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Humanity at a crossroads

It’s far more prudent to smoke the peace pipe than to take the path of righteous violence

Humanity at a crossroads

GAZA TRAGEDY: Refugees have to accept the subsistence levels offered to them. Reuters

Gurbachan Jagat

Former Governor, Manipur

IT has been more than a year and a half since Russian tanks and armour rolled into Ukraine and the war began. Russia could not achieve the walkover that it expected and the war has continued. It has led to the killing of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, the ruin of cities and villages in Ukraine and the exodus of more than half a million Ukrainians to neighbouring countries where they have become refugees. Refugees are refugees and not citizens of those countries and as such have to accept the subsistence levels offered to them. Efforts aimed at peace have almost petered out as another winter of gloom hovers over the land. All that has been achieved is the thousands upon thousands of widows and orphans, and the misery in the trenches full of snow and mud where Russians and Ukrainians face each other. The war industry, though, is booming.

“I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race…has come in and taken their place,” Churchill said. Is this the story of Palestine?

As if this revolting war and the untold misery it inflicted upon humanity were not enough, Hamas attacked Israel at several points along the Gaza-Israel border on October 7. It was a savage attack on defenceless old men, women and children. Nobody was spared in this orgy of blood and gore, not even a music festival where youngsters were cornered and massacred, raped and kidnapped. The world was in shock and the Israelis and their allies were apoplectic in their anger. Then, the inhabitants of Gaza — about two million concentrated in a small area — became the targets of the Israeli retribution. Bombs rained upon them from the sky, land and sea. Hundreds of thousands of people from Gaza are again on the move to become refugees in their own land. There are demonstrations of support across the world that assuage the collective conscience, but it is the city of Gaza which has been demolished. More widows, more orphans… meanwhile, more arms and ammunition land in Israel and the war industry marches on. The UN and other agencies are not allowed to enter with aid for Gaza. Water, food, fuel, medicines, etc. are all scarce or unavailable. The streets are full of corpses and roads leading out full of the Walking Dead.

There are many more examples of this inhumanity. Our history is replete with wars and destruction, killing, looting and raping. It is an old game played over and over by the great powers as they seek mastery. The establishment of the state of Israel after the Balfour Declaration in 1917 in Palestine, a land inhabited by Arabs, led to the beginning of a new cycle of violence and hate. The ‘Naqba’ was the result of the creation of the Israeli state as the Palestinians were thrown out. Many wars and countless killings have happened since. I say a new cycle because Jerusalem has been the centre of many wars and yet it is the birthplace of the three main religions known to man. Battles here predate the crusades and the Romans. The Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Romans persecuted the Jews. As refugees, they have had to survive in various nations at the mercy of the local rulers, only to be persecuted and expelled repeatedly. The Holocaust under the Nazis is among the darkest chronicles of human cruelty to a particular community. Six million Jews are said to have been killed in the genocide.

Closer home, the partition of Punjab and the resultant rioting, killing and uprooting of millions — was it not part of a strategic manoeuvre by our colonial masters as they sought to retain mastery on the global chessboard? The annihilation of the Red Indians in the USA, the Aborigines in Australia, the conquest by the Mongols, the enslavement of East Europe by the Soviet Union and the tyranny of Stalin… the list is endless. Churchill famously said to the Peel Commission on the Jewish homeland: “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger, even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” Is this in essence the human story — might is right, survival of the fittest? Are we just animals surviving in a jungle? But wait, animals are not genocidal, they kill for hunger, not for pleasure and greed. Why cannot we coexist and share? We have the gift of abundance on our planet… must greed and blood lust override a peaceful existence?

Our history is also full of great achievements in the arts and sciences; in both fields, we have attained great heights. Looking back, man started as a hunter-gatherer living in caves. Gradually, he learned the art of agriculture and began to grow multiple crops. Scientific research progressed in various fields and we entered the industrial age, which brought about a major qualitative change in communications and transport, besides steel manufacturing and electricity production. Man moved on and today we are in the midst of an IT revolution as well as artificial intelligence, which are bringing about tectonic shifts in our lives. We have ventured beyond our planet and are exploring the moon, Mars and the stars. In the arts, we have new forms and mediums, which are spreading throughout the world. There is a great deal of experimentation taking place in these fields. The question then arises: where does the inhuman come from? Man is the only animal who commits genocide! It all arises out of greed, the lust for conquest and power. Our finest research in most fields is turned into the creation of more means for our destruction. Why cannot we live in peace in the brotherhood of man? During my time in the police, I have witnessed many funerals and the carnage of vengeance, faced widows and children who have lost everything and are left with the vacant look which tragedy brings. My experience tells me that it is far more prudent to smoke the peace pipe than to willingly take the path of righteous violence. Or is it all meaningless? Will our extinction be our final achievement? Or as the Bard put it: “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.”

#Russia #Ukraine

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