chapter  4
13 Pages

Peace as gift and obligation

WithCATHERINE CHALIER

The end of the twentieth century was a happy hunting ground for intolerant and sinister ideologies, what with the insidious and brutal agony that continued to reign over the millions of people exposed to military madness, the outrage of famine and the unpredictable threat of ordinary violence. By reciting sovereign and incontestable words that herald persecution and death for others, people suspend their fear of living through an exaltation of the great right to be, to dominate and to enslave. These words are sometimes spoken in the name of a God who is supposed to justify both the mortal excesses of hearts and minds, and the horrors of war between different peoples. These words of ideology are also constantly rooted in the fear of living and dying. It is the Book of Genesis that gives the first account of a man being murdered by his brother,1 and here our right to kill one another is celebrated, even though ‘such blood spills pollution which endures and fouls beyond cleansing’.2 Hatred has been making its way to the fore ever since, and we now find ourselves in a situation where the world is being destroyed so as to avoid its having to be shared. Hatred feeds on the incomprehensible certainty of the lonely demise of us all, and on the anxiety of coming face to face with the Other, here and now, without any sort of reason or justification. The refusal to share life – which is signified by hatred – dramatically defies this certainty and anxiety. It creates the illusion of the great right to be, whether or not this involves humiliating, terrorising or destroying other people. The refusal to share life transforms the idea of an individual’s own mortality by making it more desirable than life itself, however tragically.