Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Red line

You can 'dodge' bullets and bombs, take shelter, in a way that you cannot elude gas. Bullets and bombs offer a 'sporting chance', they are 'noble', however gas is underhand, cowardly and indiscriminate in its very nature. Somehow I can imagine myself 'under fire' (indeed have narrowly escaped a bomb) but shudder at the thought of being gassed.

However, be this as it may and try as I might, I cannot see the startling moral difference between indiscriminately shelling a civilian population and gassing it that creates this 'red line', the crossing of which has animated such stark rhetoric from the US administration (and others) about Assad's regime: the still only purported author of this ghastly attack. I mean being dead is remarkably, and sadly, an indiscriminate phenomena.

The attack itself is a miserable low point, in a relentlessly depressing civil war.

Now if it were suggested that the United Nations was to take action to impose peace on the warring factions, all of which by their actions have long surrendered to my mind any notion of holding on to a 'noble struggle' against tyranny, reluctantly I might be persuaded that military action was necessary. However, it would have to be even handed, overwhelming and internationalised and accompanied by undoubtedly a very long and expensive process of peace building that might include I suspect the prospect of a partitioning of Syria (which, after all, is a wholly artificial colonial construct). Given our extraordinary inability to live intelligently and tolerantly with one another, creating more homogeneous smaller countries might be a 'kind of answer' (at least they can do less damage to one another when they do fall out)!

However, this is not on offer. Instead we have the posturing of 'we must do something' which falls back on the tried, tested and failed formula of bombing something surgically (if a real doctor was to be this 'surgical' they would be seen as a butcher and struck off the medical register forthwith). This is dressed up in the language of 'punishment' and 'deterrence' (and there is is little or no evidence of either of these having a material effect on the challenge at hand, indeed often they contrive to make matters worse).

Meanwhile, the stench of hypocrisy rises across the whole debate - gassing is only ever a red line if we do not like the one allegedly doing the gassing. Saddam Hussein could do it with impunity, until we stopped liking him!

At a recent management meeting, in the cracks between business, I suggested that we launch a global campaign entitled, "Why do n't we all just love each other?" At the time, it was a humorous aside that resulted in the Head of Campaigns and I hunting for a possible theme song. Watch this space!

However, as you ponder it, it does become a deep and wounding question: why not? I remain constantly amazed within my own soul at the energy it spends hiding from love and fortifying its defences against vulnerability. It is, when I catch myself at it, exhausting. Why do we do it? This is a real question.

To which part of the answer is, I think, in our failure to find a positive identity in being me, physically, wholly present, now, vulnerable to what is,  on which are pinned diverse identities that matter and delight, are important but not that important and how we find ourselves left trying to cover over a deep sense of insecurity with a negative definition of identity of what I am not. I remember vividly a Macedonian taxi driver telling me he had a mini icon on his dashboard because he was not an Albanian (a Muslim) not because he seriously played at being a Christian as an expression of his deepest humanity.

There is every difference between being vulnerably rooted in the world and insecurely placed in it. Love flows from the former, fear stalks the latter.

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