Elusive or unattainable?

12:06 AM January 25, 2017

Peace, semanticists tersely define, is the absence of war. Clever, but this is a shallow way of dissecting a very serious concept, man’s deepest longing—peace.

And yet no grain of truth can be gleaned when you reform the statement and say instead, war is the cessation of peace. The implication of both statement is there’ll be no peace because there’ll be war all the time. There’s a bit oxymoronic about the definition, though. It proposes that there has to be war to have peace; or put another way, war is the prerequisite of peace since its absence is what peace is.


Quite confusing. I don’t know if you can make heads or tails out of this convoluted explanation of an everyday concept. I don’t want to go deeper into an esoteric discussion of this subject and be embarrassed by the exceedingly erudite opinion-maker Professor Randy David.

Yet timidity is an unacceptable excuse for not weighing in on the twin issues of war and peace, which I believe will continue to be dominant this year—as they were last year—among our national and international concerns. Will there be peace? Or in the context of peace as earlier defined in this piece, will war go on vacation to let peace to bloom?


There are wars and there are wars. I was once bitten by curiosity and googled to find out how many wars were waged by man since the dawn of time. After considerable time scrolling, I gave up. Research could not come up with a definite number of the total armed conflicts fought by humans from the time they battled one another armed with clubs and rocks to the present—with guns and missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Research cannot produce quick answers to every trivia about war—not all the time. But it can give you new perspectives for better understanding of why peace is elusive, or perhaps even unattainable. What goads man to war? War is not found elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Since recorded history began, man has been involved in hostility, driven by different aims: power, territory, wealth, ideological domination, religious supremacy, security, independence.

Examine the motivations that impel humans to clobber and finish off one another in an armed conflict. Whether the conflict is of modest scale as a tribal war or of super magnitude it deserves to be called not just plain war but “global conflagration,” and you’ll note that the conflict fundamentally arises from man’s intrinsic weakness—hubris.

This year the administration will again re-crank its stalled peace talks with two armed groups that have been in a bloody war with the Establishment for decades. The two have divergent aims and reasons for feeling constrained to cause widespread bloodshed and mayhem: One believes it owns a superior ideology and wants to supplant the existing one with it; the other harbors a festering resentment, feeling it has been suffering for far too long from inequality, and wants to correct the anomalous equation by establishing its own autonomous state.

In the final analysis, what fuels their wars is hubris; both believe in the righteousness of their causes, both think they have more than sufficient fighting force to achieve their aims, and both are certain of coming out of the war victorious.

So, am I saying peace is not a low-hanging fruit that we can have by merely wishing it? To be specific, am I saying it’s doubtful that the peace talks with the leftists and with the separatists will produce positive results? By no means, no. My take is we’ll have peace. After all, this is what the Creator promises his people, us—but on one condition: We must rid ourselves of the root cause of all human conflicts—hubris. The promise and the condition for its fulfillment cannot be any more explicit and clear: “ON EARTH, PEACE TO PEOPLE OF GOODWILL.”

It behooves players in the peace talks to keep that in mind—else the objective of the talks will be as elusive as the jungle cat or, worse, as unattainable as finding gold in the moon.


Gualberto B. Lumauig ([email protected]) is past president of the UST Philosophy and Letters Foundation, and former governor and representative of Ifugao.

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