Knowing that I needed to write a post for Christmas Eve, I settled on the topic of Peace on Earth. An elusive yet very desirable goal. Not that Christmas really has anything to do with that. A lot of war and acts of hatred have been committed in the name of religion.
Of course, there are a lot of feel-good stories out there, too. What always springs to mind for me is the one about the Brits and the Germans coming out of their foxholes and singing Christmas carols across No Man’s Land during World War I. That was in 1914, more than 100 years ago, and there hasn’t been such a holiday ceasefire in a time of war since then. High ranking officers don’t allow such things anymore. Which goes to show that if left to their own devices, free from the propaganda of the 1 percent, regular people can usually find common ground. We just need to stop prioritizing the goals of the 1 percent.
This time of year does seem to bring out a bit more goodwill and generosity of spirit and love for one’s fellow man, regardless of our holiday traditions or religious beliefs. I suspect this was the case long before organized religion took hold. Winter is a harsh time of year. It’s not a time of abundance. It’s dark. It’s cold. It is a time to hunker down and try to survive with what you have stored up, and if you want your community to survive along with you (which would be in everyone’s best interest), you need to share.
I genuinely believe that the most inhospitable, stark, severe times in our lives will either bring out the very best or the very worst in us. The very best allows societies to survive and even thrive, while the very worst eventually spells disaster for everyone concerned.
I like the idea that it is the best of us who are more evolutionarily successful. It may not be evident during the brief blip on the historical radar that constitutes the average human lifespan, but I have to hold this belief deep within me or I’ll start to wonder what the point of life really is. And that’s not a rabbit hole that I care to run down, even in the warmest, sunniest of times.
I think we need the darkness of winter to “harsh our mellow.” We need to feel cold in order to want everyone to be warm. So, to quote a song, “Hello darkness, my old friend.”
Interestingly enough, the Institute for Economics and Peace seems to bear my theory out, because it has named Iceland as the most peaceful country on earth for 14 years running, and according to Wikipedia, the temperature doesn’t usually get above 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the warmest months of the year, so you can just imagine what the winters are like.
The institute bases its ranking on three criteria: social safety and security, extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict, and degree of militarization. (Incidentally, did you know that America has only been at peace for 21 of its 245 years? When I read this article, I was horrified.)
According to this article about the 2021 peace rankings, “Icelanders can sleep well at night: they live in the most peaceful country in the world. No news is good news when it comes to tranquil Iceland: it is the fourteenth year in a row that it retains the number one spot, this year even improving its score by 0.27%. With no standing army, navy or air force and the smallest population of any NATO member state (about 365,000 people), Iceland also enjoys record-low crime rates, an enviable education and welfare system, and ranks among the best nations in terms of jobs and earnings and subjective sense of wellbeing.”
Because I know you’re going to ask, the United States ranked 122nd this year, due in part to its increasing civil unrest and political polarization. In my opinion, morale in this country is at an all-time low. And the US House of Representatives recently passed a $768 billion defense policy bill. Billion with a B. Such are our priorities.
Statistics bear out the fact that peace results in happiness, income growth, foreign investment, and political stability. What’s not to love? We tend to talk of peace on earth as if it were an unobtainable goal. But I actually see it as the only way we will survive.
So light a candle. Sing a song. Throw nothing but snowballs.
I wish you peace, dear reader, regardless of the season, and I leave you with a photo of Iceland to show you what that can look like. Happy holidays to you. Stay warm.
An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5