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False Peace

by on February 8, 2019

False Peace

by Marco M. Pardi

Peace, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.” Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) The Devil’s Dictionary. 1911.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

Repeat readers know me as insistent on trying to establish the absolute bedrock of a concept before engaging in discussion. “False” is easily enough defined and agreed. But, “Peace”, well that’s another matter.

I conceive of peace in both an active and a passive sense. While in the U.S. Air Force I was in a Strategic Air Command Heavy Bomb Wing, also with ICBMs tipped with MIRVS. (Heavy = nuclear; ICBM = Intercontinental ballistic missile; and, MIRV = multiple independent re-entry vehicle). Most people know that military units have their distinctive patches and logos, from squadron level to the service branch itself. The SAC logo was a clenched armored gauntlet with an olive branch extending out the top and a lightning bolt out the bottom. Surrounding this was a banner reading, Peace Is Our Profession. Interestingly, it was emblazoned on each side of the nose of B-52 bombers – each carrying enough hydrogen bombs to bring “peace” to hundreds of square miles. During those years SAC had fully one third of its bomber force in the air twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. Part of the MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, philosophy, I saw this as an ironic example of active peace, comparable to a parent holding a hand over a child while telling it to behave.

How did we live our lives under the: now imminent – then remote – then possible likelihood of being vaporized as the Cold War could have turned Hot? We consoled ourselves with imagined narratives ranging from pseudo-psychological analyses of our “enemies” to fantasies that our side would prevail to revealed wisdom that the whole world is secretly ruled by the Illuminati and they would never kill off the unwitting slaves who keep them in comfort and power. False peace.

That the peace was false could also be seen in the plethora of proxy wars going on around the world through those years. The Korean Police Action (“Korean War” is legally a misnomer) saw the Chinese against the Americans and other signatory States such as Australia under the rubric Korean Police Action. The event was such that the U.S. military began seriously preparing for what was seen as the “eventual and inevitable land war against China”. In the late 1950’s, only a few years later Viet Nam was seen as a training ground for officers and non-commissioned officers who would be part of that war against China. While low ranking enlisted men, overwhelmingly short term draftees, were sent into Viet Nam on 12 month combat tours many officers were sent on 12 month tours which were split into 6 months administrative and 6 months in the field. The idea was to rotate as many officers through “Asian” combat as possible in training for the Chinese war. Of course, the damage done to the enlisted men by continuously inexperienced leadership showed in many ways, including the practice of “fragging” (killing with a fragmentation grenade) the inept officers.

This preparation showed in other ways. As American troops got larger and heavier the weapons got lighter and more powerful. Why? Because the proxy conflicts increasingly employed allies composed of lighter and smaller people. And, there was huge money to be made through arms sales to these people. We could say we were at peace so long as someone else was doing the fighting.

Toward the other end of the scale are the examples of inter-personal false peace. I am sure every reader knows of at least one couple in which one partner, or both, is living “a life of quiet desperation”. This may be from fear of financial ruin in a divorce, fear they are too old and unattractive to find someone else, or just fear of living alone. These are real fears and are not to be discounted. There are people who dream of going to their graves and pulling the dirt in after them. How many times, after someone we know divorces, have we thought, I never heard them argue?

So where do we find true peace? Is it to be found in distractions, new toys, shopping, religion, the ever increasing television programs? As a young man I took an interest in the monastic life though in the Buddhist tradition, not the Christian. Gods made no sense to me. This interest was no surprise. When I was six years old a Catholic nun asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. She probably expected fireman, policeman, etc. I said, Hermit.

Obviously, I never took the step of entering a Buddhist monastery, though I looked deeply into the philosophy and practices. Instead, an active life beckoned and I heeded the call – face first. And yes, during some very troubled years I found both the philosophy and the practices of Buddhism brought me peace. But I also found something else. I came to the firm conviction that just hiding myself away in a monastery (yes, I do know that one runs to a monastery, not away from something else) or even just sitting alone in meditation for extended periods each day (sorry, can’t do the Lotus position without disjointing my knees) will not bring me peace. In fact, I came to view that as selfish. At best it would bring me false peace.

I found that, for me, peace is to be found in sharing with others. I am not saying that I have the secret of peace to share, or even a guaranteed pathway to peace; I am saying that doing what I can to provide others with a venue for contemplation and, hopefully, deeper realization brings me peace. Admittedly, this requires a certain amount of vigilance on my part. Not only should I guard against trying to impose my realizations on others, I should also guard against unwarranted judgments on the merits of others’ realizations. But then there is the trap of moral relativism, the extension of validity to another point of view simply and only because it is held by another person and not on the merits of the point of view itself. As must be obvious to the readers of my articles there are ideas and behaviors I disagree with. Expressing my disagreement brings me more peace than retreating and listening only to myself. It is important to step forward and navigate the minefield of moral relativism; to say No when you feel No. Any of us who have quietly stewed at home, recalling an interaction with someone in which we did not speak our mind will know that peace is not attained through simple quiet. The turmoil and self-blame in your mind is louder and more uncomfortable than any outspokenness would likely have been.

Still, there is obviously a need for discretion in interacting with others. But all too often that need for discretion pushes us into interactions only with others who we expect will mirror our thoughts and feelings; the echo chamber effect. How often have we left such an interaction asking ourselves, What was gained by all that? When I was a prep school student I was asked to be on the school debating team. I did so, and the first thing I learned is that the “other side” will never publicly yield to your position. In fact, the point is not to convince them; it is to convince the audience. Thus, I had to learn to be at peace with what appeared to be a failure (the other side not yielding) and looking to the eventual judgment of the 3rd party – the audience.

This experience helped me to understand that I don’t have to convince everyone. I don’t have to achieve “total victory”. I can be at peace without that. The All or Nothing conflicts we see from the international to the interpersonal levels will not bring us peace no matter the distractions they offer in the interim. But staying withdrawn and silent is not the road to peace either. It brings us only False Peace.

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10 Comments
  1. Gary permalink

    As I suffer from insomnia, I can assure you that there is no peace like that which accompanies a good night’s sleep.

  2. Thanks, Gary. I have to agree, but my problem comes from the diuretics I have to take. I can go 2 hours maximum before getting up, and that is tiring.

  3. To add my bit to these comments, a full night’s sleep for me is six uninterrupted hours, and it is rarely achieved. I fall asleep in pain with the help of medication and wake up two hours later, still in pain, with no realization of whether I was ever out of it. It is frustrating at best; I have learned to use a form of mind-over-matter to get past it.

    Learning to express myself if the finest lesson life has ever offered me. I don’t care much what those who disagree with me have to say, and I am quite certain they feel the same about me. There are some people who I used to call friends which I have found necessary to drop from my life; others and I have agreed that it is okay to have different opinions without ending the friendship. The latter are the greatest treasures of my life. I tell them that I have as much right to be wrong as they do (and, yes, I said that right), and with that I am sure they agree. An opinion is always right to the one who holds it.

    • Thank you, Rose. I’ve dropped or minimized contact with some people, and don’t miss them. I must remember that line, “I have as much right to be wrong as they do”.

      I’m disturbed by your chronic pain, which I know you have suffered from for some time. Can you get a prescription for CBD oil? That should help you sleep and alleviate some of the pain.

      Your self expression is a treasure to far more than just you. Sometimes it feels like just launching something into the solar system and beyond, but your blog on WordPress should be read by many here.

      • Thank you, Marco; with you I am never afraid to say what I feel or think, even when I know it is on one of the few subjects in which we disagree. It is the benefit of our mutual respect and , may I say, affection.

        I’ve built quite a tolerance, and so I can deal with the physical pain well enough except when it keeps me awake at night. Lack of rest makes everything else so much more difficult. I really don’t like my doctor (she labels herself a case manager), but it might be worth dealing with her to find a solution to this issue. This would not be the first time she’s asked me “what do you want me to do?”

        I well know the false peace of a roof over my head and food in my stomach, but rarely the true peace of a song well sung, a page well written, or any other job well done. I do a lot of keeping my opinions to myself, and I fear in the end it will cost me my sanity.

  4. Marco I really enjoyed this piece, you really hit many thoughts I have had running through my head on many occasions. When I read your pieces I notice different things pop into my head and wish I had more time to explore my thoughts into words to respond in a way that can do your beautiful writing justice.

    I have thought about peace in many forms and on many occasions, in a similar fashion to how you have written, I feel in a personal context it comes with knowing yourself and also feel sharing is a big part of this just as you have described. I also feel that talking with people that think differently to myself can be really interesting and in that contrast opens the door to new ways of thinking and feeling which can also bring peace.

    • Thank you, Julie. I’m very pleased (peaceful?) when I see how our minds are almost always in synch. And I’ve often said I wish you had the time to share more of yours with us.

      Yes, there is the age old adage, Know Thyself. Of course, that’s not a one time exercise; as we evolve through every moment we are called upon to understand – and to understand the personal evolution of those around us.

  5. Thank you, Rose. I think CBD – Cannabidiol or oil of Cannabis is legal in your State. If you stay with your “case manager” you might answer her question next time with a request for a prescription. It would be a great misfortune were your pain to impair your ability to keep writing.

  6. jkent33 permalink

    Let’s start by saying the subject matter first appeared to be distant from my perspective of what I thought it may mean. I read and studied this post several times to no avail. Today, it clicked what I thought was the meaning. Over the past several months, I have wrestled with my relationship with my daughter and husband causing me great grief and consternation. I felt myself withdraw from solving it losing all my peace at times fighting back the urge to fight back with anger but yielded to a cooler head. In the meantime, I undertook the task of refinancing my home. This required concentration and devotion to staring calm and peaceful. A lot hinged on both decisions so I did my best to remain in control but discovered a rage burning to be released. I knew from experience my health showed signals of distress driven by stress and anger. At this point I had doubts I could ever round things up to find peace. It took some cogitation to see that help better be on the way. In the meantime, I discovered the dreaded shingles covering the inside of my right arm. Both of my healthcare givers stated my countenance reflected anger, loss of peace and impatience, something I’m known for being the opposite. When I learned this I immediately feel into a pattern of relaxing, breathing better, mediating and smiling to make the change permanent. I changed my rigid everyday habits of doing everything free from stress. I finally found peace. As I read your post today it clicked in my head. I had been living in false peace much longer than I would have guessed. Nightmares robbed me of sleep and that loss lead to quickness of anger pushing me down for the count more times than necessary. I may never find the peace we had a children but it must start somewhere sometimes to make it possible to change the quality of our life. Your examples helped me to take another look at what real peace means. The battle is certainly not helped by the current political arena filled with the likes of Trump and his conman cronies. But, those need to be kept apart from only what each of us has the capacity to contain. Sure, as a group we are powerful and effective but its not something we need to ever attempt alone. To keep it in perspective we can still participate but we need to know when to take off the armor and drop the sword as we come into our own tiny personal microcosm of peace. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas about the importance of peace!

    • Thank you, Jerry. You have been through a trial by fire these many months and I’m so glad you have emerged stronger yet more at peace than before. We too often take the wisdom, Know Thyself, too lightly. Yet it is one of the hardest things we can do. You are a fine example of what we can do when we have the courage to go within and to honestly look deeply. I expect those around you, including your daughter and her husband, will see this emergent you, though they may not appreciate it to its fullest at first.

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