Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sectarian Violence, 21st-century style

And while the violence discussed below was demonstrably based on religious differences (with personal ambitions in the background), author Georgie Ann Geyer shows in this article, "What's Religion Got to Do with It?", that the modern-day version of "sectarian" differences are really driven by political and personal ambitions, not the underlying religions themselves. See if you agree with her assessment.


  1. I'd say it's always been mixed up.
    Also what many people mean by religion is "cultural quirk" which puts another air to it("there are no Christians in Ireland, only Catholic atheists and Protestant atheists"-as someone or other said).

    Sir Jason

  2. Yes, the historical and social intermixing of "religion", culture, and nationalism is probably the greatest reason "religion" has a bad name these days.

    But when it really gets down to it...

    "There are no atheists in foxholes." - Waldo

  3. Yes, the historical and social intermixing of "religion", culture, and nationalism is probably the greatest reason "religion" has a bad name these days.

    But when it really gets down to it...

    "There are no atheists in foxholes." - Waldo

    9:39 AM
    It comes of thinking of the symptom rather then the disease. Religion is the predominant excuse so people blame religion. Nationalism was the predominant excuse before. Oh yes and then there is the old standby, "millitarism".
    The fact is that people are inclined to kill each other and assuming their excuse is the real reason is like assuming a student really failed to turn in an assignment because his dog chewed up the homework.

  4. Also some people feel a psychological need to be loyal to something, which isn't quite satisfied unless "something" needs their loyalty. Which means in practice that a lot of people are fighting over something because it is being fought over.
    This feeling can be channeled into harmless or constructive things. Military and civil emergency services(which are controlable and therefore better then terrorists), political lobbying or charity work. Or simply sports and hobbies. But some people don't feel quite "fulfilled" with that and are drawn to destructive activities out of restlessness.
    It is a factor that hasn't been taken account of. It is an intangible and most negotiation theories think of intangibles as a nuisance instead of the most important part of it. Britain and Argentina were not really fighting for a forgotten patch of ice in the South Atlantic-they were fighting for their honor.* Of course the British government may have been thinking of honor in the sense of "maintaining a deterrant". That was hardly how the British people were thinking of it.
    Add to that revenge. Many times offenses cannot be revenged against an individual and are by default avenged against a group. This is the infamous "cycle of violence". It is most exagerrated because there are plenty of factors that cause violence besides that.
    Political theorists, as I said fear and distrust intangibles. But they won't go away. They are the hidden flaw in all schemes to mathematically solve problems "rationally"-that people are not rational. That is they desire more then wealth, power and security.
    A classic example is the War of 1812. None of the issues that caused it were solved. The British yielded nothing at the negotiations, and in fact there was no need to. Historians don't understand this, that America had made it's point, Britain had made it's and requireing official concessions was an unneeded complication. Or in other words it was tacitly acknowleged that there was in a peculiar way, enough glory for everyone to share. Thus America and Britain never fought each other again.
    While calculated on a cost benefit the risks of war tend to outway the profit of spoiling one's neighbors, this mercantile approach to analysing conflict is incomplete. Even merchants don't really think this way all the time as the Turks found when they met the Venetians at Lepanto.
    Or take Palestine. Everybody knows the easiest way is for the Jews to have the portion they already have, and the Palestinians to have the portion they already have. The problem is that everybody is wrong. The Palestinians are not fighting simply because of religion, and certainly not for real estate. They are fighting so that they won't have to admit they lost.

    *one can use the term "pride" but using words like that dismisses the importance of the phenomenon to people and therefore minimises the difficulty of solving strife.