Monday, April 23, 2012

The Glorious Art of Peace

The Glorious Art of Peace is a highly informative book, written with admirable clarity. It consciously sets out to re-balance our perception: to allow us to see that peace has been as important as war as a feature of human life and that ways of making and sustaining peace has absorbed the minds of our history's most important thinkers.

There is an informative contrast between Erasmus and Machiavelli both widely read in the sixteenth century (and influential) but it is Machiavelli's realpolitik that you will find in a contemporary bookstore (and on the tips of people's memories). He resonates in a age grown weary of conflict, and cynical of idealism.

I sense, however, that Erasmus is not 'down and out'. His compelling vision of the benefits of peace re-emerge periodically, and I dare to hope gain ground. For example, it was he that first formulated the notion of arbitration - a feature of life that we now take for granted.

We do need to celebrate images of (and arguments for) peace, and deepen the honour we owe to those who make it. It is a service that Gittings' book admirable provides.

I am reminded of Dostoevsky's alleged difficulty over painting the portrait of a saint - and making him (or her) interesting. It is a necessary task - for peacefulness as for holiness - and it can be done, must be done.

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