The Ethical Dilemma of Seeking Peace
Peace. We hear the word every day on film, TV, our place of employment, in politics and religion. Peace is defined as "Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility." Almost everything in life is in search of this elusive treasure, police carry guns for peace, we work 40 hours a week for 40 or more years so that we may have enough money to retire and find relaxation and peace. Our government sends our nation's military into enemy nations to fight and die so that we may experience peace at some point in the future. For example, many in Israel say they hope that the violence of today will result in peace for future generations. We as a society are willing to and go about our lives sacrificing peace in the present for peace in the future (abet non-guaranteed peace) There is a fascinating scene that plays out in the 2016 film Risen, which sees a Roman Centurion being tasked to find the body of Jesus Christ which has gone missing. In one scene we see the Centurion named Clavius sitting in a Roman bath with governor Pilate. they are taking over the job and the conversation turns to ambition and what both men seek in life. Clavius is shown as a violent man who ruthlessly puts down rebellions and does not question the rule of Rome or what he is commanded to do. Pilate states his efforts have seen noticed and asks what Clavius hopes his career and violent exploits will lead to, after a few moments Clavius states "An end of a trail. A day without death. Peace." to which Pilate replies "All that for peace?”
Are all of our efforts to get peace at any cost worth the price we have to pay? Does our soul suffer in the long run? I am haunted by stories of peace never achieved, of those who sought and put aside present peace, only for it to be snatched from their hands, the police officer who never took vacations, put everything towards retirement and peace, only to be killed the week of retirement. The corporate lawyer who spent life putting aside what was right in the effort to build of the life he wanted at the end, only to die of a heart attack a few months after he retires. Compromise is a dangerous thing. It is an easy path to travel down when one justifies ethically grey decisions for "the greater good." It’s easy to live a life of violence (violence comes in many forms not just physical) and justify that life because it will all be worth it in the end. The past is gone, the future is not guaranteed, only the present can be controlled.
In the seminal graphic novel by DC comics titled "Superman: Red Son," we are introduced to an alternate history Superman who is raised in Russia as a communist. He rules the world with an iron fist and justifies it as being needed to bring peace and prosperity to everyone, however as the story progressives it is shown that Superman is, in fact, becoming the villain he seeks to eliminate in his search for peace. In the end, he was no better than Brainiac (The book's villain), seeking to bring utopia and perfection to humanity. That in his quest to do good he had in fact been doing evil, that he was the villain of the story, not its hero, and thus peace remained elusive.
This is a sobering thought. How often do we as humans seek to do good but in the end do just the opposite? How often do we by shining a light actually plunge into darkness? Peace is a good thing, something that should be sought, however, what are we willing to sacrifice to achieve it? So many parents work long hours and sacrifice time and energy to send their children to good schools and provide them with the best life can offer, but at the end find out the children they sacrificed so much for, are now strangers to them because they sacrificed the good of the present for the elusive good of the future.
In the popular spy television program “Burn Notice,” we see the hero Michael Weston is seeking to clear his name and find the people who ruined his life so he can be at peace. In a heart-wrenching scene in the final season, an antagonist tells Weston he must be willing to sacrifice if he wants to achieve what he wishes. Weston in a fit of anguish yells “I have given everything, my friends and family have moved on, and when I look in their eyes all I see is pity” in the end he saw his search for peace and justice had, in the end, destroyed that peace and made him lose everything that gave him peace.
We as humans are in a constant battle to be the best version of ourselves we can be, we are always trying to make the world a better place, we are always trying to find that elusive pot of gold, that mythical place of tranquility that has evaded us. Yet it may not exist, we may not find that peace we are seeking. The only peace we can truly have is doing the right thing in the present. Don’t put off the good and best parts of life now in an effort to get peace later, that peace is not guaranteed and you may get to the end of the road and find as you reach out it will vanish like a mist at the end of dawn.
Author Wayne W. Dyer said “Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”
So focus on the now, don't take ethical shortcuts to find peace, take life as it is, enjoy it, and then you can experience the peace you seek at the end of the road in the here and now.
Byron Lafayette is a journalist and author. He writes for Fansided and currently serves as Editor in Chief for Viralhare.com.