Why The World Is At War

A recent March 2018 Guardian article by Jason Burke titled “Why Is the World at War” makes the point that “The harsh reality may be that we should not be wondering why wars seem so intractable today, but why our time on this planet creates such intractable wars”.

Burke outlines a number of seemingly never ending regional conflicts, causing no end of misery and death among local populations: Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Ukraine, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name the more frequently profiled ones. Often these conflicts follow boundaries that divide clans or castes, not necessarily countries. They lie along frontiers between ethnic or sectarian communities:

“In fact, if we look around the world at all its many conflicts, and if we define these wars more broadly, then we see front lines everywhere, each with its own no man’s land strewn with casualties. In Mexico, Brazil, South Africa or the Philippines, there is huge violence associated with criminality and the efforts (by states) to stamp it out “.

And so the article goes on to analyze a number of these protracted conflicts in order to get a sense of what lies at the heart of them, in particular as to their history and the seeming inability to get them resolved.

The reasons are many and varied – and to say that they are complex is perhaps an understatement – but as to any kind of overall “why”, the only common element appears to be the persistent inability of our species to collectively envisage their lives beyond the quagmire of basic instincts and desires to seize upon the higher human qualities of empathy and compassion with the realization that all human interests are best served by them as opposed to all the negative human characteristic I am sure we are all too familiar with, such as arrogance, selfishness,  bullying, and the exploitation and oppression of others,  to name just a few.

So, yes, that is quite a lofty mouthful, but at the same time not saying much about how this will address the current states of affairs as outlined in the Guardian article. Essentially, though, they are unsolvable, except by more of the same, as they all revolve primarily around the principle of Might is Right.

If these conflicts are evidence of something, it is that evolutionary pressures are operation at all levels of existence, and that includes the competition between ideas about what kind of societies we should structure for ourselves in order to live our lives , i.e., social-economically, politically, morally. At the bottom of this struggle we find the Might is Right conundrum, and essentially the Law of the Jungle, bequeathed to us courtesy of our animal past and obviously still very much a part of our way of dealing with the world.

When reason – that feature of the human cortex most recently required as a result of an evolutionary upgrade – is subjected to instinct, the Law of the Jungle continues to prevail and becomes even more destructive, if not to the point of self-destruction, as in the case of allowing for the possibility of annihilating ourselves by throwing nuclear bombs at each other.

And so not much is likely to change in the world with respect to these kinds of conflicts until such time that we change our ways and wake up to the fact that we are not the creature that we think we are, and instead respond to the call of what it means to be a human being, or at least having the imagination and courage to try to find out what that might be all about without killing each other.

How we will get to that point is anyone’s guess – and given the state of the world today, and the quality of the leadership that appears to be in charge of the world’s most powerful nations – I am not hopeful that this will happen anytime soon