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Introduction to Peace and Conflict I


Wolfgang Dietrich and the participants at the beginning of the lecture

Introduction into Transrational Peaces and Elicitive Conflict Transformation
UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies
University of Innsbruck
Wolfgang Dietrich

Yesterday was the first day of introduction to Peace and Conflict by Wolfgang Dietrich, UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies. The lecture was structured around explaining different notions of peace in the historical and cultural context – hence came a conclusion: We do not have just one peace, but different kinds of peaces (pl.). Dietrich systematized these peaces into five peace families: energetic, moral, modern, postmodern and transrational peaces. Participant’s supposed knowledge of peace was redefined by this approach – one cannot give one definition to peace, when this notion differs from one to the other person.

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. (UNESCO Constitution)

Dietrich started the lecture with this quote from the UNESCO Constitution, to make the point that wars begin in the minds of men, and that is where they should be deconstructed. Peace therefore cannot be discussed on a purely external, but also an internal level.

The Five Peace Families

The five defined peace families partly came from working with students at the University of Innsbruck, MA Peace Studies program, where they were asked the following questions:

What is peace from your very personal point of view?
What is the meaning of peace in your mother tongue? (i.e. “fresh air” in some language, “Holy Spirit” as closest to peace in Christianity)
What is peace in your culture?
What is peace in my religion?
Is there a common understanding when using the word “peace”?
What is peace in the constitution of your home country?
What is peace in international law?

He then continued with presenting a symbol for each of the families before saying to which family the symbol pertains. The following five were then identified:

"We do not make experiences, experiences make us."

“We do not make experiences, experiences make us.” – Wolfgang Dietrich

1. Yin and yang from Taoist philosophy (opposites in harmony with each other).

We, the human beings, are equipped with senses (feeling, hearing, tasting, smelling, and seeing). Our impulses from our surroundings are directed to the brain, where the brain develops dualities (i.e. black and white, strong and weak, hot and cold etc.).
The consequence of perceiving peace in this system is that peace comes only when THE DUALITIES UNITE. Balance is therefore essential for peace.
The most important and evident duality in nature is male and female. By uniting male and female, the human relations are balanced, leading to peace. In simplified terms, peace is therefore the product – or the child. This all leads to the connection of peace to fertility.
Unification of oppositions is what creates us – peace is life. In a world without living beings, peace is an empty concept, with nobody to entertain it. The Taoist approach to peace is therefore through the unification of oppositions – and this is where we are talking about ENERGETIC PEACES.

2. The third eye or the Eye of God – “I perceive dualities.”

The world is more peaceful if the opposites are separated. It is simplest to coin “the other” – males and females use separate rooms in numerous cultures. The world is full of dualities, even when talking about nationalities, ethnicities and religions: i.e. Serbs and Croats , different tribes, Chinese and Japanese, Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Muslims, etc.
This understanding then leads to the separation of that which “does not fit together”, everyone is alright within “their own kind” – and these are what Dietrich calls MORAL PEACES.

3. Clockwork

This is the continuation of the same idea, but not relating to any spiritual/religious concept. The world is a machine, we perceive only that what we can touch, measure, calculate, predict – the “real” things. The society is a machine, i.e. people stop at red lights in Imst, which is a type of peace. These are the MODERN PEACES. These perceive the world as a machine, which – in the case of damage, “a broken wheel” – has to be fixed or changed. The main idea is to solve the problem – this is where the idea of conflict resolution comes from. Everything can be resolved rationally. We are rational beins, equipped with reason – but are we reasonable? Is our relation reasonable?

4. Peace symbol

The peace symbol comes from the ancient Mesopotamian mythology, and not the more common belief about its origin from the Biblical story about Noah’s Ark. In the ancient Mesopotamia, today’s Syria, the white dove was the symbol of priestesses of Goddess Har – the Great Mother. She was the Goddess of love, and her priestesses – the women who provided peace in the energetic sense, as highly respected members of the society. The word “harmony” comes from the name of the Goddess “Har” – again, going back to the idea of balance. These are the POSTMODERN PEACES. They offer new qualities for understanding peace – they are “post”, but also still “modern” – just in a different way to before. They raise the “rational doubts about the promises of modernity.”

5. Sri Yantra (India)

Participants taking notes and listening to Dietrich's lecture

Participants taking notes and listening to Dietrich’s lecture

The symbol of Sri Yantra represents the unification of male and female, just as David’s Star is the energetic representation of oppositions. The triangle stands for the energetic, but also for reason – we are reasonable beings, and so much more. We are not either/or. The symbol represents the numerous different relations and forms, the possibilities of the common dance of life that are possible in the world. And this kind of approach brings us to TRANSRATIONAL PEACES.

After defining the five families of peaces, Wolfgang Dietrich moved on to talking about the energetic interpretations of peaces and the implications of Modernity on our notions of peace(s).

Coming up next: Energetic Interpretations of Peaces, Symbolic Interpretations under the Moral Peaces, Modernity – World as a Machine (Wolfgang Dietrich, UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies at University of Innsbruck).

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