The UK doesn’t have a policy for peace. It has policies related to peace, conflict, terrorism, and such like but the British Government doesn’t have a blueprint for systemically ensuring peace on a local, national, or global level.
Growing up in the UK, in a small village on the East coast of Scotland that was pleasantly buoyed by disposable income, peace was the norm. Over time, and after studying Peace in an academic and practical setting, my understanding of peace has unfurled.
The absence of war is not necessarily peace. When there are soldiers lining the street, it cannot be said that there’s peace. Democracies do not automatically create peace – Uganda had a one-party democracy. In the UK, people aren’t automatically given the day off to go and vote which dulls representation for working people who are unable to take time off work.
Peace use to be shredded by cannons, ships, air raids, bombers, and trenches. There were also guns, black hawks, bombs, and missiles. There are data wars, hacking, disappearances, nuclear threats, and economic sanctions. There are droughts, migration, joblessness, and human insecurity. There’s recessions, market crashes, drops in stocks, and zero-hour contracts. There’s prison for being poor, rights for consumers, homelessness, and hostile architecture.
A lot of the problems we face today are systemic, and by that, I mean they are part of our political, social, economic, and cultural ‘systems’. How we vote, how we shop, the way we live – both physically and emotionally. With respect, recycling at a household level within a culture of consumption is completely contradictory to environmental repair. The only cure for litter? The only 'cure' for litter is producing no litter.
Systemic peace is actually possible, it's just not a priority. Parliament was unlawfully prorogued and the only reason it was undone was because one black woman took Parliament to the highest court in the land.
Protests, petitions, politics, and people did not do that; Gina Miller did that.
Every week, the #FridaysforFuture, Youth for Climate and Youth Strike 4 Climate action highlights the action needed for environmental peace; the violence that has been enacted on the planet is having very real implications.
There’s a growing sense of delayed rage on my part because I can see that Peace is restricted by a preference for stability over justice. “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all”; the words spoken by Toni Morrison in Beloved. Love is peace, and thin peace isn’t peace at all.
Thin peace is the slim space that keep us from violence, poverty, and pain. Thin peace would be reading a news report on Thomas Cook and seeing the chaos it has enacted people's lives and being completely unaware that we have had financial busts and irresponsible company behaviour since the 1700's. Thin peace provides control for some and managed chaos for others.
News reports go something like this when reporting on Thomas Cook:
"Thomas Cook, the 178-year-old travel firm collapsed; with 9,000 staff in the UK out of work and 150,000 British holidaymakers stuck overseas. Top directors at the holiday company have been paid a combined £20m in salaries and bonuses since 2014. Thomas Cook had secured a £900m rescue deal led by its largest shareholder Chinese firm Fosun in August, but a recent demand from its banks to raise a further £200m in contingency funding put the deal in doubt."
Let’s be very clear; Thomas Cook did not go bust because it couldn’t raise an additional £200m of funding. It went bust because that is how our markets work. It is how the law works. It’s how we, voters and consumers, let it work.
A very clever friend of mine, Judith is doing her PhD, and let me proof read her work which included research on The South Sea Company. In brief, the Company;
Traded in South America in the 1700’s;
Categorically overpriced shares on the stock market, triggering speculative purchases;
Overpricing their stocks led to their downfall of the market and the collapse of the South Sea Bubble.
This ultimately saw markets collapse in England in the 1700’s
When markets crash, people lose their jobs, prices go up, social security lessons, and a lot of people have an increasingly shitty time. Meanwhile, Mr Fankhauser, Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Cook, has defended the £8.3m he has been paid since November 2014.
There was money, there is money, and only some people will be getting that money.
Money and the economy can be incredibly violent. However, if people need jobs to live, eat, and provide for themselves it is also an extremely good way to bring social stability. You exchange time and skills for cash, and then exchange that cash for things produced by the time and skill of others instead of killing each other for it.
The idea is that if we trade with each other at a national and international level, we don’t fight because we want to buy and sell goods, services, and things we need from one another. Instead of taking them from our neighbour violently, we work together.
But, as always, we don’t start on an equal footing and so peace must be a pro-active process with a focus on equity. Equity focuses on giving people what they need, not giving all people the same – as equality would.
Equality is giving everyone a pair of shoes; equity is giving one shoe to a person with one leg, no shoes to the person with five pairs, and trainers to the athlete who’d rather running shoes that Jimmy Choo’s. The distribution of resources in the UK does not create a solid foundation for peace; permitting infinite consumption, based on a market run by inherited capital, on a planet with finite resources makes for a very thin peace.
In the UK, our systems do not produce peace; instead, we are stood on a very thin peace because peace is not a by-product of how we live, work, and play. Earlier this year, my boyfriend told me on a Sunday night (the 12th of May to be exact); “beauty is the by-product of everything you are”. Peace needs to be a by-product of what we do, everyday.
Thin peace is a shoddy foundation from which to be stood on because it puts all of us under pressure. Peace, and all the things that lead into it, are non-partisan issues and cannot be restricted by a preference for stability over justice.