Posted by News Express | 15 July 2015 | 2,890 times
“Peace and freedom walk together. And peace is, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights,” said former United States President John F. Kennedy who, ironically, paid the supreme price when he was assassinated before the expiration of his tenure. The intellectual task of doing this piece is aimed at uncovering the possibility of constructing a philosophy of peace and a critical analysis of what man views or should view as normal human condition. In other words, focus in this write-up is to attempt a philosophical exposition of the philo-ethical concepts of war and peace, with the end-purpose of discovering what is the normal human condition between the above-mentioned human conditions.
This investigative research is done against the backdrops of the obvious existential reality of the situation of anarchy unleashed on the Nigerian space by a range of freelance armed terrorists, with operational and command bases in the North-east of Nigeria. Boko Haram is the major terror group that has threatened the internal peace of Nigeria for nearly five years now. Writing about peace in a terror-prone nation such as Nigeria obviously has a nexus with what obtains in other climes similarly threatened. Without mincing words, we must remind ourselves that humanity has spent the better part of their existence on earth in unending warfare. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars in the 19th century, the first and second world wars in the early 20th century; the Gulf War of our modern time and the many civil wars currently going on or that took place in Yugoslavia (which ended in 1995), Rwanda, Liberia, Somalia, Uganda, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, to mention just few. These are clear attestations to the fact that humanity has always been engaged in ceaseless battles. The terrorists’ attacks against Nigerian interests and people, which began fully in 2009, have attracted global attention. On many occasions, in recent times, the United Nations Security Council and some world powers – France, United States, Germany and China – have shown one form of interest or the other towards finding lasting solution to the spate of killings that have spiraled out of control and into neighbouring countries such as Niger, Chad and Cameroon. It’s now factually acceptable to humanity to see terrorists as a global threat, and not just the particular area they concentrate their command centres.
Some concerned observers and monitors of violence have categorically predicted that so long as man continues to harbour that egocentric quest to actualise his selfish desires at the expense of other people’s rights, then ‘war’ will always be with us. This human selfish tendency is tantamount to a return to anarchy, chaos and the state of nature which was described by philosophers as periods of lawlessness.
Thomas Hobbes, one of the philosophers that recorded the condition of humanity during the period when members of the human race lived in the state of nature, correctly wrote: “It is manifest that during the time men lived without a common power to keep them all in awe, they were in that condition which is called war, and such war is of every man against every man. For war consists not in battles only or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the ‘will’ to contend by battle is sufficiently known and, therefore, the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together, so the nature of war disposition thereto; all this time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.”
The prevalent warring situation in our global village or ‘global hall’ is a sharp contradiction of the first premises of the above assertion on the condition of the state of nature. Today, men are living under various sovereign powers and even under the common power of the United Nations Organisation. One wonders why humanity has not yet embraced the much desired philosophy of peace. Contemporary writers see the unequal hierarchical structure of the United Nations, whereby a hand-picked few made up of five world powers are regarded as veto-wielding members of the United Nations whereas all others are second class, as the reason which accounts for the weakness of the UN. But there is rationally no justification for terrorism, neither can any philosophical enterprise lead to a reasonable explanation of the whyness of terrorist attacks against civilian and/or soft targets. However, in reality, the effort geared towards crushing terrorists as encapsulated in the counter-terrorism warfare by government of Nigeria is one way of achieving peace in the long run. But what's peace, if one may ask?
Milton A. Gonsalves opined that the common philosophical tradition is that peace is the positive reality, because it is the good, whereas war is the evil that consists in the absence or negation of this good. Christian Philosophers like Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine, Gabriel Marcel, Blaise Paschal, among others, want us to believe, and rightly so, that all created beings are made by a Creator who is intimately and absolutely ‘good.’ In short, they want us to know that man was created in the image of God (imago Dei). Since man is created in the image of God, who is absolutely ‘good’, man is then bound to imitate that which is good and live a peaceful and happy life. This assertion of Christian philosophers reminds us of the self-evident truth that man is a being who is continuously searching for peace. That man is self-transcendent should not be viewed as being self-destructive. Man is engaged in a perpetual quest for peace.
St Augustine of Hippo, one of the most respected Medieval and Christian writers, posited: “Whosoever gives even moderate attention to human affairs and to our common nature, will recognise that if there is no man who does not wish to be joyful, neither is there anyone who does not wish to have peace. For even they who make war desire nothing but victory; desire, that is to say, to attain peace and glory. For what else is victory than the conquest of those who resist us? And when this is done, there is peace. It is therefore with the desire for peace that wars are waged, even by those who take pleasure in exercising their warlike nature in command and battle. And hence it is obvious that peace is the end sought for by war. For every man seeks peace by waging war, but no man seeks war by making peace, for even they who intentionally interrupt the peace in which they are living have no hatred of peace, but only wish it changed into a peace that suits them better.” He added that “they do not, therefore, wish to have no peace, but only one more to their mind…” (St Augustine’s City of God, book X X, chapter 12).
President George Walker Bush Jnr – who took the United States to war in Iraq in 2003 (Gulf War II) with the aim of completing the first Gulf war waged by his father, former President George Bush Snr – never obtained the permission of the United Nations Security Council. The US government, alongside some of the allies in the West, including the United Kingdom, went to war in Iraq to unseat the then Iraqi maximum dictator, Saddam Hussein, for allegedly amassing weapons of mass destruction. Five years into that bad war, it turned out that America went to war based on false intelligence. George Tenet, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), admitted in his recent best-selling book, In the middle of the storm, that President Bush led USA to war in Iraq based on false intelligence. Again, what is peace? St Augustine of Africa sees it in the following perspective: “The peace of the body then consists in the duly proportioned arrangement of the parts. The peace of the irrational soul is the harmonious repose of the appetites and that of the rational soul, the harmony of knowledge and action. The peace of body and soul is the well-ordered and harmonious life and health of the living creature.
“Peace between man and God is well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God.”
“The peace of all things is the tranquility of order…as, then, there may be life without pain while there cannot be pain without some kind of life, so there may be peace without war, but there cannot be war without some kind of peace, because war supposes the existence of some natures to wage it, and those natures cannot exist without peace of one kind or another.” (City of God, book XIX).
This Augustinian opinion goes to show that a practical philosophy of peace is not only realistic, but also the ideal or rather best normal human condition.
Man seeks peace and is sure to find it by his obedience to the laws and principles of human rights, social justice and love. In the Nigerian context, we can attain peace but we must first of all defeat the overwhelming tendency to elevate travesty of justice to a national ethos. Victims of terrorism in Nigeria deserve and must be awarded justice in line with the Constitution. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration must focus basically on the fundamentals of achieving lasting resolution of these conflicts, but there can’t be panacea to terrorist attacks if Justice isn’t delivered to the hundreds of thousands of innocent Nigerians who have suffered one violent victimisation or the other in the hands of terrorists of the Boko Haram species. President Buhari must do and say those things that will promote the best public interest and deliver social justice to the victims.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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