Fighting for Peace (Di prossima pubblicazione)

Traduzione di Aaron A. Thomas.

“May war be with you”. These are words that no one utters, even though they are on the minds of many. Everyone says: “may peace be with you”, including those who prepare for war in order to attain peace. Why? One might say that it is the result of an eternal aggressive drive, that violence is inscribed in the genes of human nature, or that it is the cutthroat product of conflicting interests. Maybe so. But why not practice what one preaches about peace rather than preparing for war? In order to stand on the side of the righteous, it is of course simple enough to accuse your adversary of starting things.
Perhaps we misunderstand the meaning of the word. Peace derives from the Latin pacare, a verb suggesting calm that is flanked by adjectives of tranquility such as quiet and pacific. But rummaging through the dictionary a little further we find that pacare derives, in turn, from pagare. Pax was the satisfied condition that obtained when soldiers were paid – a connection captured even more explicitly in the Italian terms for money (soldo) and soldier (soldato). The soldiers were satisfied (appagati) because they were paid (pagati), and they were ready to fight anew. The pax romana was an economic pause between wars.
But the linguist is never nourished by only one etymological root. “Peace” also refers back to the verb “to deal” or better still, to make a pact (pattuire). A negotiated or bargained peace is the result of tactics which aim to achieve a war that is not waged – an armistice. But in order to keep weapons silent, the strategies of peace are divergent. There are those who would base perpetual peace on ultimate religious or rational values, on nature or morality, on logic and human rights. In order to achieve a peace that is not the product of dealing, bargaining, or negotiation, philosophers of communication devise impossible principles of common consensus, admitting perhaps some exceptions for “just wars”. And when faced with a recalcitrant world, they appeal to the laws of peoples so that the wars will at least be clean, according to rules, and declared officially by international organizations dedicated to identifying the evil.
Could peace, then, be merely a question of disposition? There are laid-back and easygoing individuals – the paciosi and the paciocconi. Self-satisfied, indolent, and adverse to action, they want simply to be peaceful and for peace to reign at any cost. If we want to live peacefully and enjoy peace why should we resist the violent or the unjust? And what about the warmongers? No worries: let them be, for the judge of peace is not of this world.
Recall that for the Italian political philosopher Norberto Bobbio, the temperament or the virtue of a democrat is meekness, which should not be confused with obedience, leniency, friendliness, submissiveness, modesty, or even humility. To oppose the arrogant and the insolent without becoming like him, respect and tolerance are of course required. But more than this, one needs courage – a non-conciliatory courage. It is not enough to defend peace; one must struggle for it. Peace is not derived from ultimate principles, and reason is not enough (for we can always pummel each other to death!). To be a pacifist means to “go to peace”, just as we say to “go to war”. Peace is never definitive and is not a state of affairs; it is a fragile outcome of a concerted effort – something that must be produced time and time-again. Peace is a practical event, to be obtained actively, without the certainty of definitive guarantees. It is a unique event that emerges from the actions and the creativity that we “peace-mongers” are able to bring in an effort to realize peace. Peace will never reign, because its world is a republic not of laid-back or easygoing types – of paciosi or paciocconi – but of pacifists.

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