I usually don’t write about my personal and political beliefs on my blog as this is not a space for that. However, sometimes you are forced to raise your voice. Especially when war, conflict, and violence come so close to your home that you feel personally affected by it.
From the Pakistan-India conflict to the recent New Zealand terrorist attack to the genocide in Mali, if you’re an informed and concerned citizen of the world, the past month has been emotionally overwhelming, to say the least. Amongst the heat of Twitter frenzy, the prime time talk shows, the water-cooler talks where opinions are thrown around like footballs and fearing for my loved ones who were standing right in the line of fire, I came to realize how fragile the nature of peace is. I recognized a trend of fine lines. The fine lines which virtually define the future of humanity.
Living in such politically charged times more people need to be conscious of these delicate balances.
Patriotism and Ethnocentricism
War and conflict bring forth a mass flurry of emotions on all sides. The most basic of these emotions is patriotism. The love, pride and devotion people feel for their country. It is often catalyzed and engineered by socializing agents like educational institutions, families, and media. A healthy dose of patriotism is good. It moves societies and makes people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. That they belong. However, in today’s age of fifth generation warfare, it is important to keep our emotions in check at such critical times. It’s important to ask ourselves if what we’re feeling is coming from our own deductions or is it being fed into us.
Unfortunately, patriotism can often tip over into ethnocentrism – a belief that one’s nation, race, ethnicity or religion is above others. A belief that we as humans are better than people from other aforementioned groups.
One common feature in ethnocentric societies is paranoia. It is believed that people from other cultures won’t admit that their point of view is the best, … Ethnocentric cultures and paranoia can develop into delusional disorder, since they believe that other cultures are trying to take away what they have, persecuting them and trying to convert them to their own culture, if not, isolate them – Akli Hadid
Pick up any book on world history and you’ll find that ethnocentrism was the driving force of all major conflicts. It has been served as a justification for massacres, wars and killing ‘lesser beings’. So as global citizens, it is prudent to maintain healthy levels of patriotism and ensure that it doesn’t morph into a hatred for humans of another kind.
Rhetoric and the Truth
When things became heated between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan made a couple of speeches in which he requested all parties involved to ”let better sense prevail”. This statement was revered and praised. It became a trending Twitter hashtag and by extent became the national perspective on the conflict. It was a noble position to take. However, no matter how much we want better sense to prevail what prevails at the end is rhetoric.
Say something enough times and it starts to sound like the truth and then turns into a belief. This modus operandi is effectively adopted by the media and political influencers around the world. It comes in handy when wars are fought through the media. Rhetoric and spin become weapons for driving wars on the battlefield.
Such a fight for a verbal upper hand was witnessed when after getting shot down and captured, the Indian pilot was released by Pakistan. We called it a ‘gesture of peace‘, the other side called it ‘force from Modi government’. We said the Indian Air Marshal was ‘sacked’ and they positioned it ‘as early retirement’. Not to mention the recent international debate over calling the New Zealand Mosque attacker a ‘terrorist’ rather than a ‘shooter’ or a ‘gunman’ who was mentally ill.
In this to and fro of words the truth gets lost. Nations become paranoid. The fact is that the masses usually don’t care about the truth. They just don’t want to feel threatened or like they’re on the wrong side of the conflict. Ultimately, people will only believe what they want to believe. The version of a fact that causes the least cognitive dissonance. The rhetoric that makes them feel superior and in control – that makes them sleep better at night.
This avoidance of dissonance seldom lets better sense prevail, it halts people from being rational and critical and it significantly hurts the peacemaking process.
Defense and Attack
It is said that there are no innocent sides left at the end of a war. Although the concepts of defense and attack seem like the opposite of each other if the conflict goes on for long enough the lines between the two start to blur. It doesn’t matter who has the bigger army and potent weapons. Even the weakest can stand in front of tanks with mere stones in their hands. Just like weapons, anger and frustration always find an expression. Pushed to a point where they have nothing left to lose people will retaliate. And then, just like that, the whole dynamic of defense and attack shifts. Just like that innocence is lost. Just like that the attacked become the attackers and vice versa.
So before slogans of war and hate are chanted from the safety of our homes and the comfort of our beds, it is important to realize that it’s only a matter of time before people start to forget why the war had started, who they’re killing, why they’re killing or why they’re being killed. It’s only a matter of time before humanity leaves the room on either side and violence knocks on the door of our very safe homes.
In the times when the threat of war and violence is looming, it is crucial to recognize these fine lines. Because that’s where peace and humanity exist. We must learn to keep our balance on this very slim space and equip ourselves with love, compassion, empathy, and most of all rationality. For tripping is not an option.