Give peace a try

August 02, 2022 09:06
Photo: Reuters

War – an event that rips through populations, wreaks extensive havoc, and that leaves few capable of recusing themselves from its tentacles or destruction in its wake. War – a nefarious experiment performed on unwitting subjects, by scientists who emerge often unscathed, or, at best, partially wounded by their bravado yet romanticised by generations to come. War – a lie that is purified, refined, and then painted as an obligation by manipulative storytellers, to those who have to bear the brunt of concocted half-truths shoved down their throats, masquerading as timeless truths.

The only timeless truth, and I do not say this lightly, is that war is a crime. War – specifically unprovoked, self-originated, arbitrarily initiated war – brings out the worst in us. It transforms us into killing machines, cold and calculating, cuttingly cunning in our obsession with scoring political goals and securing ‘grand’ gains, dressed up as moral imperatives. We owe it to one another to speak the truth, but war silences it, for it has no room and no patience for tolerance. War is unkind.

Why, then, do we still repeatedly go to war? Why, then, have we yet to learn from the mistakes committed through eons since yore – culminating at the horrors that straddled the 10s and 40s of the 20th century? Why must we war, when peace just about would do – indeed, in brokering compromise, in securing a modus vivendi between conflicting opinions, and in preserving as many lives as is possible?

The undergirding explanation is simple. Those who are in positions to wage war, often need not bear its consequences – yet has everything to gain from its occurrence. The occurrence of war services both public and private actors – whether it be the military-industrial complex, the army, or militant nationalistic leaders who derive their legitimacy from a sense of ostensible national solidarity; or investors and bankers who indulge in the shorting of stocks and prosecution of financial campaigns in servicing… their own financial interests. Or populist, grassroots organisers who rise to the top on the backs of false prophecies and stoked-up fears, only to find that the sole means by which they can deliver and cash out on their ebullient projections, is to wage a diversionary episode so grand and luscious, that few could contemplate calling out the leader’s fundamental shoddiness. War is a spectacle – a sight to behold. Profits are to be made – a goal to accomplish.

More importantly, war does not harm those with privilege or power. Those with influence could always conceal themselves in the safest of bunkers, in the tightest-sealed of submarines, in the most guarded and protected spaces that remain elusively out of reach to the average Joe and ordinary citizen. War is kind to those who can pay for it – who run away from its consequences just as they instigate and propel more towards the brink of death and annihilation. Hence war is, in many ways, an externality-inducing phenomenon. The suppliers and consumers derive the utmost private benefit from the transaction – whilst the public is left to suffer.

Give peace a try. I know this sounds cliched – and it sounds trite. But as human beings, we all have obligations to fight for what is right – not for any particular side, not in accordance with any and all twisted ideologies, but to fight for peace. Resist violence and death, push back against lies and narratives, and stand up for the truth: that peace remains the only just path, even if it is no longer the path that awaits us immediately ahead. Between death and life, fatalism and hope, I choose peace.

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HKEJ contributor