2004 — 2nd Place — 7th Grade

C. J. Stermetz, Arizona

Is World Peace Possible?

It has been said that, "the most persistent sound which reverberates through man's history is the beating of war drums." War does not seem to be one of the most consistent themes in our history books. And one need only read the newspaper to see that war continues to rage throughout the world. Since war has been and continues to be such a large and persistent part of our human history, it leads me to wonder - Is world peace possible, or does our flawed human nature make war unavoidable?

I've given this question considerable thought, especially during the last couple of years. So much has happened since the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Towers. Who of us would ever have imagined that such a tragedy could occur, especially in New York City? It has forced all of us to ask some pretty serious questions.

I think most of us would say that we want peace in the world, but when attacks like the ones at the World Trade Towers occur, we ask ourselves - How can we stand idly by and do nothing to bring the attackers to justice and to prevent more attacks? After all, thousands of innocent lives were lost. Clearly, it would seem that we have the moral imperative to do something, don't we? Our collective answer to that question was a resounding Yes, and sure enough, the War on Terror began. We are a nation at war.

So, back to my initial question - Is world peace possible, or does our flawed human nature make war unavoidable? Unfortunately, it does appear that, for now at least, world peace is not possible. It would seem that our flawed human nature makes war unavoidable. As humans, we are power-hungry, territorial, intolerant, and often cruel. It is this flawed human nature that causes some to terrorize others, and in response to this terror, people feel compelled to fight back.

Taking a brief scan of history, it is easy to find examples of our flawed nature at work. From the very beginning, our greedy, power-hungry, and territorial tendencies have been apparent. For centuries, marauding bands have invaded other lands, killing people, seizing property, and claiming territory as their own. This is how history's most powerful empires and dynasties were built.
The intolerant side of our nature has also shown itself quite clearly. How many wars have been waged in the name of religion? How many bloody crusades have been fought? And all because our intolerant nature will not allow us to accept physical, cultural, intellectual, and religious differences in others. We want other to look, act, feel, think, and worship as we do. If they do not, they are somehow less than we are.

Not only are we territorial and intolerant, the last sixty-five years alone have shown simple evidence of our cruel nature. Seeking to build a "master race," Hitler committed unthinkable atrocities and killed millions of Jews. Milosovic was determined to purge his country of Muslims, whatever the bloody cost. And Saddam Hussein slaughtered thousands of Kurdish people using chemical weapons. These are only a few examples of our brutal and often vicious natures. Unfortunately, countless other examples too easily come to mind.
Our flawed natures make it very difficult for us to live together peaceably. Territorial, intolerant, and cruel, we are often like bullies on a playground. Wanting the goodies others have, we will push and hit and bite and kick to get at those goodies. And once we have them, we shout an emphatic and victorious, "They're mine!" if another child is somehow different than we are, we will taunt and tease them mercilessly. Our cruelty often escalates to playground fistfights and schoolyard skirmishes.

Again, back to my question - Is world peace possible? I don't think so, not for now at least. Not until we can somehow overcome our power-hungry, territorial, intolerant, and cruel human nature. Until our flawed nature is overcome, there will always be playground bullies who become global bullies. And playground black eyes and bloody noses will become the bombings and battles that plague us. If it is peace we truly want, perhaps this is where we should start then, in the playground. For it is only in young hearts and minds that the seeds of respect, tolerance, and kindness can be planted and grown. And if cultivated properly, perhaps they can bring us a changed nature that will finally make humanity really human.

1. Koestler, Arthur (1905-1983) "Prologue: The New Calender," Jamus: A Summing Up, 1978

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