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Friday, September 13, 2013

A Thing of the Past

Someone emailed me the other day because a friend had tweeted him a link to a Huffington Post article claiming German intelligence now say Assad might not have directly been behind the Syrian chemical attack.

I don't know enough to comment about that, although I have been trying to follow the developments via the BBC, and am obviously relieved over the chance that Syria talks may yet bring a hope for peace. But who knows how it will ever pan out? I sure don't.

I, for one, am relieved the route of diplomacy is being tried once more - but even if it fails, I would still stick by what I wrote in my "The Sophistication of War" post.

The reason is, when I post, I do so without falling prey to any rhetoric of the times that turn us into a lynch mob all baying for the same thing. Nor do I immediately believe anything told me, without questioning the source or collaboration - and I mean proper collaboration, not from someone's "friends" all saying the same thing.

Don't just look at what's being said, look at who's saying it, and then look again at what's being said and see if it's so strong to you on an evidential level that there's no need to question who's saying it.

The third, and most important, is I THINK before I write.

Whenever a subject of politics would come up between my father and I, he would ask me - "Such and such has happened, what do you think?" In doing so, he was teaching me not WHAT to think, and not even HOW to think, but just to THINK.

Not to open my mouth and spout the first thing that comes to my mind because of some emotional misstep, and then feel forced to continuously defend what was obviously said in the heat of the moment, hoping not to look like a raving lunatic.

That is why I stand behind every single post that has my name on my blog. I don't write any post lightly, and I stand by them, whether I wrote them eight years ago or eight seconds ago, because I base them on principles I believe to be timeless - of kindness, goodness, non-violence and respect, be that towards the subject matter, to the reader or to me. At best, hopefully to all three.

But whatever happens in Syria, there is one thing we can't escape as easily as a military strike. Even if there is a satisfactory chemical arms deal, more than 100,000 people have died since the uprising against President Assad began in 2011.

I am not Syrian, I have never met a Syrian. I have never been to Syria. Yet, this number sticks in my gut.

Can we even comprehend this number?

How long would it take you to stack 100,000 pieces of pebbles in a room? If you had them as pennies, you'd be rich wouldn't you?

Try and imagine that loss if you can - 100,000 tiny pennies gone from your hands. And then imagine each one as a human being, a life spent forever.

I remember how my father felt in the nineties when Serbians were decimating entire Bosnian villages. I remember him crying when videos were released of Serb death squads taunting young Bosnian boys about their virginity before shooting them in the back as they lay in a ditch. That happened on our own doorstep.

But we have to stop this constant need to bring issues to our own doorstep, before we understand that everyone is human. We all hurt. We can all be monsters, or angels; sometimes that choice is taken away from us, but for the most, that decision is in our own hands.

When I advocate a peaceful solution to Syria it's not because I condone or I take the side of Assad, it's because I take the side of peace. If these talks succeed, won't we all feel better for it, than having turned to violence?

I believe we can make war a thing of the past, and we can attune our senses to see everyone as equally human.

Unless we do that, it won't be war that becomes a thing of the past. It will be us.

I don't want to be "right" about Syria. I don't want to be right about any of this. I want someone to email me a tweet that says those 100,000 lives can somehow be resurrected to resume their family lives, to enjoy the beauty this world has to offer, when we can be bothered to open our eyes to it.

Nothing else can give me joy on the issue of Syria. Nothing else at all. The best such news can give me is relief, and the hope that lessons may be learnt before it is too late - while being mindful that for some it is already too late.

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