Lying deep within the human psyche is a belief
that man's experience-driven evolutionary journey
is inexorable and all-encompassing.
leads us to assume that the self-destructive nature
of conflict will eventually push us into learning
how to live in peaceful co-existence with one
innate conviction is of certain value as a coping
mechanism: it allows us to deal with the unpalatable
present by giving us hope for the future. And,
undoubtedly, by encouraging us to think that our
development is constant and comprehensive, it
helps us to come to terms with the past.
least, in this respect, it elevates us to an imagined
position of evolved superiority from where we
can survey with relatively comfortable detachment
the blood-soaked wreckage of even recent historical
are able to look downwards as well as backwards
with bemusement at the likes of Hitler, Stalin,
Pol Pot and their cronies, as though studying
the antics of a primitive sub-species.
the notion of comprehensive human development
is a self-serving delusion. For, in terms of managing
human relationships, there is absolutely no evidence
to suggest that mankind does progress. In fact,
all history points to us holding a fixed position.
chances of a bloody dictator like Hitler again
coming to power and seeking to wreak international
havoc are no less now than they were in the last
or any other century, and they will remain the
same into the future.
can be argued with justification that, in different
parts of the world at present, many such people
are already in powerful positions, busy making
mayhem at a local level and curtailed only by
circumstance from realising their full potential
on a much wider stage.
only progression in the field of human interaction,
it appears, is in finding reasons to do battle
and in developing new forms of conflict.
used to be fought mainly between opposing nations.
Then, during an all-too-brief lull, intra-national
conflict was born, and became an ever-present.
Now, without fixed allegiance to any nation-state,
al-Qaeda and its various offshoots have introduced
yet another variant: extra-national conflict.
there are currently more wars happening in the
world than at any time in the past is a measure
of how incapable we actually are of learning certain
the past century, we had barely emerged from the
first World War before embarking on the second.
soon as this battle between fascism and freedom
was ended, it was immediately replaced by a world-encompassing
struggle between communism and capitalism.
its end, we have now reverted from a stand-off
on political ideology to a pre- enlightenment-style
theological confrontation between those of differing
religion has again become one of the main engines
driving widespread, large-scale warfare is both
an indicator of lack of human progression and
of how easily we unlearn lessons as soon as they
the West, we consider ourselves to have travelled
a good deal further along the evolutionary road
than other societies. This, too, does not stand
up to a little examination.
a macro level, it hardly needs pointing out that
many of the leading western nations are once again
embroiled in warfare in various parts of the world.
But, even at a micro level, there is little to
suggest that we have managed to evolve much further
civilised as we might imagine ourselves in the
West to be, in the main our centres of population
are no less dangerous for inhabitants and visitors
alike than most cities and towns in the "Third"
World. Beneath a thin veneer of supposed sophistication,
the threat and frequency of violence is at least
a part of everyday life here as it ever was.
advancement in the fields of science, medicine
and technology, aided no end by geographical position,
is no proof of greater evolutionary strides either.
believe it true that the West's liberal democratic
system is the most advanced form of governance,
but it is not without shortcomings.
leaves governments, whatever their promises, with
a virtual free hand to wage war during their term
of office - and too often they take full advantage
of the opportunity.
Tony Benn remarked: "Democracy's greatest
strength lies not in being able to vote people
into office, but rather, in being able to vote
them out again."
our advancements, we are still primarily motivated
by base instincts such as greed, lust for power
and hatred of difference. Those fixed fundamentals,
more than anything else, lead us into conflict.
are deluding ourselves in believing that we can
move beyond what we have always been.
with permission from the author.