Thursday, June 30, 2005

Walking on Eggshells

I took bodies in my truck to Urus-Martanm to the Terek, to be identified by their relatives. I happened to find the remains of people I'd known, sometimes for years or all my life. We'd gone to school together or met while raising our children. I began to understand that war isn't always brought to us from the outside. War, death, ruin – these horrors are right under our feet, so close to us that a man can sink into the abyss at any time. The very foundation of human life is insecure. We all tread on a thin crust, as it were, and might at any moment plunge through into the depths. The bodies I hauled had quite recently been live people who had loved, hoped, trusted. Then the crust cracked under their feet, and they fell into the pit.

Said M., from “Chechnya: Life in a War Torn Society” by Valery Tishkov

This book, primarily about Chechnya but with implications for all wars, goes beyond the “this side is good and this side is bad” kind of history. Instead, it shows that there are interests on both sides of this conflict (and probably every other) that stand to gain from the pain and destruction of war. This excerpt struck me because I have thought about this before, especially when I am in public and I see people being rude to each other. Next time you are somewhere where there are a lot of people, just think about how easy it is to convince large groups of people to do horrible things to each other.

People like to bring up the Nazi's a lot for many reasons, but I think one of them is to feel a moral superiority, like “If I had lived back then I would not have participated in any of that.” Statistically, you probably would have. We as human beings, are biologically no different than the people who perpetrated the inquisition or any of the genocides (there was more than one) the earth has seen over the past few thousand years.


Andrew Gabriel Rose said...

I'm trying to focus on not participating in any atrocities during my own time. It's difficult to eliminate your involvement with exploitation, considering all the ways to be passive about it.

B. Kriplur said...

I don’t think there are any Americans who are completely innocent in terms of exploitation. If you have ever paid taxes you have directly contributed to what is going on. I saw a documentary about people who refused to pay taxes for this reason. They eventually had their house taken away, and the people who bought it were unsympathetic to their plight, and it eventually spiraled into a standoff. It was ugly stuff. I also went to a lecture to listen to a guy who snuck his way into a military base and hit an airplane with a hammer, which he went to jail for.

I have a lot of respect for this kind of resistance, but it is not for everyone. If anything it gives the government the cause it needs to really crack down. I don’t have any illusions about the government ever becoming good. If you knocked all of the bullies down, a few years later more would take their place. Where there is wealth, there are bullies, and the bullies will always rise to the top. It is just a matter of structuring the government in a way that most benefits the people. As far as change is concerned, I think winning elections is the first priority.