Civilian fatalities in wartime have climbed from 5 per cent at the turn of the century … to more than 90 per cent in the wars of the 1990s. (Unicef)
Violence is the kind of knee jerk reaction that belongs in history rather than the present. But are world leaders becoming less civilized rather than more?
It used to be that civilians, especially children and women, were kept out of conflict. War was fought between armies in a field far enough from the general population to spare the lives of the innocent. Now they’re bombing hospitals, aid centres, nursery schools and refugee camps. Entire cities are being destroyed and everyone left in them.
I want to write objectively and factually about this but I’m emotional. In my dreams I see the dilapidated buildings in Syria, and crying, motherless children outside them who simply don’t understand and don’t want to die. Why does any political conflict give any institution the right to leave them there like that? Wars are not with children.
They aren’t with civilians either. When a conflict begins there is a lot of generalising – you may have heard someone say of Northern Ireland in the 90’s- ‘the Catholics are fighting the Protestants. But as a Catholic child in the 90’s I wasn’t fighting anyone other than my brother and occasionally my parents or grandparents. I was playing hide and seek and worrying if I’d ever get my first kiss or if my teddy was sleeping ok with a new pet in the house. Whatever issues the politicians and activists had then, I wasn’t involved.
The issues surrounding political and geographical conflict, conflict for resources or territory or power, are and should be fought between political institutions in a delegated territory for this purpose. I can already hear the disdainful voices saying I’m naive and that’s not how it works, but to that I would say call me whatever you like, I’ll take it because I know that whatever label you attach to this notion, it doesn’t make it any less valid.
Political states have reduced themselves to the base logic of careless children in a playground who fight with no concern for those around who might get hurt. Eventually the teacher must come along and split this up and show them how to resolve their disputes like adults. Fighting over territory with destruction is as logical as two children fighting over a paper plate – if you rip it in half it’s no good to anyone.
The sheer destruction left behind after conflicts like we see today is unacceptable and there must be a better way to conduct these affairs. What we need is an effective governing body who can oversee conflict resolution fairly. Like a business, if you’re in a position of responsibility and you severely fuck up or break the rules, you’re fired. That’s the end of it. If you are a nations leader and you incite hatred or cause violence to break out, you’re fired. Show discrimination, negotiate poorly, fired. Trump hasn’t even started and he’s fucking fired. Politics should be governed like a workplace. If you can’t play by the rules, you’re out and the competition can line up outside for the big post.
Again idealism one may cry, but didn’t every good idea start somewhere. Just because it seems impossible doesn’t mean it is. The light bulb sounded like a radical idea when it was conceived but after try and try again it became common place.
In order to bring about a better standard of global conflict resolution the idea needs to be given some gravitas and the seeds be sewn for change with some belief that it can and is possible to find a better way. It can’t be difficult to find a better way given how diabolically awful the situation currently stands.
Sure it would take a lot of work, a lot of agreement, a lot of dialogue, and education, and negotiation, but this must start or it will never finish and we will be doomed to watch the recurrence of disaster over and over again. The collective unconscious cannot withstand and progress in the knowledge of the current state of suffering. Suffering is like a domino affect that will only knock over more suffering in turn. Consequences, physically, psychologically, collectively are not short-lived.
We, the global we, cannot flourish with this current penchant for destruction.