Man’s inhumanity to man
THE recent refugee crisis in the wake of the ambitious ad ventures of the Powers That Be should bring home to all right thinking people that human beings do matter. Riding roughshod over people’s right to life and livelihood is just not on, no matter what the justification. On the outskirts of the beautiful city of Algiers, a visitor would find the very well maintained Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Buried there are servicemen who lost their lives fighting for the victors during World War II. Those who have had the opportunity to visit this cemetery will have noticed etched on the gravestone of one young soldier the epitaph: “Some day we shall know the reason why”. One could hardly think of a more apt summing up of man’s anguish over the insanity of war than this poignant outcry of the distraught family of this young victim.
Despite the so-called march of civilisation and the staggering advance of technology, the tragic fact remains that, try as they might, no one has so far been able to accurately pinpoint ‘the reason why’. Over the years men have gone to war against other men at the behest of ambitious leaders, killing and maiming their fellow beings in the process. And yet, when history was at long last writ –by the victors – nothing but nothing emerged to justify the carnage, the cruelty and the havoc wrought as a result of these horrendous campaigns.
History of man’s march toward civilisation is replete with vivid instances of man’s inhumanity to man; of man’s greed, rapaciousness and untold ambition. All to what end? Man’s inherent mental capacity to distinguish right from wrong is, instead, utilised to justify the unjustifiable; man’s covetousness of what is not his but rather the veritable right of his fellow beings. This has ever been the tragedy of humankind that appears to have lost its way in the labyrinth of rapaciousness and untold ambition.
Each war that has been fought has had its own peculiar justification and its own particular set of advocates. These advocates (spindoctors in modern lexicon) take pains and go to any extreme not only to justify the conflict but also to glorify the gory details in ways only these individuals are capable of. In the current conflicts the powers that be have coined a brand new pretext: preemption. This pretext is based on the philosophy that a mighty power has the inherent right to hunt down and destroy any hapless minion that in its opinion could one day be a threat to its own selfish interests.
The recent wars are no different from the wars in the past waged by those who coveted what was not rightfully theirs. The solitary difference is that the visual media have conferred on the conflicts an entirely new dimension. People around the world follow them like on-going soap operas; only that the bullets are real, the smart bombs and daisy cutters lethal and it is real human beings who are being cut down. The euphemisms devised by the spin-doctors and drilled into the memory banks of the anchormen and women do not make the carnage any less tragic.
The world is passing through an extremely difficult, nay critical, phase. Talk everywhere is of belligerence, not peace; of bigotry, not tolerance. War, which was once regarded by sages as the last option, is now being peddled as a quick-fix solution for all ills. Human life, shorn of its sanctity, has never appeared so cheap or so dispensable.
A wanton act of terror appears to have turned the entire world order upside down. By hindsight it should not now be unclear that it need not have been so. Doesn’t the irrational response of the great world leaders over the past years indicate that they have played right into the hands of the ‘terrorists’? After all what does a terrorist hope to achieve through his desperate act, but to create terror? A dispassionate look back would indicate that this is exactly what the perpetrators of nine/eleven have managed to achieve.
The response to terror certainly does not lie in counter-terror, just as the riposte to murder does not lie in a mindless vendetta. The international agencies have yet to pin a plausible definition to ‘terrorism’ or, more importantly to ‘state terrorism’. In the state of affairs the world is in today, it would be inappropriate to point accusing fingers for extremism (and/or terrorism) or to give it a racial or religious label. No religion condones wanton violence per se. All uphold the sanctity of human life. All advocate justice, fair play and righteousness. It is the greed of man rather than his creed that breeds violence. And greed has no nationality or ethnic basis.
Time may be opportune for the elders of the world to join their heads together to devise an integrated plan to tackle the root cause of terrorism, as also of chauvinistic adventurism. If this course were to be followed, the elders may well come to the conclusion that the remedy lies not in an open-ended sordid adventure, but rather on a course of conciliation. War against an unseen and unknown enemy can only lead to a blind alley. Let us not delude ourselves. The path that the powers that be have chosen might well be the very one the terrorists want them to adopt. The elders of the world have the duty to pause and ponder over what has gone wrong with the world all of a sudden. Why have all the right thinking people on Earth lost their power of eloquence? Are they not concerned about the legacy that they will bequeath to their children? Surely the coming generations deserve better! — The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.
The response to terror certainly does not lie in counter-terror, just as the riposte to murder does not lie in a mindless vendetta. The international agencies have yet to pin a plausible definition to ‘terrorism’ or, more importantly to ‘state terrorism’.