By Kasun Kamaladasa –
The reason I picked World War II to illustrate my message is because Sri Lankans did not experience the violence (directly) during the war and thus may not had formed extreme biases towards who or what was right and wrong. However, if you are a diehard Captain America fan, a Neo-Nazi or a Discovery Channel follower of the 90’s you most probably would have develop some biases.
“War does not determine who is right, only who is left”
It is impossible to say in any given situation who is indisputably right or wrong so it isn’t my intention to defend Hitler, endorse Stalin or excuse Winston Churchill. What I want is to discuss, our actions and policies of the past and present and how it could be manifesting as violence in society.
I used to be Discovery channel fanatic. I watched everything it had to offer history, science, travel, etc. Watching back to back episodes of World War II documentaries, I was convinced that the allies had single handedly, through vigor and cunning strategy defeated the “evil Germans”. Thinking back, I wonder if they even mentioned the Italians and Mussolini.
During my stay in Russia, I experienced seven celebrations of “День победы” (den pobedi) in five different cities in different parts of the country. It is the day Russia celebrates winning the World War II. There are dozens of songs, novels and cinema dedicated to remind what a glorious day it was but there is also a ceremony to morn all the soldiers that were killed. The celebrations included a military choir singing the National anthem of Russia (which is enthralling) and military parades that looked as they could hold an alien invasion at bay. I also heard the countless stories of the bravery that was told by drunk veterans, sober teachers, university friends and communist party activists. It never occurred to me to question whether the German invaders were also brave and righteous too.
Time passed by and in my final year, one of my friends introduced me to Russian Neo-Nazi (he was Aryan, not a Slavic). This person would insist that all the mistakes his Slavic friends did, are because of their inferiority as a race and if not for the American conspiracies and British invasion they would have taken over Russia. Later in life this encounter would help me realize Nazi-Germany and Neo-Nazi are two very different Ideologies made to seem like the same by pop-culture and probably KGB influence.
As years passed and I met more people away from the festivities that further clouded my judgment. I also found an interest in world history. I started realizing that there was much more to the victory of the war and even more to history.
So here is where things get little complicated.
History summary: I’m not a holocaust denier nor am I going to blindly believe in US/USSR propaganda that the world war was a fight between good and evil (and that the US or the USSR was the savior/s of the world). Some war crimes during the war are still under investigation and huge debates continue on to this day. World war II at the European front destroyed those countries. None of the countries that started the war ever benefited from it apart from the fact that they understood the price of hatred. If you look deep in to the history and circumstances Germany had plenty of good reasons for starting (or getting in to) the war, but the war didn’t do much for its salvation.
The war did however benefit the US and China to come to their current state of power. The US economy boomed due to the war and being US ally China got a seat at the Security council. Yet surprisingly enough even in the winning side there were some leaders who saw the problems of investing in war.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
For most part of my life I have without a doubt in my mind agreed with these words and have seen acts of violence and war as acts against humanity and its survival.
If you are a peaceful person you would probably agree with this too, if you are a radical/extremist then you might disagree pointing out it is not thieving if you are giving something that the world/ country/ majority/ spirituality/ your god (or whatever group you belong to) requires.
Reality: Societies, Cities and Civilizations grow and progress because of conflict1, so conflict in societies are not only inevitable but a necessity. The good thing is we do have the power to determine if we are going to build “missiles and tanks” or create “laws and means of communication” to resolve them. Conflict need not be violence, but violence is the most primal forms of conflict, requiring no intellect, very little creativity and costs us our lives.
Good vs Evil: From a very small age we are taught and conditioned to see two extremes and come to a judgment of who is wrong and who is right. Ask any small kid who the good person is in a picture and they will show a white person in a white dress who is smiling.
This has made it very easy for people to manipulate us and lie to us. Businesses, politicians, religions use this to deceive us or themselves. With time we come to a misconception that all “bad” entities should be harmed and destroyed.
That is why even years after the war, there are still people who try to say that it was OK to drop not one but two nuclear bombs on Japan or why people justify many crimes that proceeded the war in Germany during Allied and Soviet occupation.
Ending Hatred: Germany forgave the countless injustices that was done against It. Likewise many European countries forgave Germany for its aggressions…. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to ask ourselves how did these countries that had wars and misunderstandings for centuries, come together and build the world’s most peaceful nations?
Present day Germany: Is home to one of the most progressive and liberal societies world has ever seen. Considering the loss of 10% of their population, complete destruction of industries, loss of institutions and brain drain from some of the world’s top scientists just 75 years ago, this country has come a very long way. (Note: Reunification of East and West Germany happened a mere 30 years ago. It had half of the country stuck in poverty and soviet control)
After the war ended Germany worked really hard to build up alliances and breakdown it’s walls. Now it is without argument the most powerful country in the EU.
Germany has opened its doors to ~2 million refugees (and additional 200,000 each year) and most of them are Muslims (Those people every NEWS channel wants us to fear so they can bring in entertainment and suspense into our lives)
Being a country with 70% Christians, Germany does not force religion upon it’s children rather let them learn ethics in school instead, if they choose to do so.
Violence and Hate speech is considered illegal and uncivilized. Even Facebook and twitter is taxed for failing to censor hate speech (fines can go up to 50 million Euros).
Germany has a free education system for all higher studies and offers largest amount of research scholarships in the world. Having lots of different people with different cultures is a really good way to create understanding and harmony while building relationships with them.
Germany practices regulations rather than restrictions.
Autobahn (German Highway) has no speed limit but has all drivers following lanes properly. They have fewer accidents than in roads in our country and fever than in most developed countries.Prostitution is legal, allowing sex workers better access to education, health and safety. Patrons who might not otherwise have access to this basic need, gain a legal and safe way of fulfilment. (According to WHO reports German STD rates are lower than countries that have made prostitution illegal with the false pretest of controlling STDs)
German schools have no uniforms and has allowed freedom of expression for children (It also allows people to accept people who are different from them from childhood). They have not become disobedient nor have they started to wear golden dresses to school and made poor people shy away from school.
Abortion in Germany is legal yet it is less prevalent than in Sri Lanka and since it is legal it is much safer and results in proper usage of contraception amongst women4.
Instead of having central authorities, power is distributed throughout the country so that all states may have a say in what kind of development they need and are there for more responsible to the people. It also makes it harder for a single corrupt entity to bring in regulations to favor personal interests or interest of big companies.
Of cause there are much more we can learn and take example from Germany but for the sake of making this article shorter I will stop for now.
Present day Sri Lanka: Being a country with 65% Buddhist (supposedly the most liberal and intellectual religion…) we try to force religion upon our children and others. Trying to impose rules even outside temples to suit our own twisted beliefs.
We haven’t lost anything significant from great wars (other than a few gems and gold that was owned mostly by kings and queens) and we have had freedom for 70 years, yet instead of unification of the country we keep fighting to see who has the rights to barren lands and jungles, who has the right to stand up head straight and who has the right to walkover other people.
Instead of searching for friends and allies we see non-existing enemies all around us.
Instead of building Industry and freedom we dwell in making politicians and professionals rich and powerful and argue who should rule us and why we should be their slaves. Many people live in the myth that they need a dictator to solve problems (A dictator who has no personal interest, who does not abuse his power, who does not steal from the people nor gives his friends and relatives undue privileges…. People who have never read or learnt proper history of any country, I suppose)
Violence and hate speech is considered part of our culture.
Fighting in schools are interpreted as fun. Fighting in Parliament considered entertainment by uneducated and fighting in Medical Council considered entertainment by educated. But somehow fighting between thugs is considered bad and require punishment.
Burning down a house of a family whose father died of HIV is somehow rationalized and ignored
We have also come to an era of Facebook social justice. Where the judges and juries are people who have no idea to look at facts. Punishment can vary from trolling, shaming, social Isolation, physical attacks and destruction of property2.
Schools, temples, workplaces and even bus drivers have uniforms and instead of making people equal it has managed to make people ignorant and intolerant to differences in society. Instead of making people spend less time deciding what to wear it has made people waste countless hours debating on what kind of bra a woman should wear or what kind of trousers a man should. It has no doubt, added to people being obedient, but obedient people can be easily obedient to any master (Hence we come back to our slave mentality of searching for a master)
Hanging banners in Hospitals, by doctors, stating “Your lives are in danger; you will die soon” is considered freedom of speech. Who cares about patients who come to the hospital to avoid death.
Nuisance made by university students disrupting day to day lives of people who work to fund them is seen as exercising freedom of protest.
When a mere 35 refugees were granted temporary stay people consider it OK to jump in to their camp and attack them. As if attacking 35 people are going to stop the unseen and unproven mystical Islamic invasion.
Sri Lankan free education has become a breeding ground and cesspool of political parasites and sociopaths who believe that ragging is their right. Innovation limited to a few faculties and private education is surpassing government establishments (which should theoretically be near impossible since they would naturally lack all the advantages a government higher education institute has)
All regulation authorities in Sri Lanka have been centralized (TRC, SLMC, Medicines Regulatory Authority, even the police to an extent), giving them total power and zero responsibilities. Instead of identifying needs of different communities they cater to the people in power. (for example – SLMC trying to cover-up flaws and maintain monopolies in medical sector, TRC supporting inefficient oligopolies in telecommunications sector and so on)
Tying up loose ends: People seem to rely too much on “common sense” which to be honest is neither common nor sensible, so some of the above might seem unconnected to war (since no one has put it up in mainstream media or spoon fed in school as a fact.
I have tried to decrypt World war II in a tiresome graph that might give a glimpse of how philosophy, economy, history, technology, politics, tyranny, fear, nationalism, racism, intolerance, corruption, injustice, limiting freedoms and lot of more things led to the start of the World War as well as Sri Lankan conflict.
Aftermath of World War II and what we could learn: War is a strange thing… It requires us to disassociate human beings and look at them as cruel abominations. It requires obedient slaves to fight and kill. Silent communities to ignore violence. It requires masters whose commands should not be questioned.
War changes people and brings out the worst in them; hatred, fear and helplessness. With time it shapes not only the landscape of the country but the minds of the people who reside in it.
Post-war phycology of a considerable amount of Sri Lankans have become that it is OK to kill and silence people who oppose or do not live like they do. Many of them believe that they will never become victims to their own way of thinking. Because they are within the safe majority, that will not be touched (But the sad truth is everyone belongs to a minority in some way… Today someone else is dying for your ignorance and tomorrow it could be you)
During the war governments and others who benefit from war shape our minds to appreciate vengeance and revenge. Our heroes are murderers in a way (There are no medals for soldiers who convince people to live happily helping each other, even when they do it amidst threats; There are no medals for soldiers who try to stop his comrades from raping a prisoner or pillaging a village). Years of war makes us think it is normal. Many even start to argue with a logic, that if a dog bites you, you should bite the dog.
World War II was a turning point for the EU. They realized that violent conflicts are born when you ignore oppression, corruption, injustice, violation of equal rights and ethical education. They realized alliances and trade is far more efficient than showing off and holding power.
Much of the political struggle that preceded the War, transformed countries in the EU and they were able to move forward. They required letting go of past aggressions and embraced patience, ethical education, practicing freedoms and liberties, distributing power and separating religion from governance to achieve this.
The countries that chose to dwell in the war, like North Korea has turned out to be problematic not just to its citizens but to the whole world.
Our “World War” could be the north-eastern conflict that ended few years ago… It is for us to decide which path to take. Would we rather have a country similar to Germany “Industrious and happy with all its allies and able to help millions of people” or a country like North Korea “Hungry and afraid, with no friends, looking at every dark corner for enemies, waiting for the next monster to appear and make us afraid”
For further reading and reference for those who require:
1. http://molleindustria.org/GamesForCities/ (this is one of the most creative presentations I’ve seen, that shows how conflicts shape our cities.)
2. There is a book that discusses why this kind of pattern can lead to insane amount of social damage and how and why lot of countries took away social shaming from punishments in their legal systems. “So you have been shamed” by Jon Ronson. If you are not into books there is a short TV episode “Orville: Majority rules” That could give an easy understanding of situation
3. How abortions reduce crime – “Legalized Abortion and Crime,” by Professors John Donohue of the Stanford University Law School. In brief It shows relationship of how legalized abortion reduced violent crime after ~18 years, argument being that children who would not be well cared-for or abused by parents would not be born. Although there are arguments against it, same results were shown in 4 more countries.
4. WHO statistics on abortion and SL Health Ministry Press releases 2015-16
*Kasun Kamaladasa physician graduated from Stavropol State Medical University, Russia