Neighborhood Bully *
The recent end to US military presence in Afghanistan will hopefully, eventually prove to be a good thing. It is debatable whether the move into Afghanistan was ever warranted. Its continuation, even after Bin Laden was killed is certainly questionable.
However, in passing judgment on perceived injustice and/or crimes, it is generally, (I believe) accepted by the fair minded, that both motivation and the need to balance the negative results of inaction as compared with those of action ought to be considered, particularly where harm to life and limb is at stake.
Yet, I find that I continually come across blatant & unqualified condemnation of the USA for its Foreign Policies that seems not to make any allowance for either motivation or human suffering of the people in nations where they have intervened. Whilst some of it is justified and reasonable, my perception is that much of it is simply ill-considered opinionation.
I stress that I have no truck with US gun fanaticism or unwarranted or contrived ‘might is right’ military intervention in other nations and areas of the World. I also find intolerable the continuing abuse of Palestinians by Israeli leaderships and the support for it provided by the US, Australia, the UK and other wealthy nations.
In fact, I am disturbed at notions or actuality of ‘empire’ or even ‘empire building’, regardless of how it manifests. As a native of England with Viking ancestry, I very much regret and even feel ashamed of the perfidy committed by the British Empire, despite my having no direct part in it.
I am disturbed at the lives physically lost by both military personnel and civilians, as well as the dispossession, destruction of community, loss of freedoms, poverty, ill-health & other effects of war, armed conflict, militarism, hard-line ideology, fanatical religious belief and greed driven ideologies.
I don’t have status, position or power, nor any particularly incisive or extraordinary intellect. However, I do recognise, (or at least believe that I recognise), the considerable influence that social conditioning, religious indoctrination, cultural legacy, warped recounting of history and probably many more insidious factors are the major contributors to or even causes of non-natural disasters and major harmful events and situations in which human-beings find themselves. This affects people throughout the World but particularly in what has long been deprecatingly known as the ‘third world’, i.e. the majority world.
At the same time , (and please believe that I am not making some sly attempt at apologia for empire and its like, I am also aware that this type of activity has been present throughout human history. No, I do not say that we ought to accept it or that its continuous existence makes it right or even acceptable. What I think I am saying or perhaps suggesting is that it seems to be a characteristic of humanity.
My experience is that the simplistic comment and rabid accusations that exist across social media platforms, on sensationalist news channels and elsewhere seems to be severely biased against either the ‘mighty power’ or against the ‘terrorist’ and in neither case exhibits any nuanced or even informed understanding of cultural, religious, ideological, political, military or social context and history.
So, I wonder, given that human innovation and invention in the technological domain has come so far, why is it that in the humane domain we have still not progressed beyond the level of childish schoolyard argument, bullying and stubborn insistence that right exists on whichever side we choose to prefer?
If commentators are so opposed to oppression, whether manifested through open physical abuse or through largely hidden, insidiously infectious propaganda, why do they so rarely, if ever, offer any substantive, credible and potentially achievable solution to this entrenched failing of humanity? When their diatribes are very much reflective of exactly what they purport to oppose, what aim is it that they expect them to achieve?
Will those in power ever stop this hypocritical ‘game’ by which they pick and choose who to persecute and who to protect and almost inevitably, not on the basis of caring for human life or lives but for much baser ends? Do I have to believe that our race is incapable of rising beyond this and coming together as a World collective of peoples and people, who are about caring and sharing rather than self aggrandisement?
We know that individuals are capable of this. It is demonstrated frequently in times of local crisis such as when bush-fires and flooding wreak havoc, for communities will then come together in exceptionally altruistic and caring ways. Even at the macro level, we see outpourings of donations of money and goods to assist whole nations caught up in disasters of one sort or another.
The question is: why does the feeling of mutual humanity that motivates this caring and sharing and shedding of status and class barriers so rarely, if ever, continue for long after the initial tragedy has passed? Why does humanity learn only how to build better fire retardants or inclement weather warning systems yet do little or nothing to capitalise on that spark of generosity, mutual care and altruistic motivation?
*Apologies to Bob Dylan for borrowing the title of his song, which offers an incisive perspective on this topic. (In my view)