Peace is an interesting ideal, depending on how you define it. Like a lot of ideals, it's squishy enough that you can have other ideals directly opposed to your stated ends and throw enough words into the justification to miss the point.
The thing that gets me about peace activists is that peace is not a thing. It is the absence of another thing. Depending on how you define it, the absence of war or violence or conflict. Depending on how you define those, 'peace' ranges from a difficult improbability to an absurd impossibility. In any case where you are looking at an absence, you must look at the thing you want to remove.
You can't effectively work for peace without taking a good hard look at war or violence or conflict (or all three, depending on your definition). And not a knee-jerk, disapproving look, either. A good hard look at why, if something is so bad, it is so prevalent. Why, if something must be fixed, it is so endemic in the natural world.
It is exactly like any other group attempting to censor or ban any other thing. Prohibition was an ideal, largely put forward by self-righteous teetotalers. People talk about violence, it seems to me, the way that they talked about sex in the fifties. They don't. Most talk around it. If you have anything to say from experience, you are marginalized.
It kills dialogue. More to the point, it kills progress. Medicine advances as we learn more about disease. We solve problems by studying problems, not by meditating on an imaginary, problem-free end state. I guess, in a way, that is the defining difference between a peace-maker and a peace activist.
Couple of caveats. We all do this. If you consider yourself on any side of a line: conservative/liberal; atheist/christian/pagan; Cougars/Huskies; RBSD/traditional... and you cannot explain, with compassion and understanding ,why the other side may very well be right; if you've always been sure; if you've never felt that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you could be entirely wrong... then you are doing this. You are holding a belief (and rationalizing and reinforcing it) not because you are right, but because of a tribal identity. You are doing the same thing that you denigrate people on the other side for doing.
Also, this is not about peace or peace activists. I actually want to talk about criminals and rehabilitation. Not really about crime, but that may come up. That was all just a long preamble.
So let's get crime out of the way first. Not enough people look at it right. Crime fighting is an ideal, just like peace. And we won't make progress until we take a good hard look at why crime is prevalent. Which means acknowledging that it works. It satisfies needs. It's not just that there is little opportunity for honest employment in certain areas. There are damn few jobs, much less entry-level jobs, where you can make thousands of dollars a week, get automatic deference and an instant family.
Crime fighting is an attempt, instead of lowering the rewards of the criminal lifestyle, to raise the risks. Catch 'em, book 'em, hard time. You have to take a look, a hard look at whether that is a risk or even a punishment in this subculture... or just the way rugby players think about the occasional injury. I don't think surveys will help... but I recall the young man about to be transported to prison for the first time at the tender age of eighteen. He was excited. In his family, doing time in prison was the rite of passage to manhood. Jail didn't count.
And this is where we get to criminals. We look at them from our point of view and our world. Most of the things that make a career criminal would be and are profoundly dysfunctional in polite society. So we look at our world and us and the criminal and try to 'fix' what is 'broken'.
There is nothing broken. For the most part (possible mental illness and stuff aside) the serious criminal is not incomplete. There is no pathology. He is perfectly adapted for his world. The things that we think of as normal and good, the things we try to instill when we rehabilitate, might be profoundly dangerous behaviors when he goes back to his old haunts and sees his old friends.
We pretend we are fixing a person, but in reality we are trying to reshape him into a person that makes us more comfortable. Altering a human for our purposes, not his. In the process making him more likely to die in his natural environment and he damn well knows it.
The few people I know who have truly rehabilitated themselves, started by deciding they wanted to live in the non-criminal world. That's rare. If you become an adult in almost any environment, that becomes your comfort zone. That world makes sense. You know the rules. The eighteen-year-old mentioned above knew the rules for prison far better than he would ever know the rules for college.
Despite the fact the stakes are higher in the criminal culture than in college, he felt safer (we all do) in the place where he knew the rules. Where he could blend in and knew how to behave.
Same as if someone insisted on teaching you the proper way to dine and converse based on diplomatic functions. It's not going to help you and will hurt you at your bowling league's nacho feed.
There is another factor in rehabilitating successful criminals that is hard to get over. They know they were raised in a dangerous environment. They believe, with justification, that many of the people trying to fix them would have died in that environment.
Tell me truly, have you ever changed anyone who already thought that he was smarter and better than you?
Raised in an environment where reading and manipulating people are far more valuable skills than getting along, the average criminal is better at reading and manipulating the people trying to 'help' or 'fix' than all but the best therapists. When you have consistently conned PhDs and psychiatrists, the best that civilized training can produce, it's natural to feel superior.
And this ties back to violence and peace-- it is hard to convince someone who sees violence as a tool that the peaceful way is better when he knows that he can have you, the product of a peaceful (and in his eyes weak) world on your knees begging to give him what he wants. He can't help but see that as the weak trying to make everyone else weak to feel safer. Rabbits trying to talk coyotes into giving up their teeth.
There are definite drawbacks to the criminal life. Many die young. Those that don't have no one to care for them as they age, except the prison system. There are profound drawbacks to the lifestyle. The criminal just doesn't look at the drawbacks-- in the exact same way that none of us look at ours.