Man’s in­hu­man­ity to man

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Email: bin­wa­keel@ya­hoo.com Khalid Saleem

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’.

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