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Katherine Krauss Headshot

Optimism for a More Peaceful World

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When looking over my past blog entries, I realized that a common theme among them has been the need for mutual tolerance (and if not, amnesty) so that global collaboration can be achieved. While I still believe this to be true, I realized that when taken with the violence of today's world, this message can seem hopelessly optimistic and utopian. Between the handful of genocides, cold war threats, and ethnic hostilities, how can we as a globe get along if people in the same country can't even get along? Take a look at the people in Syria, for example: how can we be expected to get along as a planet when the people of one nation cannot even decide how their government (which is by definition the agency that offers the people protection from anarchy) should best be run to fit their interests and have declined into violent political chaos because of this disagreement? However, I would argue that despite the new techniques that have been developed to perpetrate this kind of violence, we are now, more than ever, on the road to achieving global collaboration. Although new methods of perpetrating violence (and weapons which can be used to perpetrate said violence) have been developed in this era, I would point to the relative peace in the world's most powerful nations as evidence that we as a globe are moving towards an era in which collaboration is possible.

Firstly, it is important to recognize that since the beginning of the 20th century, new and disturbing methods of violence have been developed. The first (chronologically speaking) was genocide. Although it can be argued that the genocide had been occurring for centuries -- as genocide merely means "The deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group" -- during such phenomena as the Spanish Inquisition, or the murder of the Native Americans in the United States during the latter half of the 19th century in particular, the first of these systemic killings to be formally labeled a genocide was the Turkish government's genocide of the Armenians during World War I. Since then, this act of systematically killing off a certain group of people has been adopted by many governments throughout the world, contributing to one of the major tragedies of the 20th and the 21st centuries. The other major "invention" that has given rise to increased violence (or should I say in this case, mostly the threat of increased violence) was the invention of the atomic bomb. Clearly, anytime a new and more powerful weapon is developed, the potential for violence increases (we need only to look at World War I to see the potential for the high levels of increased damage that can be caused from new weaponry); and clearly in this case, the potential for violence hidden in some of the atomic weapons developed during the American-Soviet Cold War can be apocalyptic. Other minor developments in the world of warfare during the 20th and 21st centuries include the shift of most wars from "standard warfare" to guerilla warfare, and as a corollary, the increase in terrorism. However, it is important to remember that neither of these tactics are new to the 20th century -- their use has merely increased greatly in the last century.

Despite these frightening and sick developments over the last century, the world's most powerful nations have been gradually moving towards more peaceful policies, an action which is paving the way for mutual tolerance and much-needed global collaboration. While Western Europe and the United States were both fairly warlike at the beginning of the twentieth century (World War I and World War II are the most glaring examples), Western Europe in particular has done a particularly good job of easing the tensions with its neighboring states. As an example I point to the European Union: the last time the world was in a recession comparable to the current one was the Great Depression in the 1930's. During that economic downfall, not only were all the nations in Western Europe separate states, but it was mostly the economic hardships that allowed Germany to wage war against the rest of Eastern and Western Europe. Today, not only do the nations in Western Europe express an interest in remaining united through the European Union, they are talking of peaceful solutions to their economic crisis. The United States, too, is also a much less warlike nation than it was at the beginning of the 20th century. The Cold War was the last major war that the United States has fought, and even then, direct war with the Soviets never took place.

Clearly, the world is slowly moving towards a more peaceful state than it once was, despite the new developments in methods of perpetrating violence and weaponry. National collaboration is much easier for people to envision as being important to their self-interest. However, as the world's most powerful nations have shown, the world's nations are now so interconnected as a consequence of globalization that it could quite possibly be just as important to collaborate internationally as nationally.