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War and Violence Essay

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War and Violence Essay Sample

In this essay I will discuss the impact of the course material and additional literature shaped my perception of the concepts of war and violence.

Just like any other young person influenced by the mass media and the world news in particular, before this course I felt violence is our reality (despite all the good intentions of the developed societies to avoid it), while the war isn’t. Upon getting familiar with the course material, my own understanding of war and violence has shaped and upgraded into an unexpected mix of reflections and conclusions.

In fact, the major part of the population in the developed countries is lucky enough to evidence war only via mass media. However, some part of it are the political or war refugees who share a terrible experience of living in terror and percept the war not like a bunch of movie scenes but a horrifying reality. The cases of violence happen far more often and almost everywhere globally – it has now become a part of our daily life: on the news we hear about people killing each other in domestic fight, drunken brawl, or just a crazy fusillade at the local store. The scenarios are always both new and worn: it all seems to have happened before somewhere. Even modern schools have to deal with the manifestations of the human nature banning guns and other weapon. Forms of violence evolve with the evolution of the society: from hunting and gatherings of inter-human aggressive acts the prehistoric people with clubs to the modern terroristic attacks with bombs, tommy-guns or even planes serving as a weapon. From the daily evidence mass media provides us with, one may conclude that violence is an ordinary human feature. And no matter how hard we try to reach the civilized status, we are inclined to live in violence.

The core of violence and war as the peak of its resolution lies in the basic human needs for either physical or social values: food, wealth, recognition, power, and, paradoxically, safety. From the earliest evidences of violent attacks, the invaders enriched themselves by taking away the possessions of the victims.

Although the archeological findings of the warfare of the early times, especially those dating back to the Early Neolithic period in Europe, may not fully depict the real state of act, certain investigations (e.g. the massacre theory of the end of the LBK period supported by the analysis of the bones discovered in the mass graves at the base of the fortification ditches in the settlements of Schletz and Talheim (Wind, 2004)) prove that war-related violence might have been the reality of that time. For various reasons the prehistoric warfare is underestimated, ignored or even idealized. According to Helle Vankilde (2003), the interpretation of the Stone and Bronze Age archeological findings results in two opposite trends: the first one describing that society as a world of warriors, while the second depicting the harmonic peasant tradition, with peasants, hunters and traders that are forming the core of the society. In the latter the fact of the possible warfare is dissembled, and in the former it is underestimated or even not realized, being substituted for the terms like “unrest” or “the troubled times”. This, the author believes might be the result of the response of the archeology to the contemporary war-related events and ideologies (like anti-war movement). This, indeed, might have been the cause of the phenomenon: the XX century was the most cruel and radical in terms of war, and the most fruitful in terms of archeological discoveries. Still, the idealized image of the past is something that needs to be reverted at least in terms of revealing the truth. I believe that the radical events of vast migration and revolution, serving as an explanation of the sudden material changes during the past times (e.g. the Stone and the Bronze Ages), could not have been a peaceful interaction avoiding violence or even warfare. The increased number of the ethnic-based wars of the modern era, especially in the last decade of the XX century, may serve as a reliable proof of this fact. The clash of cultures, tribes, nations in the previous centuries has resulted in some form of violence. The rejection of the customs and traditions of other communities and hostility to the foreign ethnicities with seemingly different cultures is a new threat of our modern relatively peaceful world, especially in terms of the increased migration trends.

Our “smooth” society is now, according to Jean Baudrillard (1995), caught in the act of self-deterrence, and real war is impossible. However, the conflicts and violent outbursts continue to emerge and shake the society under the interminable war that “never began” (Baudrillard, 1995, 26).

In reality, the modern society, still remembering the horrors of the First and the Second World War, and all the concomitant confrontations between the leading countries or their unions, tends to avoid the war as a fact. The non-participant’s perception of the war may be sufficiently distorted due to the belied or ignored description of the slaughter and other horrors. My own perception of the war realities, based mostly on the somewhat idealized images from the movies, books and stories told by the media, no matter how cruel and picturesque, has been altered by Remarque’s story of the boy from the other side of the barricades. The noble sentimental ideas of warfare are crushed under the real facts of his World War I experience. Though it is a literary piece, thus based on imaginary people and events, the author’s personal horrifying experience has obviously made an immense impact of the ideas and images of the book.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” is one of the best dramatic pieces based on the powerful contrasting of the idealization of the warfare (e.g. the ideas of fulfilling the “patriotic duty” by enlisting in the army) and the realism of its horrors (the evident cheapness of life and the meaninglessness of death during the war). The way the main characters react to the realities, the transformation of the individuality, the disconnection of emotions in order to keep sanity and the experience of killing in order to survive – all depict the peculiar properties of the human nature, even a peaceful one, to resort to violence in case in it is needed or approved for some reason or other. This theme correlates with the one found in the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Kurtz, who initially intended to bring civilization and progress to the natives of Africa, which is, from the point of view of the contemporary society, a rather noble goal, eventually became hostile and violent, swept away by the desire of power and wealth, caused, to a large extent, by the isolation, permissiveness and lack of the usual social environment with its ideals and traditions. The apotheosis of Kurtz’s change is embodied in the phrase that ended his report on “The Suppression of Savage Customs”: “Exterminate all the brutes!” (Conrad, J., 2000, 123). His goals and methods of communication evolved from the peaceful enlightenment via charismatic elocution to the heads on stakes in return for precious ivory.

The theme of treating other ethnical units like foreigners remains a burning issue in the current multicultural integrated European society. The population of the non-migratory (from the point of view of the modern world) origin often treats the ethnical minorities as inferior. However, the current trends prove that for some countries the immigration process has changed the ethnic composition of the society to the extent when the minorities are hard to neglect, oppress or control. Any attempt would cause immediate feedback with no guarantees of peaceful resolution. Assimilation is no longer the word following migration. The integration is. Under such conditions a non-violent society is only possible under the notions of tolerance and mutual acceptance.

The truth is: violence causes further violence in response and even the “sacred” and “righteous” wars are based on killing a human being, making either participant a potential murderer.

Personally I was lucky enough not to have faced the real war or violence. My perception of these terms has not changed dramatically – it has rather shaped and evolved into an upgraded understanding of the different faced of these themes. The course material allowed me to take a look at the issue from an unusual point of view, which is always a benefit, as it allows broadening the outlook and forming a new frame of reference.

The existing evidence shows that humans are not ready to live in a peaceful, non-violent society, as our needs and wants rule our being, and that is, probably, an integral part of the human essence. The existing literary works depicting ideal societies prove that such unions either wrecked or, frankly speaking, quite boring to exist in. I believe humans need a certain amount of challenge and hardships or troubles to feel happy and value the state of being.

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