Peace, as a political concept, relates to and reflects on an experience of life with other people. The significance and meaning of peace therefore develops through the intermingling of human lives and so has multiple and widely varying meanings to different people at different times.
The immediate context in which peace is defined has an effect on that process of definition: if you grew up in Sarajevo in the 1990s, your understanding of what peace means is likely to be different to that of somebody who survived the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, and different again to somebody living in Gaza today.
As such, ‘tacos for peace’ doesn’t claim or seek to hold a definition of peace which is exhaustive, final, or universal.
That being said, if we didn’t give a basic account of what we think ties together many definitions and experiences of peace it would be very difficult to justify calling ourselves tacos for peace.
Peace is often defined in terms of what it’s not: the absence of war, the absence of violence, or the absence of conflict – to name a few high profile examples. These are all slightly different things with different implications for what peace is as their absence, and it would be reasonable to demand that war, violence, and conflict should be defined in themselves before they become a key part of our definition of peace.
Without wanting to get lost in the weeds, it seems to fit with common usage to organise them such that ‘war’ is a particular (and ever-changing) form of (to some extent) organised ‘conflict’ between groups of people, with physical ‘violence’ its primary methodology. War is always physically violent conflict. Physical violence is not always war but is always the result of some kind of conflict. Conflict can and often does exist without involving violence or becoming ‘war’.
Given that conflict seems to be a normal, and often constructive rather than destructive, part of human coexistence that doesn’t necessarily cause or utilise the doing of physical violence, there is a kind of consensus amongst peace scholars that ‘the absence of physical violence’ is the best ‘negative’ definition of ‘peace’.
It is also widely agreed that defining peace as the absence of direct physical violence is insufficient: it can’t easily be claimed that peace is achieved as soon as a ceasefire begins, nor that peace exists in situations of systemic or structural oppression that make use of non-physical or indirect forms of violence that don’t immediately come to mind as ‘violence’ in the context of ‘war’ and ‘conflict’.
Peace then, is not just the absence of direct physical violence but also the presence of justice. Of course justice may itself be characterised negatively – by the absence of all kinds of violence: direct, structural, cultural; as well as positively – by a description of a particular social condition where fairness, self-determination, and mutual interest inflect all relationships within a given community.
TACOS FOR PEACE makes tacos for a peace which is defined by:
the absence of all kinds of violence: physical, non-physical; direct, indirect; personal, structural, cultural
the presence of justice