Guest Blog by Hassan Baig
Conflict has been one of the centerpieces of our existence since the dawn of the human race. Different millennia may have seen different markers of our species’ cultural and technological progress, the constancy of conflict has never fluctuated. And the present day is no different – us Pakistanis know that especially well. It is hence imperative that we understand the philosophy of conflict; for without such understanding, we cannot frame an untainted, objective worldview for ourselves and for our future generations. The following lines are my attempt to deconstruct conflict and to add a footnote in the affiliated discourse we see unfolding everyday in various media.
It is universally understood that all human beings are born with an innate sense of self-preservation. And this, in turn, has given birth to the mental constructs of The Self and The Other. These constructs pervade the entire species and promote self-centricism in every belief mankind has ever or will ever hold. A self-centricism which then manifests itself in terms of religious, social, political, racial, ethnic, capitalistic, egoistic, anthropomorphic etc differences – i.e. the faces of conflict can be many even though the core is shared.
For someone to contend that just one of the above-mentioned examples has always driven the bulk of conflict in the world is an over-simplification. And likewise, saying one of these is the base factor and others are less important or derivatives is an over-simplification too.
At any one time in human history, the world narrative picks up one or two of the above-mentioned reasons and makes them the ‘Great Reason(s)’ of that age. This movement is motivated by the typical human mind’s tendency to seek the simplest possible solution to every problem; a tendency to reject complexity in favor of intellectual convenience. This movement is furthermore supplemented by an almost unconscious retrospective revision of history; i.e. all past events are seen in the light of the prevalent belief-system of the day and conclusions are modified, replacing the entire historical narrative in character (but not in content) at that point in time. Note that such retrospective confirmation (a.k.a confirmation bias) is easily achievable in any system – we ourselves do it everyday when we suggest in coffee-table talks that any simpleton would have seen the credit crunch coming.
These days ‘Religion’ is the Great Reason for human conflict. And there’s a lot of informational chatter in the world to confirm that all/most conflict of today and the past has been driven by this once-touted opiate of the masses.
I believe that a real, serious student of human conflict and history would never fall prey to this over-simplification.
A serious student would understand that the key to human conflict is every human’s innate centricism; his predilection of considering The Self superior and more desirable over The Other.