Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Look at Conflict: How Long can you Hold a Grudge?

History at school bored me - I'd rather have been told loads of interesting stories than to have to keep going over a select few on the curriculum, with the emphasis on our ability to commit dates and people to memory.  There were reference books for that if you needed them, although I appreciate you need a broad grasp of chronology to know where to look.  It was only later in life, after coming to Europe and seeing firsthand the wonderful landmarks I'd only ever heard about, that I realised there was something of historical importance on virtually every corner and my natural inquisitiveness took over - someone famous may once have passed there or over here is the site of a significant building or event.

I understand that our diverse cities and cultures wouldn't exist were it not for the blood, sweat and tears of previous generations - and it's important to historically preserve both our physical achievements and the memory of those who accomplished or protected them - but when it comes to continually reminding ourselves of the religious or political motivation behind CONFLICT, shadows remain cast over many generations and tracing back grudges becomes increasingly convoluted and unreliable.  You only have to look at the scholarly accounts of the Napoleonic wars to realise how events can be interpreted so differently in a relatively short period of time.

In my simplistic view, this becomes an obstacle to current (and hence future) world inhabitants being able to strive towards harmony - wherever they were born or whatever their domicile today.   It would be great just to be able to say "Let's just have a 'Day Zero', a point of mutual forgiveness, whereafter you should try to live peaceably with your neighbours from wherever you are right now".  But that wouldn't be fair to the living ancestors of those born in exile, longing to be reunited with their loved ones ... unless there was the further will to remove the very territorial borders that caused the squabbles in the first place.  We should all be free to tread broadly anywhere on this shared globe.

Or is it actually worth it, for the sake of future generations, for this one generation of misplaced tribes to just suck it up and endure the heartache of separation from kin or homeland to allow its offspring a real shot at a new beginning? - to start their lives without being indoctrinated into hating the enemies of their forefathers and rather to be taught to truly love their new neighbours?

A kid is a kid to a kid.  Is it right that past disagreements should continue to blight new lives to the extent that some have never known an existence without conflict?  It's worth noting that, by the end of the '100 Years War', the original protagonists were long dead. What would the world degenerate into if no-one knew better than kill or be killed? We may as well have never strayed from the caves.

If an aggressor seeks to breach the peace, they should face immediate prosecution for the very first crime committed in their name - why should anyone be above the laws to which the rest of us are expected to conform (including those for inciting violence)?  There shouldn't be degrees of looting and harm to another individual, depending on whether you're 'A. Citizen' or the leader of a country.

One thing I know for sure - we shouldn't dwell on past grievances, except to learn valuable lessons about how we can create a better, peaceful future.  People quip "Never forget where you buried the hatchet".  I disagree - I say "Melt it down - make a monument of it if you like - but burn the handle".

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” (Mandela)

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" (Gandhi)