Wednesday, 24 September 2014

10. Just war or just...war

Daily we are being "bombarded" with news on how aggression gets justified by one side while we see up to which point the other side does exactly the same. Ferguson, Ukranian crisis, Gaza, ISIS and Syria, all these cases are full of reasons or excuses to trigger more aggression and to build the rhetoric that justifies it, which will then become the provocation and justification for more aggression on the other side.

ISIS justifies its horrific actions on religious or geopolitical grounds while, US justifies its action as supporting the peace process (Noam Chomsky explains,  everything that US does is "named" peace-process) and lately justifying the use of drones.
Most mandataries in Europe agree that Putin actions in Ukraine are inadmissible but the actions of NATO in terms of its relationship with Russia  are not so openly discussed.

All of this is reigniting the debate about whether there is such a thing as "Just war" or if it is all... well... just war: one side trying to alter the structure of power in any particular geography and the other side trying to keep it the same, in many cases involving rearranging borders. Of course, we need to be open to admit that many of the borders in the world have been drawn by foreigners on a table, sometimes dividing and sometimes grouping up people that cannot see each other, and therefore they will be naturally subjected to challenge at some point in the future. And also that when structures of power lack multi-lateralism, tolerance, inclusion, discipline to work within a diverse universe, fluidity and proximity with the people they represent, they will go through different levels of conflict.

Pope Francis has recently spoken about the justification of war from two different angles. One, is that religion should not be used to justify acts of violence. He was clearly referring to ISIS but it is just as important to remember that "evil" was a common label -label of religious nature- that the West has used to justify its role, even if it considers itself secular and the Big Other authorising and validating the aggression has replaced God with "the Nation", and martyrs with patriots and heroes.

This article in the Huffington Post draws parallels between the intra-Muslim tensions (Sunni v Shia) with what happened with Christianity with the rivalry between Catholics and Protestants some centuries ago but that has continued to this day and are very much alive in Belfast where the peace wall still separates Catholic from Protestant areas.

The second angle was that stopping an aggressor is licit, adding that stopping does not mean bombing, probably trying to limit the traditional doctrine of Just War.

But it is not only at war level that this justification happens: only a few weeks ago, we saw in Ferguson how one act of unjust aggression quickly escalated simply because it justifies new ones. 

However, there is something else on the news almost daily for the last few years: child abuse and violence against children in everyday life, in poor towns, expensive schools, and in current wars.

Here is, of course, when excuses don't work. There is no justification for it to happen, no justification for this to be organised and even less for this to be denied and covered up. 
And this is where our mental work has to stop: our rational for aggression is not objective, it is not an unobjectionable "truth" and it is part of a deluded discourse (deluded because we believe that this partial vision is an absolute one). I don't mean to say that the aggression received is not real. It is. As much as the one we exert. The challenge is to see beyond the aggression we receive and the one we feel entitled to use.

When was the last time WE were aggressive? Were we right? What was it about? How did we feel about it? How much are we imposing ourselves to others? How much are we wishing for others, doing for others, thinking for others? and the other way around? How are we using our power? How much are we allowing others to do, wish and think for us? All these invasions represent our own inability to balance our own power, respect and assert our own space (physical, mental, emotional) and respect the others.

If we do not own up and take responsibility of our aggression we won't be able to explore what's behind it, what's sustaining it and how to better resolve it. 
"The Tibetan spiritual leader focused on the concept of "jihad," commonly thought to be a holy war, but which he said has a far more spiritual dimension within the context of Islam. Jihad combats inner destructive emotions," the Dalai Lama said. "Everybody carries jihad in their hearts, including me.


If you liked this article, you may also like:
Demonising and idolising

External links:

Noam Chomsky on State Propaganda

Pope Francis on use of religion to justify violence

Jack Miles for The Huffington Post: How will the Midast war end? Christian history may provide a clue

Martin Stirling video for The Syrian Campaign "In Reverse"

Karen Armstrong: Religion causes violence and war? Why it's really not that simple

Milgram experiment (acts of aggression while obeying an authority)

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