Violence as a matter of scale

It’s interesting what happens when you see two nations, diverse and distinct as they can be, interact. A minor hostile interaction can tend to escalate very quickly if you let it. When all you have is emotions and pure instinct to go by, a slight can become a fistfight very quickly. That goes with people. Communities. Nations.

Conflict takes a lot to inspire these days, but it’s far easier to incite it as the number of people you need to provoke grows ever smaller. It’s made all the more so when you see the other as not just some other person, but as something else. If you think that Other person isn’t respecting you and your space in that moment, what do you do? Are you calm enough to let it slide? Do you run away, as some would argue here? Or do you fight?

It’s admittedly strange to compare violent conflicts of recent, especially because the reasons and methods are so diverse, and because sounds so simplistic. But applying the economics of scale, you become more appreciative of what is happening from a holistic perspective, even you don’t have a complete understanding of things. In two such conflicts, the lack of clarity makes a comparison apt. When you have two distinct groupings, clarity is beyond important when a mistake is made in interaction. Sometimes, that requires patience.

Three teenagers kidnapped and killed. Or maybe they were killed already, and the butchers had made a large mess in the clear-up. Or maybe they were kidnapped and accidentally killed. The killers are (not) state-mandated terrorists. Or they’re (not) militants associated with the government. Or they’re (not) just a bunch of morons with AK-47s and some unabashed sense of righteousness. Or the leadership admitted their (non) role in the situation.

A teenager is shot and killed. Maybe he was (not) a suspect in a robbery. Maybe he was (not) reaching for a cop’s a gun. Maybe he was (not) picking a fight. Maybe he just said (did not say) “fuck off, pig” with his hands up. The cop’s a rookie. The cop’s a veteran. The cop is (not) hiding something. The cop is (not) hiding. There are (no) death threats.

All this information is as much a jumble as the items found in a trash can. Yet we seek to answer this slight as fast we can. Why? Why bother asking? We demand justice, revenge, blood. Screw the first two words, we’ve always wanted blood. It’s one of the few things we yearn for more than sex.

A police force of 50 whites, 3 blacks, needing to play with their big shiny toys. A community where more than two thirds are black, distrusting anything that breaks in their turf.

A territorial ghetto being run by a gang that fancies itself a protector of the faithful. An expansionist nation adopting the words and beliefs of the people that nearly exterminated them last century.

Different people, different cultures. Different nations. You scale up or down in either situation, and they suddenly become similar. Two groups of people that have dissociated themselves from each other. A single unclear event. A refusal of clarity, and instead a desire to right the ship immediately.

Suddenly, a minor affair becomes an act of war, and we respond with an orgasm riddled with bullets.

Rockets, shelling, riots, looting. Boasts of how many people you killed. Shamelessly moving civilians in the line of fire. Attacking journalists for doing their job. Requiring soldiers armed with armor and assault rifles when the opposition carries rocks and maybe a Molotov. Injustices and cruelty made viewable and watchable on all sides. Propaganda, hasbara, ideologically-loaded “social media” and trolling. Supporters publicly calling for the butchering of the opposition. So much bloodlust. Nausea.

Eventually, like any orgasm, it comes down. Calm, ceasefires, talking. Clarity comes, and we start to realize something: The picture is much more complex. Maybe we shouldn’t have grabbed our guns and started shooting so quickly. Maybe we should have let investigations come to their conclusion. Maybe we should have opened our mouths when we instead remained silent, and vice versa. If there was a dime given for every should have that appears in such violent conflicts, I could pay back my debts to society.

But then, some other slight or unbendable matter gets pulled into play, and the cycle repeats itself.

When we assess the damage from afar, there is yearning to pick a side. Why? After all, all sides look kind of ugly, if you spend enough time with them. The Zionists seeking to exterminate the Palestinian people. The Islamic terrorists looking to butcher Jews. The militarized white police doing everything to oppress minorities. The black community trying to settle a score with the dirty crackers. When you look at any conflict a certain way, you’ll find some fault that is purely in the realm of one group of people. But then, if you were able to zoom out just enough while focusing on that, you could see all the nasty things that both sides have done to each other, all the wrongs and atrocities committed. What you would witness is bloodied hands, pointing at each other. Never once do they dare look themselves in the mirror. Any support for them just stains you as well.

At the end of the day, there are no heroes in violent conflict of any size. Only two sides looking to destroy one another. No amount of exiting can fix that.

(Image source)


One comment

  1. the quite obvious answer to this dilemma actually is not to wash one’s hands, but rather, given that all sides are (conceptually) equally at fault, to join the side most likely to win.

    Not everyone has the luxury of altitude.


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