The "imperfect nature" of human beings utterly dismayed another student, but dismay was no cause for denial of rank imperfection. Instead, she castigated utopianism, particularly economic utopianism -- not the idea of freedom from want but the notion it can be achieved. She concluded "peace" based on met needs was in fact "an undesirable end" because conflict "drives people to excel and forces improvement." Curbing conflict, however, "in order to avoid violence and mass destruction" is possible -- but she asserted that required creativity in resolving conflict.
A business major decided to sidestep issues of human imperfection and propose a "market model" for assessing peace on the planet. Peace exists when knowledge is shared ("transparent") and "prevailing information is both non-aggressive and anticipated. ... Nations and participants know with certainty that other nations will not act in an aggressive manner."
Peace derives from a reduction in fear and an increase in trust. The business major's marketplace meshed with a philosophy major's theory that peace resulted when a population's "collective expectations about the future" favored equilibrium or continuity on a "scale of perceived stability." Thus soft talk and no surprises passes for peace. I asked them both if they supported very, very large intelligence budgets -- and indeed they did.
A student from an immigrant family (he's now in medical school), however, returned to Petrarch's crooked traits, pegging the clash of human desires as the deep problem. Peace exists when "different desires" are "in agreement." When desire refuses "compromise," the clash of desires can escalate to the clash of arms and clash of civilizations.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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