The Nobel Laureates in their Nobel Lecture acceptance speeches documented the greatest threats to peace in their time. Many of the speeches in the atomic age, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cite nuclear proliferation as humanities greatest threat, the prospect of which threatens the annihilation of the human race. Make no mistake, no one will be the victor of a nuclear holocaust. Only if we have learned, if we have suffered enough will we avoid this catastrophe and take the responsibility of the survival of our species and our planet.
The following sets out many of the Laureates compiled threats to peace: rampant nationalism, economic disparity, bigotry, inequality, imperialistic aims, oppression and injustice, to name a few. I will add one more, the threat of a madman, we have seen it before with disastrous consequences. The laureates point out these threats for a purpose, so we may endeavour to avoid them and instead find hope and follow the path to peace.
This post offers insights from Nobel Laureate Ralph Bunche
Ralph J.Bunche Nobel Peace Prize 1950
Some Reflections on Peace in Our Time
In this most anxious period of human history, the subject of peace, above every other, commands the solemn attention of all men of reason and goodwill. In these critical times it is not easy to speak of peace with either conviction or reassurance.
The words used by statesmen in our day no longer have a common meaning… Words in a constant flow of propaganda – itself an instrument of war – are employed to confuse, mislead, and debase the common man. … Truth and morality are subverted by propaganda, on the cynical assumption that truth is whatever propaganda can induce people to believe. … With what great insight did Voltaire, hating war, declare; “War is the greatest of all crimes; and yet there is no aggressor who does not colour his crimes with the pretext of justice.”
To the common man, the state of world affairs is baffling … People everywhere wish and long for peace. If war should come, the peoples of the world would again be called upon to fight it, but they would not have willed it.
But the horrible realities of modern warfare scarcely afford even this fateful choice, with the threat of atomic war … we may not survive this choice.
This is mankind’s great dilemma.
If human relationships were governed by the sagacity of the great philosophers, there would be little danger of war. For in their collective wisdom over the centuries they have clearly charted the course to free and peaceful living among men.
However man has but little heeded the advice of the wise men. He has been – fatefully, if not willfully – less virtuous, less constant, less rational, less peaceful than he is capable of being.
He has been lead astray by his addiction to narrow nationalism, racial and religious bigotry, greed and lust for power.
The values he has created have been predominantly materialistic; his spiritual values have lagged far behind. He has demonstrated little spiritual genius and has made little progress toward the realization of human brotherhood. In the contemporary atomic age, this could prove man’s fatal weakness.
The peoples of the world find themselves precariously on the brink of total disaster. The fateful alternative of peace or reversion to the Dark Ages.
Mans inventive genius has outreached his reason – not his capacity to reason but his willingness to apply reason.
If we speak of peace, we speak of the United Nations. If the United Nations cannot ensure peace, there will be none.
The United Nations is the greatest peace effort in human history. There is an optimism in those who work there, and also a sense of deep frustration, which flows from the knowledge that mankind could readily live in peace and freedom if there were but a minimum of will to do so. There is the ever present, simple but dark truth that though the peoples long primarily for peace, they may be prodded by their leaders and governments into needless war, which may at worst destroy them, at best lead them once again to barbarism.
With nationalism there may be no quarrel, but narrow exclusively self-centered nationalism is the prime obstacle to enduring peace.
As Alfred Nobel finally discerned people are never deterred from the folly of war by the stark terror of it. But it is nonetheless true that in atomic war there would be no survivors, there could be no victors. What then could war achieve which could not be better gained by peaceful means, given a genuine will for peace and even a modicum of mutual good faith.
The fatal prelude to war:
Fear, suspicion and recrimination in the relations among nations tend to be dangerously self compounding. They induce that national hysteria which in its rejection of poise and rationality, can itself be the fatal prelude to war.
There will be no security in our world, no release from agonizing tension, no genuine progress, no enduring peace, until in Shelley’s fine words “reason’s voice, loud as the voice of nature, shall have waked the nations.”