Monday, December 1, 2008

The War Paradigm

We are living it. This is the age of technology, the age of markets, the age of development; yet the spectre of war looms dark in the background. Each time we think we've moved ahead, we are precipitated once more into the vortex… the victim or helpless spectator.

The human state and the state of war

Human history is the story of the rise and fall of the great empires across the world. We have the stories of civilisation, industrialisation, the emergence of technologies, the rise of cooperation and cooperative mechanisms as institutions, the rule of law and various regulatory authorities cutting across boundaries. But these stories for most part have also been caught up with and have been subjugated to notions of power and control.

Rise of society and civilisation has been followed by the fall, and the rise of the nation state and all therein has been accompanied by the development of the war machine to protect it. Now inter-state wars have given way in prominence to intra-state and proxy wars and fears of another world war are subsumed under the rising threat of terrorism.

War as a paradigm

Whichever way we turn, there appears to be a war impending or in the offing. The state of war predicated on the notions of power and control is perpetuated by the very system, mindset and beliefs we live by. The rules of the game leave the players little choice. But who is to say that the rules cannot be changed, or the notions of power and control reconsidered (or even replaced)?

There is much to support the understanding that the war game is but a paradigm, even at the level of a society or nation or a global system. Sociologists and constructivists have built their entire discipline on the premise that society, culture and our way of being is a social construct, allowing for the entire basis of the concept of social engineering. Marx had made the distinction between human subjectivity and the material world in his vision of the capitalist society, and warned against the power of the super-structure of dominating ideals and beliefs: all that "men say, imagine, conceive" which spills over to politics, law, and so forth.

Feminist political theory has attributed the prominence of war as a valid resort in human relations to the fact that structuring and managing these relations in terms of society and state has long been a primarily male preserve. The democratic peace theory which is the profession that democracies do not go to war against each other, builds upon the foundation that where the people themselves are concerned war is not an option, especially against other people. Populations and the media today are also talking of war as a political tool.

Different theories and approaches for various ends – but what the point here is, is that there are alternatives to the zero-sum game of war in its many faces.

A paradigm shift

Outside of the theorising there are so many indicators that we as the people can break away. Werner Erhard when dealing with human awareness and potential tapped into ontological spaces or a way of 'being' that can determine operative paradigms, as a lot of my friends who underwent the programme at some point would relate to. As most of us begin to disentangle from routine and engage outwards we are beginning to see the bigger picture out there, even as the term "getting the bigger picture" strengthens its roots in common parlance.

There are alternatives, not only alternative rules to the war paradigm but alternative paradigms themselves. There is a humanity bigger than war; and as the other looming threat of climate change continues to remind us, a world bigger than human kind too. There is much that can be enjoyed of this world bigger and beyond, if only we can make the paradigm shift.

1 comment:

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