War Makes the World Go Round

It’s like we can’t help ourselves. Wanted to say “they” instead of “we,” but I can’t let myself off the hook that easily. I’ve cheered for “our” side as much as anyone, whether it was King Harold or Ike. Right now I’m cheering for Ukraine. I’m not cheering for Israel, but neither can I bring myself to cheer for Hamas. Somewhere in there I wish all well, but if wishes were horses, etc., etc.

So, I wonder, how many more shooting wars are going on right now anyway? Oh, right. The Houthis are shooting at ships in the Red Sea and we’re shooting back. I wish our shots would make them stop, but we’re back to the wishes and horses metaphor once more.

Moving on …There are currently at least 46 separate conflicts going on around the world which have claimed lives in 2024. They range from the ones we hear about every day: Israel/Gaza; Russia/Ukraine; Myanmar, Sudan, and the Mahgreb; to those less prominent: Bangladesh, the Philippines, Balukistan. And many of these conflicts contain sub-conflicts, as if everyone who has a different opinion on the main issue seeks to impose his/her opinion on any other one in rifle range. And so it goes.

I wrote, not too long ago, that liberal democracy would win in the end because people prefer living comfortable lives with each other. They prefer to live with people who are kind, intelligent, and with any luck, funny. They help each other out in an emergency. They pay a little more so that others might not suffer. They solve their quarrels in community councils of one kind or another and generally presume that others mean well. The lights come one. The plumbing works. Etc.

And I hold by that, but with reservations. Fear is a primal response to uncertainty, and lately the planet feels as if it is overwhelmed with fear. I instinctively understand this, as my balance has become quite uncertain in my old age. Any slight wavering in an upright position instills an immediate fear of falling, and the subsequent breaking of old, slow to heal bones. Is this how religious people react when their church admits gay folk? How white communities react when black people are elected to offices that might impact them? It is certainly how people of the State of Israel react to being attacked by entities called Hamas or Hezbollah. How Ukrainians react to invasion by Russia.

And will Ukrainians ever be able to sit down to a communal table with Russian neighbors, or Gazans with those of a neighboring kibbutz?

I am going to assume that they all still wish to live comfortably, but will they ever live comfortably together? Ever, as the first humans might tell us, is a long time. But do we remember any wars that are well and truly forgotten? Or are they buried fears waiting to be fed again? Read your Homer and then check out the Island of Cyprus.

I opined in another recent post that climate change may itself constitute an existential dread that is only recognized in these buried fears. We may not know how to change the climate, but we do remember the last time that Armenia refused to grant Azerbaijan access to a disputed piece of territory. Much easier to address that. We may not feel able to sit comfortably at home while climate change howls about the house, but we can teach those damned Pakistanis a lesson, for good this time. Besides it will distract from one insurgency or another. Anyway. It goes on.

History is not a history of peace. There may be long stretches of time when nothing much goes on except people living their lives, but no one is writing about them. As a matter of fact, I think that if there were such times, people who are trying to persuade us to be peaceful would be writing about them. Wars? Nearly back to back. Check it out.

Is this how the world goes round? A book I’m reading now about Ghenghis Khan promises to make good on the author’s claim that GK, although spreading war and terror across what was known then as the civilized world (he did not enter Europe – Europe was too poor to be worth the effort), did establish a trading route for goods and culture. Not Mongolian goods nor Mongolian culture. Chinese to Indian to Islamic.

So, I’m wondering. Is there any hope that our innate reaction to uncertainty, which now results in death and destruction, can be turned? Will we get something out of it as valuable as bolts of raw silk? As useful as new routes around the world? And has there ever been any other way that such change comes about? One thing seems to have never changed. Ask King Priam of Troy. He may be little more than a shade in Hades, but if anyone has seen it all, he has.