War & Peace

I grew up with a sense of peace. Not the sense of peace that I hear of today – the peace of the external environment, the peace in society and communities and so on – but a peace of the mind, of the spirit. As a natural consequence, I also grew up avoiding direct conflicts since I had an innate understanding that most day-to-day conflicts are fleeting, of material matters (even emotional conflicts are material in nature in the sense that they are conflicts between two different ways to owning something).

As I experienced more and learnt more, my opinions did not change, but I felt that it was important to understand the nature of conflicts. And try as hard as I might, I could find nothing more than this: a conflict is aways about ownership. I have tried to categorise conflicts in various ways and at their core, everything is just a variation of a conflict of ownership.

But what is a conflict of ownership? It is two or more parties claiming ownership (moral, ethical, spiritual, legal right) over a territory, a territory being defined as anything under the sun – land, property, assets, mind-space, authorship, emotions, relationships, sexuality, gender, productivity, the right to feel or behave in a particular manner … anything at all. ‘Parties’ could be people, could be a group and a person, two groups, religions, governments … it’s an exercise in creating a dropdown menu.

I found that my parents wanted domain over my play times and daily habits (food, clothing, manners, etiquette); I found that teachers wanted domain over my ability to learn (handwriting, homework, tests, discipline, ability to recall in a particular manner within a particular timeframe); I found that other children wanted my tiffin box or my books or my turn at the cricket crease; I found that bus conductors, cops, government officials wanted my fear in return for their benevolence; local bullies and gangs vied for the same; family and friends desired domain over affection and my time; children desire domain over my time and mindspace; employees expect right over how I should groom them; professors, collaborators, partners, acquaintances … every one has a sense of ownership either by way of blood, or education, or relationship, or law, or emotional tie, or community or nation and so on.

After a certain point, I realised that if I also wanted peace in my surroundings, I would have to hold my ground on everything all the time, without asking others to give any ground (since they wanted ownership over me and my time and my space). Else, everyone figured they could trespass. I realised that if one wants peace, one has to be ready for war at all times … which by inference means that peace is possible only if one is strong. Peace then is the formal or tacit contract of non-aggression between two strong parties who eac have something to lose in the even of a conflict.

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