Peace on the brain

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

The history of man is perceived as a history of wars.

Classical Realists hold that human beings are inherently egoistic and self-interested to the extent that self-interest overcomes moral principles, together with the drive for power, making wars a constant under anarchy.

So does it mean that peace is virtually impossible?

Theory is always for someone, and for some purpose

Before Classical Realism’s view on peace being unlikely brings us to despair, we have to say that theories are sometimes only tools that serve politics.

From my perspective, classical Realism is sometimes used as politicians’ excuses for their political failures.

There must be some ways that can make peace a constant instead of wars. The history of man should be defined by peace, instead of wars.

But How?

how should we make wars less likely through our efforts to make peace instead of the state of wars dominate the history of man?

Well, if we find the keys to peace, this should be very easy.

Here is a fact:  interstate wars decline dramatically after 1945.

But here is also another fact: since the ending of the cold war, intra-state wars have taken dominance to an extent that intra-state wars actually did increase.

Why is that?

Peace

From my perspective, the reason that inter-state wars decline consciously is that peace comes easily. But before my dear readers demonstrate their argumentative rigor towards my point, I have to note only one point : What is peace?

There are two kinds of peace: Positive peace and Negative peace

Negative peace is merely the absence of wars. And the mere absence of wars could be easily realized through deterrence of nuclear weapons. As a result of arms races, states are simply more reluctant to attack each other due to the possibility that they will suffer from the doom day device.

However, positive peace never comes as easily as negative peace.

Positive peace refers to more than the absence of wars. Not only does positive peace stand for the presence of justice, but the word it itself is also filled with positive content such as restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of conflict.

So how do we create positive peace?

The key is Education.

According to Waltz, the lack of integration of the peoples in the international arena with one common goal is often seen as the main cause for the persistence of war.

In the brain of a man that is the only place where we can plant the seeds of sustainable peace and where everyday peace can prosper.

And a broader version of peace can be achievable through education for sure.

Amid The Divine

By Ruiqi Wei

Amid the divine lay the solutions to the problems unsolved.

My mind flashed back to the glitters of the remote summer of 2018 when I first traveled to Southeastern Asia from Singapore through Malaysia all the way to Laos with a group of my friends.

We flew from Fukuoka to Singapore, taking the bus with the help of the local from Singapore all the way to Penang, Malaysia by bus. Before my trip to Southeastern Asia where I got the chances to visit both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, I had only been to metropolises in the United States and East Asia where materialism was relatively the mainstream.

I still remembered the culture shocks that overwhelmed me when I saw a lot of people in Islamic clothing walking on the streets in Kuala Lumpur. I really could not stop myself from wondering how those pretty girls wearing Hijabs would really feel in the summer parched heats.

As an atheist always living in countries where religions are not relatively promoted, when I first noticed so many people wearing religion-affiliated clothes passing me by, my feelings at that moment were really hard to define.

Two weeks later, we finally arrived in Bangkok, where Buddhism is really widely practiced.

Compared with Islam, Buddhism seems more familiar to me since back in East Asia, there are Buddhism temples everywhere.

But what seems alien to me is the fact that four-faced Buddhas can literally be found anywhere on streets. Sometimes it just felt bizarre to pass by the four-faced Buddha in open streets.

And another thing that stroke me in Bangkok is that, near the campus of Thammasat University, the second oldest university in Thailand, there was a market that sold religious rituals related products, such as pela kleang that are used as means to communicate with those passed away.

It can be said that unlike Tokyo or Beijing, religions are deeply embedded in every aspect of people’s life in both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

Today in the thought-provoking sessions of professor Kathryn Poethig, first time ever in my life did I realize that the religions, also as ‘the divine’ are actually so intersected in every sector of society: educations, cultures, and even politics.

What truly amazed me in the first session was actually the fact that, the living, through the mental communications (empowered by empathy) , with the war dead, can actually reconcile between the irreconcilable, due to the undeniable fact that this can create grouds for mutual understanding, paving way for reconciliations.

Is not this religious approach to understand the dynamics of peace and wars wonderful?

Religions are also where identity politics take place. Just take Yasukuni Shrine for illustration, the Japanese rightists view it as a place where the war dead are enshrined as heroes of Japanese imperialism, the Korean and the Chinese always deem it as a malicious place where notorious criminals are memorialized in an unjust and unscrupulous way.

Besides that, religious institutions can also be a perfect place for dialogues. Although some insist that religious institutions focus more on monologue rather than dialogues, from my point of view religious institutions sometimes as places where identity politics happen and sometimes as the roots of disputes, meaning that there are a lot of interactions that happen revolving religious institutions, how could this be a monologue?

Amid the divine, we found the ways to reconcile, not only with the other but also our ‘self’: to reconcile with the past that couldnot let go

Elegy of the Peripheral

By Ruiqi Wei

21st century is the century of globalization.

Globalization is always praised as one of the key elements that facilitate the third world countries to develop and to reduce poverty since it can be easily observed that both cultural and economic activities that happen across the borders of nation-states as the result of globalization do benefit ‘the third world’ in terms of introducing new technologies, creating more job opportunities, and redefining social norms in a ‘modern’ way.

The world is always portrayed as a place which consists of the center and the peripheral. The incredible accumulation of wealth of the global elites allows them to have their business developed anywhere as they want, making as much as profits as they can, and removing all the possible barriers that stop global inequality from burgeoning.

Is the economic deprival of the peripheral everything that the center has been wanting?

But wait. Globalization is not as simple as it seems. It is not just merely an economic issue And there are certainly more to be found out in the intentions of the pushers of globalization.

The retreats of local cultures

“手如柔荑,肤如凝脂,领如蝤蛴,齿如瓠犀。 螓首蛾眉,巧笑倩兮,美目盼兮”

As recorded in one of the earliest editorials of Chinese serial poetry titled as ‘the shi king’ which was first published roughly thousands of years ago, any Chinese girl that has normal healthy skin that smiles a lot can be defined as Chinese beauty.

However, thanks to western cultural invasion, aesthetics in china are gradually being redefined, in a pathetic way.

In contemporary China, what makes girls pretty is not merely healthy skin. Dramatic double eyelids paired with big eyes that are obviously not a feature of East Asian took domination. For the fulfillment of the so-called beauty standard rooted in western cultural invasions, many girls in pursuit of these beauty features that are not written in the genes of most East Asian have to withstand the pain while knifing cutting through their eyelid, taking the risks of having the whole face ruined by clinical mistake. And after these plastic surgeries, everyone looks streamlined, having their uniqueness relentlessly deprived.

The glossy eye that can tell a thousand stories is not a thing that is treasured as it was anymore.

And there are always some more countries where girls are suffering similar cases, leading to the diminishes of local beauty standards.

Western cultural invasions mean the treats of local cultures.

And the saddest thing is, these retreats of local cultures often happen so unnoticed that local people whose roots are being encroached generally cannot fight back. And these retreats are even seen as inevitable and well-justified under the notion that due to the fact that the west is conspicuously more economically privileged than the peripheral, all the barbarians that are tagged as ‘signs of underdevelopment’ deserve their ultimate diminishes. Our cultures are thus colonized in an unnoticed way.

How sad.

Westernization

Well, in the perfect disguise of the rhetorics of universal development, globalization is accelerating in speed beyond imagination. The trend of westernization being a byproduct of globalization is not likely to be curbed as it can be easily observed that whether in Beijing or new york, signs of ‘McDonald’ can be easily found anywhere, indicating how inevitable McDonaldization is. To whatever extent does a city develope, the ultimate fate that awaits is still being a place with the presences of McDonald’s literally everywhere, with a conspicuous decline of local food culture that ensues shortly.

Westernization helps people in the peripheral get over their backwardness.

But how should backwardness be defined?

Why is it always the center that decides what is backward and what is developed?

Is it fair?

Under the hypocritical veneer of westernization, the people in the peripheral should to some extent realize that their norms are being redefined.

Let it be said that, under the slogan that the center makes the peripheral world gentrified, what they are really doing is redefining the life of the peripheral.

And what can we do about it?

Decolonization of Knowledge

“Theory is always for someone and for some purpose“.- Robert W. Cox

In order for us to decolonize knowledge, we have to understand that everything exists for a purpose.

We have too identify the roots in system, and then unfold the mystery of the narratives.

Then we can make the peripheral the boss of themselves, making the world more equal, life of everyone equally fulfilling.

The Hypocritical Justice

By Ruiqi Wei

Restorative justice still remains a myth to me.

Even though I have attended so many sessions on restorative justice, and as I could say all the personal experiences that were shared through the vivid narratives regarding restorative justice are just as impressive as usual, I still cannot devote myself to the idea of restorative justice.

The concept of restorative Justice from my point of view sometimes can be hypocritical on some occasions, and cannot be seen as a healing experience that can truly benefit the victims. Restorative justice as I think is merely atrocity that is imposed on victims once again after the harm is done in the name of love and so-called justice.

In short, restorative justice is the greatest generosity for the perpetrators and meanest atrocity for the victims on some occasions, such as homicides.

The goal of restorative justice is said to be for both the victims and the perpetrators who have harmed to share their experience of what truly happened, to discuss who was harmed by the crime and in what aspects the harm is done, and to create a consensus for what the offenders can do to compensate for the harm that has been done. This may include financial compensation from the offenders to the victims or verbal compensations in the form of apologies. And other actions sometimes are also done to compensate those harmed and to prevent the offender from causing future harm.

But what disturbs me the most in the notion of restorative justice is that, the dead do not speak for themselves. When a murder happens, how do the perpetrators compensate the victims who are deprived of their lives as the result of the harms?

In the name of so-called justice, if the rights to a complete personality of the perpetrator can be restored through mediations or other means, how do people restore the lives for those victims who are harmed to an extent that they are deprived their lives?

Some broken relationships between victims and perpetrators can never be restored in a just way, I think. And even attempt to restore is seen as unfair to the victims.

Growing up as a Chinese atheist, I believe in the hardcore truth of “You get what you give.” Thus it can be said that I think those who kill deserve to be killed. Pure and simple. It is not only for the sake of deterrence of the death penalty that can prevent to some extent the murders from happening, it is also justice for the victims.

I understand that from some other perspectives a death penalty is seen as unacceptable since it is an encroachment on human rights, that being said punishment such as death penalty should in principle be abolished and replaced with a more humane alternative to protect the rights of the perpetrators.

But the rights of those who are killed are already deprived from the moment when they are killed. Someone stands up for rights of the perpetrator, but who to stand up for the rights of victims? Dead do not speak for themselves.

Sorry not Sorry

A visiting scholar called Yingying Zhang was kidnapped and murdered on June 9, 2017. Two years later, it was substantiated that not only was she decapitated, her body was also cut into pieces and disposed in the landfill site.

“On June 24, 2019, the 12-member jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning its verdict. Christensen was found guilty of one count of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of making false statements to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During sentencing deliberations, the jury could not unanimously agree to sentence Christensen to death. As a result, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on July 18, 2019. ‘

There might be a possibility that one of the 12 judges is an advocate of restorative justice and believe that there is a possibility that restorative justice can transform the murderer Christensen, thus they would not call death penalty the best end. But does Christensen really feel sorry for what he has done? Can restorative really be his remedy? I don’t think so.

“Brendt Christensen didn’t move or show any emotion as the judge read the jury’s verdict — a swift conviction that was widely expected after defense attorneys acknowledged at trial Christensen killed 26-year-old Yingying Zhang in June 2017 and said they would focus all their energy on persuading jurors to spare his life.”

Say you got a resolution.

By Ruiqi Wei

There are so many social and political problems that haunt our society today. And these issues that we are faced with are more serious than we thought. High crime rates together with violence that frighten communities, mass shootings that make people insecure, racial discrimination that divides society, social stratification that deprives the poorest of their hope, the inequality that encourages the divisions of communities, and lack of justice that leads the rule of laws into questions. And the city of Salinas in northern California is not the only city that suffers from these issues. The whole nation witnessed how the atrocities as proven in both El Paso and San Jose caused terrors and distrust that torn the communities apart, making all these efforts devoted to prevention turn into zero.

But don’t get down although we are subscribed with so many social issues. Solutions always outnumber problems. Although we can work out the solutions one way or another, it is long-term rather than short-term. And do you have the resolutions?

In the meeting of the general assembly of the city of Salinas where the relationships of values are rebuilt through dialogues from different perspectives that took place on August 7, 2019, different experiences were shared and stories were told. All the pieces led to one question: how to build the resilience of the community?

With partnership and values as the core, how can we develop a set of strategies that can empower the community? And in what aspects can we empower the society.

For certain, it requires long-term efforts rather than short-term from every sector on all the levels: from policy implementation to enforcement, and then finally echoing throughout the communities.

So do we have the resolutions to transform the social problems into opportunities?

Reduction of Violence

Incarceration of those people who are seen as troubles is one of the least desirable ways to reduce the violence that I could ever think of. Why?

Foremost, Incarceration is costly, and definitely a burden to the taxpayers. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, incarceration costs an average of more than $31,000 per inmate a year, nationwide. And in some states, it’s more than $60,000.

Furthermore, the exclusion of those “troubles” from society is not sustainable. Let it be said that prisoners are more than prisoners. They can be sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers. What the prison is doing to those incarcerated is not only to keep them away from society. The prison is also tearing families apart, leading to new traumas that may cause other issues.

In addition, rather than prisons, rebabilitations are much more needed since rehabilitations are more transformative than prisons. The experience in prisons is trauma-strengthening. What has been constrained in the prisons is not only the physical-being of those prisoners. It also limits the freedom of all the people who are relevant to prisons, depriving people of their hope to life. Rehabilitations are believed to function as a place which can help people to find their true values in life through cares and educations that can help reduce violence on the system level.

Last but not least, instead of contemplation on the cure of “violence”, efforts really need to be done regarding how to prevent violence. Only preventions can curb violence from its roots. Preventions are one of the best answers to potential violence. But it requires changes in the system and needs long-term efforts from all sectors on all levels. It requires a steady resolution from everyone. No one is irrelevant to the war to “violence”. Institutions only facilitate, but what truly matters and matters the most in the war to combat violence is ‘we, the people’ that make up the communities.

Say you got a resolution to make our communities better.

Prison is not the solution

By Ruiqi Wei

“Dear fellas: I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. Watch it, old-timer! Want to get killed? I saw an automobile once when I was a kid… …but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. The parole board got me into this halfway house… …called “The Brewer”… …and a job… …bagging groceries at the Food-Way. It’s hard work and I try to keep up… – Brooks Hatlen

“There’s a harsh truth to face. No way I’m going to make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole… …so maybe they’d send me back. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well.” – The Shawshank Redemption

I have never understood what has been really being portrayed in The Shawshank Redemption until many years later when the darkness of the prison cell that devoured my conscience deprived my hope, although temporarily.

Words are never enough to describe how I really felt in the cell while I stared at the spooky paintings around the walls that conveyed nothing but a sense of hopelessness interweaved with fatigue, picturing before me the several more inmates that were trapped in the cell as I was in that moment lying in the bed, thinking about how their life like this will not end.

They all know it too well. How repetitious the monotonous life in prison is.

And the terror of not knowing when the state of hopelessness would go away that disturbed me to an unfamiliar degree.

While it still shone brightly in the outside as if everything was still going well as it ought to, there was nothing but only eternal darkness left in the tiny cell.

The days in prison are so long. They don’t end.

For me, the prison field visit only lasted for several hours, whereas for the prisoners incarcerated the desperate life may last from years to the entire lifetime.

Several days after my visit to the prison, I still cannot help myself from reminiscing about the hours spent in prison. There are only darkness and hopelessness that I have been turning over in my mind ever since.

Prison is not the solution.

It is said that life is made up of a series of choices, and different choices lead to different life paths. Different life choices make people end up in different places. Prisoners are in a nutshell, merely the people who have made choices that might be wrong leading them to a place called prisons. They are just the people who stumbled in cinematic ways. But why do stumble? And why do they make these choices that will make them end up in prisons?

It can be traumas. It can be the need to life. It can be poverty. It can be hatred. It can be lack of education. It can be anything. There are so many dynamics that make people stumble and end up in prisons.

Prisons fail to address the root causes of crimes. On the contrary, prison through the deprival of both love by its exclusion of prisoners from the outside and hope are reinforcing the traumas which are embedded in the childhoods of the prisoners. It does not solve the problem from its critical roots. In this sense, let it be said that prisons are only constraining rather than healing. Prisons fail to address the fundamental problem of how to prevent people from stumbling. Prisons only exclude the people that are seen as disturbing from society. And prisons fail to train those who are excluded to be includable again for them to get back to society.

What prisons are really doing still remain superficial after all these years of development although outside the prison in the era defined by rapid technology innovations things even never stay the same for a minute.

The prison is merely a place for prisoners to escape from reality rather than to face the reality and solve the real problem.






The Question of Tolerance

By Ruiqi Wei

 Where does tolerance end?

“Do you know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. ‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life.

There are so many moments throughout these years when I often found myself trapped in embarrassment that caused me great discomfort that hurt too much for me to ignore– these moments always wounded me as a teen vulnerable to the outside to an extent that sometimes I just simply thought rather than those who were different than me, I should stay with “my people” and keep the contact with ‘the other’ minimum.

Very unfortunately, although I always expected all these insults should be kept on a personal level, the reality is quite brothering since all of these moments of embarrassment revolve around my identity. Or more specifically, the prejudice against my identity.

Let’s get down to reality.

As a Chinese Mainlander who is educated outside of the people’s republic of china, I have came across so many situations overseas where I was either referred by very derogatory terms used to describe Chinese such XXXX, or asked very offensive questions such as XXXXX.

I expected these to be all, but very unfortunately, this is still very far from the whole story.

Even within the boarders of PRC, some so-called ‘Chinese’ across straits still communicated me in a very offensive way merely due to my mainland identity.

Well, since there are already so many macro-aggressions for me as a 19-year-old teen to bear, it might be too cruel to have me suffering in micro-aggressions.

How I want to say that I never felt any micro-aggression ever since I was born. But simply I just cannot. I cannot just simply immerse myself in my fancy fabricated world pretending the things that indeed happened never seem to have happened.

If I am asked to write about all the micro aggressions that I have identified throughout these years I spent outside PRC as a very sensitive young teen, I might be able to write you more than ten pages, not to exaggerate.

And these aggressions, both on micro and macro levels, bother not only me and those who are from the same background with me, but also everyone else who is different than me since there must be some occasions where we get to be recognized as “others”, where the otherness is felt and targeted at.

Can we tolerate? Sure we can. Although it is uncomfortable, it is still not a big deal since no physical hurt at all for these aggressions that happened. But should we tolerate? I really want to say that we should, for the sake of peace. We should appreciate the diversity of perspectives. We should respect the way others see us since the ways people are educated always differ, leading to different perspectives which should all be understood.

But the question is, to what extent should we tolerate?

We should tolerate, to an extent that, we reach the end of tolerance.

So where is the end of tolerance?

The end of tolerance is not conflicts nor is it peace.

The end of tolerance is always changes. It is a condition for positive peace to prosper. If not changes, it should at least be the prospect for things to change for better.

We should start through efforts to change the system on all levels: turn the dividers into connectors by finding what tears our community apart and fixing the broken strings.

Living in a world marked by ultra-connectivity across the borders of nation-states, thanks to the angel of globalization combined with great advancement of technology, everyone (outside the peripheral world) gets to benefit a lot in terms of economic convenience and greater material affluence.

But what about the inevitable westernization accompanied by globalization?

Western norms all in a sudden following the industrial revolution became the only norm for the whole world leaving out the differences that once distinguished culture to culture.

Here and now so suddenly became the same world, at least on the surface.

The diversity of cultures is gradually being erased to less and less since the standards of the developed world are recognized as the privileged and the less-developed ones should . Democracy as the only legitimate norm of ruling is promoted worldwide after the collapse of Soviet Union.

And It comes as natural for us to alienate and condemn everything heterodox.

The world comes closer, but there is only less and less cultural, ideological, and political tolerance.

Should not we tolerate?

Tolerance brings us changes.

The Mystery of Justice

By Ruiqi Wei

The mystery of Justice

All I knew about American police officers (well, cops) from internet was that American cops were usually very excellent sources for teen memes.

 “When 17-year-old John Albers threatened suicide on FaceTime, his friends called police. Within minutes of officers’ arrival at the teen’s home, he was dead—but not because he killed himself. Officer Clayton Jenison allegedly “acted recklessly and deliberately” when he shot 13 times at Albers, who may not have even known police were at his home, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by his parents. The boy was ‘simply backing his mom’s minivan out of the family garage,’ the complaint alleges.” (Messer, 2018)

“Police in Oklahoma shot and killed an unarmed black 17-year-old high school student who was running around a neighborhood naked on Monday.” (Nashrulla, 2019)

I still remembered my mother’s worried face when she noticed a message popping up saying that the suicide of a teen in Kansas was successful stopped – but in a ridiculous way: the cop shot him instead.

“Authorities say an 18-year-old man was shot and killed by police officers and sheriff’s deputies Saturday evening outside an Ottawa hardware store. Family members say officers knew that the teen was suicidal, and officers didn’t have to use deadly force.” (Oberholtz, 2014)

Well, to be honest, literally I have never heard anything positive about cops. Every time when there is news about American cops circulating online, it is either about how many innocent minorities the cops just kill, or how many depressed teens lose their lives to the guns of irresponsible cops.

Yes. The way the police officer treating these innocent souls seems so ridiculous and irresponsible to me, although I try to refrain myself from using these words that are surely overloaded with emotion, I just feel bad for those who should have lived if the police were more attentive and responsible.

The undefinable emotions even overwhelmed me to a greater extent when during the session on gang violence, chief Kelly indicated that the police officer usually determines to shoot or not to shoot their target based on their own personal assessment of whether the person should be a treat to a community or not.

This notion seems extremely problematic to me, since the criteria is usually very subjective and very personal.

The way people are seeing (judging) things is generally shaped to a great extent by their past experience, different narratives on medias and stereotypes.

And this criteria differs from individual to individual.

How to define a threat to community?

Lately, Zhang yinyin, a Chinese visiting scholar from Peking University to UIUC was substantiated to have been killed by an anti-socialist called Brandt Christensen, a fanatic of the novel American Psycho. The poor girl was said to be decapitated in a very brutal way.

The ironic part of the episode, however, is that the murderer is a physic PhD studying in UIUC.

Based on general common sense, PhD is not supposed to be a murderer, is it?

And guess what, the murderer is still alive, and will never be sentenced to death since he is not subject to. But let me say what, he must be a threat to community. Even jail should be seen as a community. If he is put into jail, then he should be seen as a treat to a community. Then why is he still alive?

The parents of the poor girl always waited for her to walk in the door, saying that “Mom, I’m back.”

“During these days when we could not get in touch with yinyin, we always prepared every meal with the front door open, waiting for her to come back home. Every time when I noticed footsteps, I just ran up to the door to see whether she was back or not. However, a call from police just shattered all our expectation. Her life was taken away by some anti-socialist and would never get back.”

What they didn’t seem to know at that time was that their daughter de facto was already decapitated and would never go home. But what’s more heartbreaking is that the murderer subsequently is just simply not subject to death penalty since he just decapitated the poor girl in IL.

Is this the so-called justice?

It just hits me that a person’s life, especially the innocent one, can be so subjectively and easily deprived by triggers of the police officers, so simple and direct – what a pity. He/She might be a cherished son/daughter whom their parents are really proud of, or he/she could be a caring parent who his/her family is always waiting for him/her to come home.

And what hits me worse, is that the truly malicious ones are sometimes lucky enough to get away.

The question of justice, was never answered. It is such a pity, that we are far from justice.

 

The Curse of Resources

By Ruiqi Wei

Throughout the Milky Way that stretches 100,000 light-years across, there are said to be more than 100 billion stars. Among the eight planets of the solar system, although it seems that Venus always shines as stunning as the Roman goddess of beauty named Venus, and Moon since the birth of modern literature is often cited as a mysterious place where there is too much unknown that outlines the Moonage Daydreams of millions of readers, there is just no one like that is similar to earth.

It is the water that makes earth the one and only.

Water is known as the source of life, and about 71 percent of the surface of the earth is covered by water.

But in a world of more than 70 billion where the resources are limited, water, inevitably becomes a source of conflict.

Water is so indispensable to human life. Though it seems that water is yet sufficient, it is still seen very limited and global demand for freshwater never seems to shrink due to the inevitable population growth.

At the same time, climate change and environmental degradation are having a great impact on the regional and seasonal availability and quality of water.

The resulting competition over the governance and management of water constantly leads to conflicts with violence that ensues, depriving millions of their lives.

Generally speaking, water conflicts, just like any other conflicts, can occur either on the intrastate or interstate levels.

But the good news is, since there are more than a thousand ways to regenerate water at the mercy of technology innovation, such as atmospheric water generator as illustrated in previous sessions, fortunately let it be said that water in foreseeable years is not likely to be a root for conflicts.

However, is the reality of conflicts over the shortage of resources merely about water?

Certainly not.

Conflicts over unrenewable resources are thousand times worse than this. And the prospect for the solution to this kind of conflicts is also relatively bleak.

It is always said that the management of natural resources is one of the most critical challenges facing developing countries in this decade.

 And UN (2019) indicates that the overexploitation of non-renewable natural resources, including petroleum, gas, minerals and timber has often been known as a key factor in triggering, escalating or sustaining violent conflicts around the globe.

It is also concluded by UN (2019) that ‘increasingly the pressure on and competition for diminishing renewable resources, such as land, water and fisheries – a trend exacerbated by degradation, population growth and climate change – is driving new conflicts and obstructing the peaceful resolution of existing ones. There is increasing recognition that the challenges facing effective natural resource management (NRM) are heightened by the complex interplay between natural resources on the one hand, and economic, political, cultural and social dynamics on the other.’

But the whole story of the curse of natural resources is simply more than this.

Now dear readers, you are called upon to imagine such a scenario: You find yourself one day standing with a gun in your hand around a diamond mine, then someone walking close calling you the president of country A: a landlocked country situated in the middle of a continent marked by parched heat all year around, where the people are living a extremely hard life, forming a stark contrast to luxury of the corrupted elites.

And the one who just walks in your office tells you this: Coup is coming, mainly for the newly-discovered diamonds.

Well, this example might not be convincing enough.

What I am trying to tell through this scenario is, conflicts can really be brought up over the ownership of natural resources in poor-governed countries trapped in poverty, especially those which are already marked by constantly unstable domestic context.

Not only is the management of natural resources always seen as one of the reasons why conflicts are always happening, rent of natural resources is also a barrier to development as demonstrated in the case of failing states, as collier argues.

It is argued that that countries with an abundance of natural resources tend to have less economic growth, less democracy, and worse development outcomes than countries with fewer natural resources.

It is called the paradox of plenty.

After this point, we finally can reach the conclusion that abundance of natural resources seems to be not good, contrary to what most of us initially expected. Thus can we say the lack of recourses is likely to be the secret to avoid conflicts?

Wrong again.

Lack of resources leads to conflicts, but in another manner. Well, usually invasions.

As history has proved us thus far, countries typically invade other countries to seize resources, which certainly seems to provide the reason for most of the colonization across the globe and countless wars both on intra-state or inter-state level.

So after the comprehensive illustration of the intertwined relevance between resources and conflicts, what will seem to be our medicine?

The answer is not only the technology innovation that enables us to explore sustainable alternatives that can substitute un-renewable resources, making the importance of resources going down thus leading to the decline of conflicts, it is also the cooperation and sustainable way of managing resources that make conflicts less likely.

I still remember those days I spent as a kid always assuming the ownership of resources is all good since we always assume the more the better.

But the reality is the less I know the better. As I got to learn more and more, I just realized that saying either abundance or scarcity of resources makes conflicts less likely is simply inaccurate.

But knowledge is power. We can always find a solution through the power of “knowing”.

Prospect for peace

By Ruiqi Wei

“Enter to grow in wisdom, depart to serve better the world and humans”

Interpretations of “Peacebuildling”

There are no facts, only interpretations.- Nietzsche

Then what are our interpretations of “peacebuilding”?

Peacebuilding is more than “To cross the line from a world of international conflict and violence to a world in which respect for international law and authority overcomes belligerence and ensures justice.”

While Waltz thinks  peacebuilding is the integration of the peoples in the international arena with one common goal, Jean-Marie Guéhenno deems peacebuilding as “the political process through the promotion of national dialogue and reconciliation, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights, and assist in restoring the rule of law.”  

Although for Kant, perpetual peace can be simply achieved through democratization since democratic states are less likely to fight each other, dictators throughout the world still hold it true that only with the power under their own grips: the absence of wars as negative peace can be easily created through deterrence.

There are thousands of forms of peacebuilding.

For artists, peacebuilding is art.  (Premaratna & Bleiker, 2016 )

Arts have the potential to be embedded in and work through communities. And arts happen at all levels. Arts can also evolve along with the needs of the community.  It can also play a role in resisting forms of monopoly rule by offering alternatives to prevailing approaches.

Firstly, Arts can deal with the emotional issue which traditional institutions neglect. It can address the emotional core of the conflict in ways that surpass laws and institutions leading to sustainable peace.

Secondly, as a part of dealing with emotional and political legacies, it can narrate and transform personal traumas. And it can evoke feelings, bringing things beyond rational cognition. It can bring people to the perspectives of others evoking empathies and reflections thus bring changes.

Thirdly, it can break boundaries of daily communication through revolving around stereotypes that fuel conflicts. And it can also break through community barriers by offering alternatives to the type of verbal discourses that constitute a conflict. (see pp.81-93).

For united nations, peacebuilding is not only to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.

It is also to “Create a secure and stable environment while strengthening the State’s ability to provide security, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights, to Facilitate the political process by promoting dialogue and reconciliation and supporting the establishment of legitimate and effective institutions of governance, and to provide a framework for ensuring that all United Nations and other international actors pursue their activities at the country-level in a coherent and coordinated manner. “

And when it comes to my understanding of peacebuilding….

Every time when my reflections on “peacebuilding” are called upon, the hurtful memories that should have sunk unwept into oblivion just rewind in a cinematic way.

Inter-state: reconcile the irreconcilable

Japan means a lot to me. It witnesses my growth both as an academic and a responsible person during my stumbling puberty. But my experience as a Chinese studying in Japan is somehow nuanced from international students from other countries, given the undeniable fact that Japan had an issue with China in the Sino-Japanese war during WWII.

My mother back in China was often asked a lot why I went to Japan. It seems strange to some elders back home that I as a Chinese can be even fascinated by Japanese Culture under the pretext that mainstream TV channels in China are playing Anti-imperialism TV series on a rolling basis that never seems to stop. And generally Chinese audiences love this a lot.

Throughout these years I spent in Japan, although I indeed met lots of friendly people who helped me and treated me fairly, somehow on some occasions where it is said that statistics about Sino-Japanese wars are fabricated since the war is not specifically written on the textbooks, we still inevitably disagree each over to an extent that we got failures to communicate because our perceived pasts are disparate rather than different.

History is created rather than told as it was. History foremost serves politics. Not many Japanese students know as much about what happened in Sino-Japanese wars as average Chinese students do. Due to the obvious absence of a shared common past (a census over what did happen in the past), my Japanese friends and I disagree over a lot of issues, such as the Yasukuni Shrine, where the “spirits” of Japanese war dead as the heroes of Japanese imperialism are specifically honored. But from the perspective of a conscious Chinese, what is being honored in Yasukuni Shrine are demons instead of heroes, whose swords are doused in the blood of millions of innocent civilians who were treated brutally until the very last moment of their lives.

 The essence of the Yasukuni Shrine dispute is de facto a clash of incompatible identities shaped by different narratives of the past. Because of these conflicting identities, the Japanese the Chinese, and the Koreans have no choice but to oppose, dispute, and demonize the Japanese rightists. There exists a fundamental disconnect in how some people see the symbolic content of the Yasukuni Shrine.

Merely negative peace as an absence of wars, normalizations, and reconciliations are far from enough.  What we are looking forward to is active peace that requires efforts from every sector, every level of society, that is based on mutual understanding through dialogues.

intra-state: the demonized other

Never have I realized that Chinese mainlanders in the eyes of a few people across “Straits” were somehow ill-mannered ‘eerie puppets’ until I scanned through social media of our own, Zhihu, Chinese mainland version of Quora, a site where general life experience is shared for consultation in Q and A format.

Chinese mainlanders, as described in top-voted answers on Zhihu, are often perceived by people across straits as so economically desperate that they cannot even afford a boiled egg. Furthermore, Chinese mainlanders actually often get called by ‘XX mainlando’, a very derogatory term that should be omitted here in the passage.

It was even said in the top-voted answers that the local travel slogans attracting tourists, especially from Japan was, “A nice place of tranquility without the disturbance of mainland tourists.”

Unconsciously immersed in this kind of biased information source, throughout these years overseas, although as a mainlander, sharing the same type of blood in my veins with the people across the straits, I always consciously refrain myself from talking to people across straits and keep the contact minimum since I think the scenarios would be intertwined if I do speak to them.

However, by chance, I went across straits for a transit.

Before I stepped out of the planes, I got wars going in my mind that, should I just speak English instead of Mandarin to the local so that I would not be referred as “Mainlando”….Or just simply speak Mandarin like I am not fragile and sensitive to discrimniations…..

I pictured several scenarios where I spoke Mandarin and got embarrassed with the contempt from the local.

After my thorough contemplation of which language to speak, I felt it better to speak Mandarin otherwise I would be too contrived not to speak it.

As the day turned out, nothing I expected has ever happened. Except for a conversation with a college student over the issue of local sovereign where he insisted that PRC intervened too much in their domestic affairs whilst I think they are a part of PRC as well, everything went off well.

Ending this trip, I got to learn that, the prerequisites for peace, are not only communications but also to consider things from the perspectives of others. Behind the perspectives are their narratives of history, culture, and education.

Diverse perspectives should be appreciated and understood in their own historical, cultural and political context.

Peacebuilding is more than mere tolerance of different ideas. It is about empathy, mutual understanding, and appreciation of diversity.

Development

I was to remember that distant morning when my flight landed in L, a relatively underdeveloped country in Southeastern Asia, from S, a very well-off country often illustrated as the development model of the world.

As I stepped out of airport, the here and now just changed so suddenly and drastically, becoming a totally different world, from a world of prosper to a world that is hard to define in terms of both infrastructure and life quality of the local.

The very first time in my life was I stroke by what I saw: why the life of people can be so different and even destined from the moment when they were born.. Why can not just everyone in this world live an equally fulfilling life?

Ever since then my research focus shifted from International Relations more to development study.

When we are talking about development, our thoughts should not be just circumscribed to economic development. Social and political developments should be highlighted with the same significance as well.

The world is faced with more problems than we generally think: gender inequality, injustice, social stratification, abuse of power, food security discrimination, and such on.

What brought me to the field of peacebuilding, is a prospect for positive changes: the changes for everyone in this world to live with justice and equality. Ultimately, a prospect for peace that perpetuates in a scientific and sustainable way.

As for me, my drive for wisdom that enables me to serve better the world and humans, brought me to SPP.