the progress is made by dissidents, those bold individuals who “speak truth to power” —but often are punished for it. Galileo, say, or Sakharov, or Gandhi. While they probably don’t quibble over trivial issues, dissidents do argue tenaciously about serious ones.

On the other hand, many peace activists are conflict-averse. To maintain unanimity and consensus in a group, they insist that everyone conform to what most of the others think. Unfortunately, “groupthink” is the worst possible way of finding out what is true.

Nevertheless, occasionally a peace organization enforces groupthink by excluding from its meetings a dissident member who persistently cites inconvenient facts that they do not want to hear.

That is not peace. Nor is it science.

Peace Magazine July-September 2018

Peace Magazine July-September 2018, page 4. Some rights reserved.

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