How to prevent violence and secure peace

In many ways my lifelong mission is to save the world from two things: war, and slavery. This is a paradox. It is sometimes claimed that freedom and security are opposites, that one must sacrifice one to save the other. I would like to disagree. I think we can have both peace and freedom. Here is how.

‘Diana of Gabii.’ Attributed to Praxiteles. A statue of the goddess Artemis, who enjoyed hunting and fishing. The statue was introduced to the Louvre, Paris, in 1807.

There is no formula. I cannot give absolute certainty, and anyone who tries is lying to you. There is only relative confidence in this fragile, fleeting existence. We must make the most of our time. Fear is an understandable evolutionary response but it is not what should drive us. We should be led by hope. What, then, does that leave the role for negative emotions?

Artistic expression is perhaps the best way for channelling the repressed anima or inner demons, which all of us — as human beings — share. We are torn between gods and beasts. We are, each of us, at once angelic and animalistic, violent and pacific. It is what side we choose to act on that matters.

Art can serve as a channel for those emotional ideas which we precisely do not intend to act upon. Art is the vessel which carries our existence between worlds. It reflects the cycle of life and death in a fantasy which can at once liberate or consume us. It is ambiguous but it is to be treaded carefully. To repress an idea or emotion and label it as evil is dangerous indeed. For to restrict discursive action is to channel urges into real action. Perhaps that is right, but I think there is a better path.

We must learn to live with contradiction, the duality of nature, and see these aspects as drawing on a deeper whole. We must emancipate ourselves from the slave mentality of good guys versus bad guys, as the philosopher Nietzsche suggested. But unlike Nietzsche, we should not want a return to conflictual city-states — we should want a classical age in fantasy alone.

Indeed, the real grounds for neoclassical freedom is the best of modern security. Hobbes’ Leviathan presents a state that sanctions all actual acts of violence in order to ensure people are kept safe from each other. Censorship of words is not the point, and indeed, Hobbes argues, is actually a path to violence, not peace. It is deeds in the physical realm which we must concern ourselves with, not the fantastical world of poets — which, in many ways, keeps us safe and secure from the dogmatic excesses of philosophy.

In Homer’s world, violence and freedom is go together. In Hobbes’ world, as interpreted more recently by the police state in which we live, peace and slavery to established authorities go hand-in-hand. This is extended in the ‘bio-politics’ of the medicalised state, which has a unique definition of madness that verges on criminalisation, as articulated by sociologist Michel Foucault (who took Hobbes’ predecessor Machiavelli and his successors as inspiration). To be ‘cured’ or ‘treated’ is to be robbed of one’s expressive potential. To be kept safe is all that people require to be free. Any attempt to invade people’s minds will release chaos into the world. And those who appear ‘mad’ will be revealed as sensible and sane, and those who appear ‘sane’ will be revealed as violent and oppressive. The high shall be laid low, and the low made high. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We can have peace in this world and freedom in the world we are building. We can have both security and liberty, simultaneously and sequentially. We just have to open our minds to alternative worlds in which these things do not go together. Only then will we overcome the limitations of this perilous existence and secure a better world, in which we are all safe from the terrors of the anima. But first, we must face these fears, recognise them, sing of them, and move on.

Shall we begin?

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