It is the second day of violence on the streets of London. Seems like something from a novel or a news report from 1979, but this is going on right now in 2011. I’ve never been fully in tune with what is happening on the streets there before but in times of crisis like this I get reports and information not from the mainstream media but via trusted contacts in that region. If you are concerned about what is happening and seeking information, OR – if you’re there are you have something to report, I recommend doing so using the crowdmap for Brixton that is up and running. Go there, follow the simple instructions for reporting, and you’ll be helping not only to tell the world what is going on, but also to get more accurate information that might help those most immediately at risk.
Afghanistan is a country of many ethnicities, tribes and languages, which many people can explain to you if you have the time to listen. But there is one language you don’t often read about that is spoken throughout Kabul and no doubt the nation. In café’s and restaurants, over lunch and late into the night after dinner, Afghans and foreigners alike, are speaking the language of war.
The language of war consists of words connected to violence and armed conflict, both in the present and the past tense. It is made up of the saddest and most terrifying stories; about murder, kidnapping, threats, moments of extreme panic, and people who have been lost to any of these. It is spoken by those who have been here for 5 years or 5 days, spoken while passing the rice or just passing time at a friend’s house. Beyond any of this, it is spoken with an ease and regularity that makes it one of the most widely spoken and understood languages in the nation.
I find history to be one of the most important and interesting topics one can discuss, no matter how exciting or mundane. I find personal experiences to be a constant source for learning and inspiration. Yet after almost one month listening the accounts of what it was like in what terrible situation, from both participants and observers, I find myself hating history and personal experience. Unable to listen to the language of war because something about it seems so bad for everyone in the conversation.
Surely there are import lessons to be learned from discussing these topics. Surely if our nations, our fellow humans, can carry out all the terrible actions of war, then we can confront them and not be afraid to examine these events among friends. Why should the language of war be considered taboo, when hiding the truth can only serve to keep us from learning lessons and not repeating mistakes.
While I know how important testimony and understanding are, especially in the context of war or violence, I am taken aback by the language of war. I want to stop the stories. I want to turn up the music. As strange as it may seem, the more the language of war is spoken, the less meaning it has to me, the previously outspoken citizen journalist.
Most of you know that I’m a big fan of the Euronews Nocomment video podcast. The combination of pure video with the original sounds without commentary changes the experience of watching things happen in the world.
This morning I watched and rewatched as Ecuadorian soldiers walked through the tropical forrest in formation. Heavily armed and pointing guns everywhere, in preparation for whatever enemy they are told they may have to face some day soon. Obviously the present enemy they perceive is Colombia, just across the border.
As I watch these soldiers do this, and cut to some other video of both presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela exchanging hostile words with the president of Colombia, I have a vision. That these soldiers in Ecuador would suddenly stop marching, put down their machine guns, turn to the camera and say.. “You know, Colombians are our family, our friends, and our neighbors… we’re not going to shoot at them just because the president says we should.”
It will likely be written off as a naive vision by all those who believe whole heartedly in obeying orders and never asking questions. By now more then ever, why not ask just what the hell these governments are trying to do? Why is one army invading parts of one country and then the other countries threatening to bomb in retaliation? Why do people who know each other, who share so much of the past and present in common, choose to support this kind of logic?
One thing that we’re missing in the world today, from Afghanistan to the Congo to Colombia and on and on… is for people to stop following without questioning. To stop obeying when the orders are to destroy fellow humans, to commit mass murder in response to mass murder.
It is a pretty well known fact that the US is the global leader in arms sales. Some will also have heard that Russia is second. But in fact, if you put together all the European Union numbers, in terms of total arms sales in the last 10 years, they come very close to tying the US. Somehow its not a very publicized fact, Europe sells almost as many weapons as the US.
And who gets those weapons? Which countries in the world? Better yet, which groups in the world? Places where there is civil war? Dictatorships? Or civil wars yet to come? I think of all those child soldiers in the world and wonder where their gun came from? USA? France? Probably both.
Global warming gets a fair amount of play in the media these days. There is even some, though surely not enough, mobilization to do something about it. Yet all over the developed world in all these lovely places with people that are so highly educated and experienced, people are engaging in the arms trade. Making money selling weapons for people to kill each other with. Trading stocks and benefiting while people arm themselves and carry out mass murders in the name of the latest cause or call-to-arms. Even in the US now, the favored presidential candidate Hillary CLinton has become the number one choice of weapons manufacturers… and yet people believe she will bring change and restore some sort of self respect for the nation.
With each passing year that arms dealers post record profits, more people die needlessly in the name of business and strategic defense. If that isn’t a threat to our world, I don’t know what is.