What is peace? Some argue that peaceful condition is merely the absence of war. But there is no universal definition to that term. In 1969, Takeshi Ishida in his paper titled Beyond the Traditional Concept of Peace in Different Cultures pointed out that, “peace” has various definitions depending on which culture we refer to.
In sum, a peaceful condition is the mixture of values such as divine justice, an absence of war and conflict, harmonious social relations, personal or inner peace within ourselves, and socioeconomic welfare.
Nowadays, from beauty pageant contests until leaders’ political agenda always talk and dream of the global peace. In contrast, we live in the world that makes us very familiar with conflict, disputes, and war—be it at the societal, national, or even international levels.
Have you ever contemplated when the most peaceful period human beings ever had throughout world history was? What are the measurements of peace, anyway?
Each year, Vision of Humanity, Australia-based NGO generates the Global Peace Index and ranks countries in the world with some indicators, including:
- Relations with its neighbouring countries
- Murder rate every 100,000 people
- The mortality rate from organized conflict
- Level of disrespect towards human rights
- Number of heavy weapons every 100,000 population
According to the Global Peace Index, a country with the lowest score would be awarded the most peaceful country in the world. This year, Iceland ranked number 1, followed by New Zealand whose record is very strong as this country has always been among the top of the list, joining the most peaceful countries list are Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. Meanwhile, Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria are considered the bottom five.
Peaceful Times throughout the World History
Pax Romana is the Latin term for “Roman Peace”. This period was initiated by Edward Gibbon, a historian in the 18th century in his famous piece The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Based on his analysis, the peaceful era of Pax Romana was marked during the leadership of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus starting from 27 B.C, and lasting for around 200 years’ time. Augustus initiated broader scopes of a foreign policy of Rome that focused not only on expansionism but also prosperity and safekeeping.
It turned out his initiation positively impacted the overall condition, which has resulted in increased civil conflicts and rebellion. During this time, the building of the Altar of Peace that symbolizes the importance of the peaceful situation in the Roman Empire.
Sadly, it did not last long. The year 180 indicates the end of peaceful Pax Romana as emperor Aurelius breathed his last and his son replaced him with his very distinct ideas, where peace was not among his essential focuses.
Another period of international peace was born thousand years after the victory of Pax Romana. It was the father of Mongolia, Genghis Khan, the one who united the Mongol tribes.
Khan initiated many innovative improvements during his era, including the Silk Road trading route and developed advanced technologies that enabled Marco Polo to start his journey all the way to China.
The only backward that Khan had was his vicious invasions that have resulted in the deaths of millions. Also, his efforts to developed advanced innovations in trade and technologies were not directly associated with a peaceful condition in his kingdom.
The prosperity of citizens was present once Khan began to establish the Mongolian empire in which those innovations could be highly used by the people.
But then again, peace could not be maintained too as some annihilations happened during the era of the Mongolian empire where its troops executed enemies of the government.
Picking out two most potentially peaceful era throughout the history does not really convince us that we ever had a so-called long last global peace, yet we are still aiming for that—or perhaps, that is the reason why we are still longing for lasting peace. Then a question may arise, are we progressing?
An evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker said the era we are living in right now is far more peaceful than the world had in previous periods. Claims also emerge to support Pinker’s argument.
In hunter-gatherer societies, for example, the number of people die due to violent-related occurrences has strikingly decreased, and this is partly because nowadays people are more organized and the awareness of human rights also increases.
Dean Falk and Charles Hildebolt in their study that was published in Current Anthropology also pointed out, as the global population grows, the number of people who die due to violent-related conflicts and wars also decrease from time to time.
However, Falk and Hiderbolt realized that the measurement that was used by Pinker was narrowly estimated only based on violent death rates per 100,000 population.
It neglects the fact where weaponry is getting more advanced it allows a smaller population to cause violent deaths, and higher crime rates in major cities in the world must also be taken into consideration when assuming the argument.