Unfortunately, most of us are not Gandhi or Christ. Is the reality that the threat of violence is the real secret to peace--that which keeps us in line?
Do we slow down to 30 miles per hour in towns because of our concern for children or because we could face a stiff penalty and/or lose our licence? Do we refrain from punching that no-goodnik because we would prefer to turn the other cheek or because we would likely end up jail (or reprimanded and given a 'record'). When we are starving and see food behind the windows of shops, do we refrain from helping ourselves because we want to lose weight or because we will end up in jail if we indulge?
I am prepared to accept that there are really wonderful, honest, and trustworthy people in the world. I would put it at around 1-2% of the population. In like manner, I am also prepared to accept that there are thoroughly rotten, nasty folk who are either damaged from circumstances (external injustices visited upon them from birth) or are intrinsically bad people. I would ascribe a similar number to them (1-2%). The rest of us are on a continuum/spectrum somewhere in between.
Most of us will go the route of least resistance. If a nasty person is in charge, we allow our nasty traits to rise to the surface (again, look at Nazi Germany). If an enlightened person is in charge, we strive to elevate our outlook and see the bigger picture; we put aside pettiness for the larger goal (witness Gandhi's role in bringing riots in a partitioned India to an end). Both leaders demand (and get) sacrifices. Unfortunately, life and history is full of nasty people who rise and aspire to the highest offices. The result is a population that follows (and is pushed by) these nasty people.
How are we ruled? By laws, presumably. What if we break these laws? We are punished. What if we object to the punishment (or are unwilling to subject ourselves to the punishment)? Those who punish bring in reinforcements, usually carrying batons or watercannon or guns. What if we continue to object? We are forcibly subdued, sometimes injured or killed, and almost always face an extreme version of the punishment. In essence, the will of the people is enforced upon us. To project its will, society needs those to carry out its wishes. The most powerful societies self-regulate, content with the knowledge of who and what they are. The weakest societies resort to enforcing laws with police and, in extreme cases, the army. (In various religions, we are kept in check by the threat of eternal damnation or variations on the theme--quite a lot of violence behind the peace...)
The result? We obey the rules.
The threat of violence keeps the peace. Now, all we need to do is to ensure that those who are making the laws and governing us adhere to the same laws and are guided by the unwritten rules that make up our society. If not, the dissonance will create social disorder and dissatisfaction. (We see a lot of this dissatisfaction in the UK today as well as throughout Europe. That, however, is a conversation for another day.)