Peace is not just the lack of physical violence, but something much more…
Peace is seen by many as the absence of war, but eradicating war and other forms of direct violence only achieves negative peace.
Positive peace requires not only eliminating direct violence but also reducing the structural violence that creates unequal conditions of life. While direct violence such as physical and verbal attacks is overt, structural violence is often built into the very composition of society. Structural violence is therefore less tangible than its direct counterpart as well as more difficult to fix.
Structural violence can be characterized as a state of social inequality in which privileged groups or classes deprive exploited or subjugated populations of basic human rights such as nutrition, education, health care, political power, legal standing, etc. Structural violence is itself abhorrent, but it can also create the conditions that breed direct violence. Despite tremendous wealth and power of the United States, poverty, unemployment, racism, sexism, restrictions on unionization, homophobia, lack of affordable healthcare, and many other forms of structural violence plague American society.
Capitalism, the economic system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners of the means of production and distribution, is the driving force behind American politics and society. An economic system based on profit is necessarily based on exploitation, since the profit principle requires that workers be compensated as little as possible while the wealth they generate is expropriated by the owning class. In our capitalist society, basic needs such as housing, health care, childcare, education, etc. are not rights, but privileges available only to those who can afford them. Also, while aspects of our government may be formally democratic, the economy and workplace remain subject to the dictates of the propertied classes. This means that decisions regarding the spheres of economic life are made with neither the input nor the consent of those affected. This society is one of immense structural violence, which is manifested in the economic, political and social inequality we witness everyday.
On the International Day of Peace, we think not only of the direct violence we see in war, but also of the structural violence we see in our own society. As democratic socialists, we believe that there can be no peace without equality and justice.
-Statement by the Wooster Ice Cream Socialists (YDS Chapter)