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)


  1. Well HELLO Rainbow Love Peace Waterfall Collingwood Simpson. I can see the Healing Crystals sparkling and the Hare Krishnas dancing, to the tinkle of their little bells, as they sprinkle fairy dust over the combatants, who drop their weapons and embrace ……… No …… It’s not going to happen. “Day Zero” is more likely to be the day that the U.S. or China neuc everybody that has a different opinion to theirs…. And I don’t expect that will happen either. I believe the world will have more of the same for centuries to come, until we destroy our food sources through pollution or some horrific epidemic decimates the population. (I would prefer the latter for the sake of the other residents of this planet.) Need and greed drive people into conflict every day and the protagonists always believe they are justified. Al Qaeda gave the western world a poke in the eye, so they poked right back with 1,000 times the force and very little plan otherwise. North Sudan believe South Sudan have stolen their oil so their shooting each other. The ranchers in the Amazon are quietly committing genocide under the cover of the forest and African tribes flee persecution in their homelands and find themselves in bloody conflict in refugee camps. It has always been the same. In reality, we have changed very little over the past few thousand years. Strength through numbers or technology conquers the weak. Men with bronze swords killed men with stone axes. Men with steel swords killed men with bronze swords. Men with UAVs kill men with AK47s and IEDs. I do NOT believe that, as a species, we have strayed very far at all from the caves. Men are animals with much the same embedded programming as the great apes. “Fight or flight” “Kill or be killed” and it’s really only by overlaying this, with a broad education, that lifts us to something better. From my experience, the poorer a persons education, or the more isolated their existence, the more likely they are to distrust or even “hate” anyone they perceive as “different”. Your point that parents indoctrinate their children with their prejudices and hatreds is very true, but how’s this ever going to change?

    I have to take issue with your proposal to “enforce the peace”. First, who’s going to make the laws, that the world must abide by? Who gets to vote on these laws? United Nations, U.S.A., China, Syria, Greece? (they did invent Democracy) Yourself? Who is going to enforce this law. The U.N.? Team America - World Police?
    The world of international diplomacy operates like a primary school playground without an adult to supervise. The United Nations are once again proving their uselessness in Syria. Twenty years ago the UN Soldiers stood by and watched the Rwandans chop each other to pieces, because they weren’t authorised to intervene.

    Are you, perhaps, wishing to dose the world with Judeo-Christian beliefs? Well, consider this. After wandering in the wilderness for X years, Moses went up onto the mount and brought back the ten commandments, including “Thou shalt not kill.” Obviously Moses didn’t know shorthand and God was dictating a bit faster than he could chisel, so he abbreviated the text. Some time later he proceeded to slaughter an entire population. (Was it the Edomites? My Bible is a bit rusty.) Anyway, they got their “Land of Milk and Honey” at the expense of the previous residents and it’s now evident that the full text should have read “Thou shalt not kill thy friends and family.” (subtext - Foreigners and unbelievers – just go for it Man.)

  2. I'm not saying "Let's stick a flower in the end of a gun and hope it all goes away". I'm saying nip any new conflict in the bud and prosecute under the laws that govern us all and which most countries widely agree on in respect of the individual. I don't have a religious agenda either - we can see from Syria that it shouldn't be a platform for electing the ruling party, which should represent the interests of ALL of its citizens. Politicians should just concern themselves with economic and social infrastructure and, if they must get involved in matters of faith, it should only be to decree that people should be free to believe what they choose and respect their neighbour's right to do likewise. Let the mosques, temples and churches slang out how many subscribers they can attract to their particular brand of spiritual enlightenment. It's a worthy pursuit that transcends our mortal existence, whatever the label.