The History of Modern Conflicts

Fear dominates the mass media. We are bombarded with heart wrenching stories and images that cut to the core of our common humanity. We witness these atrocities from afar, via secondary sources and we cannot comprehend how people could hold so little regard for human life. Why do these people hate each other so much? Why such venom between races, religions, cultures and political ideologies? How can some people resort to such savagery and seemingly meaningless violence?

We ask this question while we elect governments that employ similar violence with equal to, or greater than, casualties.

Europeans and Americans must acknowledge that their recent history is riddled with genocide, slavery, and savage oppression of cultures throughout the world, the effects of which are still being felt now. This is not a controversial statement, we were all taught about these events in school by the age of 11. Just because an incident has left living memory, and now belongs firmly to the realm of History, does not mean it is no longer relevant.

Ignore history at your own risk, but do not criticise the actions of others today if you do not know what happened the day before. We say “do not judge a book by its cover”. By applying the same logic to history, we should also not judge the world today solely by watching the daily news and knowing only that which has happened in our own lifetime.

How can you understand a novel if you have only read the end? There is a story line, character development, twists, foreshadowing, unplanned and unpredictable events and situations you should have seen coming. The world is complicated because it holds billions of people with trillions of ancestors. Did your parents not influence you? Did their parents not influence them? We are all grandsons and granddaughters of granddaughters and grandsons and so on, and so on. On a greater scale, the same logic should be applied to the understanding of cultural evolution.

People often dismiss history as irrelevant, but it is as relevant to society as your childhood is to your personality. People make choices, but often these choices are influenced by events you could not control. Do not judge a book before reading it. Do not discount an entire genre of books because you disliked one book. The same is true for religion, races, ethnicities, cultures, and countries. These are simple names and words meant to describe countless individual human beings.

If you want to know more about the conflicts of today it is essential that you learn about the history of those regions or you are in danger of being dangerously ignorant of the vast majority of information you need to know to understand the complexity of these conflicts.

I ask you to know these things because perhaps if you were better informed and realised the human costs of supporting violence, in any way, shape or form, you may think differently before enthusiastically encouraging armed conflict. When innocents die, when children die, there is never a cause for celebration. Knowing history is akin to knowing a friend’s backstory. The more you know, the more you understand and feel empathy towards one another. When you say you wish to attack a country, remember that you are speaking of killing human beings, and you have no way of knowing what the eventual outcome will be. The human cost is incomprehensible to us, and as a result we pay less attention to it than it deserves. Ultimately it should be at the forefront of our minds and discussions.

It is a sad fact of civilization that some conflicts can only be defeated by employing violence, but if you support violent actions without knowing the historical background that has led to such a dire situation, then you must be held partially accountable for the inevitable destruction which will ensue. Historical knowledge and critical analysis are the greatest tools to prevent the manipulation of the masses for the self-interests of the powerful and it is our responsibility to educate ourselves so our world views help humanity rather than aiding to the continuation of its suffering.