20 September 2006

1025) The age of violence

We are nearly a century ahead of the time when Leon Trotsky wrote of the First Balkan War of 1912-13: “The conflict shows that we still haven't crawled out on all fours from the barbaric stage of our history. We have learned to wear suspenders, to write clever editorials and to make chocolate milk, but when we have to decide seriously a question of coexistence of a few tribes on a rich peninsula of Europe, we are helpless to find a way other than mutual slaughter.” He wrote that as a journalist and not, of course, as the people's commissar for war or as commander of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War, before the two world wars. . .

Since then little, if any, seems to have changed: Nations are genetically programmed to perpetrate violence in the event of conflict with other nations -- or even of internal conflicts. Last century saw 167-188 million deaths due to organized violence (one in every 22 deaths during that time). With too many existing and potentially lethal conflicts across the globe, as the famous prophecy nicely puts it, “The next world war will probably be fought with stones and sticks.” One non-violent sentiment that gives a grandiose helping hand to violence is what this column sees as “underdog nation romanticism” in the West.

For example the popularity of the Palestinian cause, a long-running, clichéed appeal to the European intellectual, has increased and not collapsed with the steady campaign of suicide mass-murders targeting Israeli “human beings” -- human beings in uniform, civilian attire or in their infancy.

The often boring European underdog nation romantic thought that if some people turned so savage as to “kill” or “kill and die” they must really have been awfully oppressed by their enemy entities (oppressor states, in most cases). Every act of murder, in their view, verified the extremity of the oppression. Why else would a human being, presumably programmed to rationality and survival, kill and die? Just like the case of Kurdish violence -- Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terror was the measure of Turkish guilt.

The hypocrisy surfaced with and after 9/11: The romantic could no longer apply the golden rule of why-would-anyone-resort-to-violence-without-good-reason rhetoric to the acts of Islamic terror in New York, Istanbul, Madrid, Amman, Bali, Sharm al-Sheikh and London. If killing testified to the extremity of oppression, were the various suicide-mass murders perpetrated by radical Islamic groups to be blamed on “Western oppressors”? That's where “the romantic” faced a real-life paradox, not a textbook one.

It took over two decades of violence, nearly 40,000 coffins and millions of Turkish and Kurdish mourners before Europe found out that the PKK was probably a terrorist organization -- Europe was probably too busy uncovering the genocides perpetrated by the Turks: Armenian (by default), Greek, Assyrian, Kurdish and, why not, Aztecs and Aborigines, Vikings and Hutus?

The world may be “flat” as Thomas Friedman says, but it is certainly not fair. Try an Internet search with “Turkey” and “violence,” and you will get 11,600,000 results. Type in “PKK” and “violence” you will get a modest 422,000. Or type in “Turkey” and “terrorist state” you will get 5,180,000 results, compared to only 533,000 if you type in the words “PKK” and “terrorist.”

According to The Economist, “nothing justifies violence deliberately aimed at civilians, which is what Kurdish terrorists perpetrated in Turkey last week (month)…” It may take another couple of decades, more coffins and more mourners before someone in the Old Continent finds out that all men have a basic right to live (i.e., not to be killed by others), including men in uniform who, for example, were in civilian outfit before they became army conscripts and that no political doctrine, just or unjust, can justify killing -- just for some, unjust for others, but who decides, and how? Has anyone ever had a perfect “justice meter”?

In the ideal world, as The Economist believes, every nation may deserve an independent state; the Kurds may be the largest ethnic group without a state of their own -- in fact (American) Indians could have outnumbered Kurds had they not been slaughtered by the civilized White Men; or, perhaps, there may be as many Uighurs as Kurds without a state of their own but less appealing to the intellectual taste of the European romantic.

A state for every nation may be a good idea in an ideal world, but for “every” nation without one, not for “some” only. And The Economist discovers that “…sadly, the world in which they (Kurds) live is far from ideal…” But are the “other worlds” in which other stateless ethnicities live are ideal or close to ideal?

This is the age of violence. Violent men contribute to violence in the name of violence, sadly non-violent men contribute to it too -- and in the name of a better world.

Burak Bekdil
September 20, 2006
© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc.
www.turkishdailynews.com.tr

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