Imbue people with the belief that they are not individuals but rather part of a grand whole, a cog in an immense mechanism, and they become amenable to accepting that they must act on behalf of the greater good, not through a sense of altruistic morality, but through a sense of inevitable destiny. Fundamental ideologies are like fundamentalist religions; they are rigidly encased in a sense of their own mystery and righteous obligations to a higher order.
Self-abnegation in that sense is to a celestial spirit, a doctrinaire social-political belief, a religious leader whose agenda strays from the accepted norms, or a belief in catastrophic end-of-times brought to us courtesy of religious or environmental or ideological control-pathologies insistent that only by applying their version of strict and onerous ameliorative therapies is it possible to avert the hovering doomsday appearance.
Recruiting people into these byways of purpose and dedication to the construct of what represents right and what represents wrong and the necessity to battle for right against wrong, is not all that difficult in homogeneous societies where strict belief in subjugating oneself to the better interests of the entire group is prevalent. A common heritage, culture, ideological background is the stepping-stone to group-think and -acceptance.
In war-time Japan the actions of kamikaze pilots and the practise of hara
in defeat were thought of as obscenely aberrant human behaviour. We've moved since then to movements where suicide-bombing has become common enough to threaten terror on a worldwide scale. And perhaps it should be no surprise that a totalitarian government like that of North Korea has been able to persuade its military that self-sacrifice is for the greater good.
There's nothing particularly new about self-sacrifice for a greater cause than one's own well-being. It was, in earlier times, equated with honour. And it still is. During conflict situations people are well enough prepared to sacrifice the lives of others to achieve their ultimate goal. It has been a select few that have exhibited courage and bravery in sacrificing their own lives to ensure the longevity of their brothers-at-arms.
And this is where things become murky indeed. Those whose valour during wartime have long been celebrated for their extraordinary devotion to duty, the bemedalled
, the memory of whom societies hold sacrosanct for their ability to transcend self for the greater good, are those whom nations name their heroes. At the same time, during wartime, convention had it that the lives of non-combatants must be held in safety, apart from action taken toward combatants.
Honoured more in the breach than in occurrence. But honoured, nonetheless, and international conventions have been written and massively signed onto by virtually all countries of the world, to hold the lives of civilians safe during wartime operations. At least as much as could be managed, absent bombings. In Iraq and Afghanistan civilians are killed, when paramilitary targets are hit; regrettable infractions through the lens of necessity. But they are also killed deliberately, in mass vengeance sectarian slaughter.
There is something almost spontaneous in the manner in which otherwise-normal seeming people can be transformed into a mass, ravening beast intent on annihilating those they believe, and have been schooled to believe, are different than they are, and conspire to harm them. This is when evil raises its head, when political elites undertake a deliberate policy of sub-humanizing another, target group, encouraging their followers to engage in what Rwanda experienced.
In Sri Lanka
, a violent separatist group saw fit to sacrifice the lives of their own civilian population, when Tamil Tigers were desperately attempting to safeguard the last remnants of their bastion against the determined onslaught of the national army to finally put the insurgency to rest. Sectarian-tribal violence in the Middle East between rival tribes and religious beliefs become blood baths and there is nothing honourable about that.
But then there is nothing honourable about the mass behaviour of human beings, who may aspire to become greater than they are, but fail abysmally, one test after another. The ongoing slaughters on the African Continent attests to that, in Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, DRCongo
, fully as much as history has done. Just as fanatical Islamist jihadists
strike terror into the minds of their Western targets through the very reality that they can, and have, on notable occasions, slaughtered relentlessly.
Israel discovered at close range just how vulnerable a sole country can be, surrounded by other nations which do not share its very particular religion, politics, and social contract, although they do indeed share some traditions and geographic heritage. In the Middle East, civilians are deliberately targeted if they are Israeli or if they are deemed to be Zionist, or simply Jews living in the diaspora, as symbols of Muslim defiance of a Judaic-(Zionist) presence.
A non-Arab, staunchly Islamist
country like Iran could sustain a lengthy no-holds-barred war with its Arab Muslim neighbour Iraq, and in the process find its adolescent, impressionable young males handy cannon fodder on the battlefield, by the hundreds of thousands; convincing young men that they owe their lives to Allah and the Islamist
Republic, and to aspire to martyrdom through sacrificing themselves for the greater good.
That remains unchanged, particularly in tribal societies and most particularly in Muslim societies where the call to arms through Koranic prescription to jihad and holy jihad and violent jihad, stimulates and inspires the restive young to prepare themselves for combat and for blessed martyrdom. How does a well-equipped, well-trained professional army battle an religion-obsessed quasi-military prepared to die and take with them as many other lives as possible?
Should we then be surprised to discover that "human torpedoes" are held to be responsible for the sinking of South Korea's naval corvette Cheonan
, last month near a disputed sea border between the two Koreas
, killing 46 of the 104-man crew? "North Korean submarines are all armed with heavy torpedoes with 200 kilogram warheads. It is the military intelligence assessment that the North attacked with a heavy torpedo."
North Korean defectors helpfully explained their intelligence that the attack involved a unit of 13 specifically trained commandos in semi-submersible 'midget' submarines. Human ingenuity knows no bounds, nor does human emotional unbalance leading to fundamentalist belief in the rightfulness of a vicious ideology, rejecting the moderation surrounding them elsewhere.
And it should be no surprise that rigidly hateful and hate-filled theocracies and ideocracies
are those that threaten a much wider sphere than their surrounding neighbours, and bring to the debate the additional incendiary, intolerably intractable
problem of nuclear aspirations.
Labels: Human Relations, Realities, Technology, Terrorism, Traditions, World Crises