ON MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN

                       BY  Sy   Schechtman

 

        Robert Burns, the famous Scotch bard of the late 18th century, once said that “man’s inhumanity towards  man  makes countless thousands mourn”.   That was almost a hundred and fifty years ago.   Now  the growth of the mourning process  has accelerated  markedly.   In the last century  it is estimated that well over 100,000,000 people  were killed   in the various World Wars  nations have fought  among each other,  plus the less all consuming combats that  frequently occurred between individual nations  or isolated small regions.   And then there was the unique  genocidal experience of the 6,000,000 Jews in the Holocaust,  only a small part of the larger total  but still  a shocking commentary on  the biblical injunction to be “your brother’s keeper”;   not the inverse “your brother’s killer”  as we have too often  seemed  inclined to do.   Not that we have been deficient in killing our fellow citizens  throughout human history, but the pace seems to have quickened  now as modern technology  makes the slaughter  of our brothers and sisters more efficient.    I have heard some  apologists  for this fratricide explain  that percentage wise it  is not as bad as it looks  when you think  of the  large increase in population  that we  have incurred.   Some even think  that its almost a blessing in disguise, like natural disasters, which are also a  form of necessary, if involuntary,  birth control. 

        Prior to the last, and  not much lamented century,  many of the internecine wars were fought for nationalist reasons,  territorial  defensive or aggrandizement   purposes---“for God and country”, but with the sublime assumption the God was obviously  on “our” side.     But the geographical  reality of gaining finite territory was the prime object of  the battle,  perhaps first by diplomatic efforts and then  military means after failed diplomacy.    The abhorrent, evil enemy simply wanted to annex as much territory  adjacent to the existing  sovereign nation, usually in an irredentist guise, that this border  land originally belonged to the  claimant country  and was unfairly usurped.   This was the  basis of many wars  that had land acquisition  as its prime goal, although  there were religious  and ideologic wars too.  Our own War  of Independence  and Civil War  are prime  examples  of powerful political and emotional forces  whose time had come and energized seemingly weaker foes to overthrow powerful seemingly invulnerable  authority, or entrenched institutions, such as slavery. And going far back in history there were the Crusades, religiously constructed to unseat the Moslem control of the holy Jerusalem in the middle east, with the added benefit of well designed pogroms along the way east among many reluctant “host” Jewish communities in Europe. There were several Crusades  during the next century and Jewish deaths mixed in with the anti Moslem fervor on the way to continually overcome the Moslem  hold on the common Holy Land of Jerusalem.  And economic gain in the form of personal loot was not discouraged.

         However,  most of the time, wars  had  a basic economic thrust  and acquiring your neighbors territory  was a prime way  of beginning to  realize this economic advantage,  and this was true, more or less, of the First World War ( 1914- 1918).    And while  there was  quite a bit economic advantage  to be had in conquering all of  Europe, as Hitler almost succeeded in doing in Second World War (1939-1945), his dynamic thrust for hegemony was fueled enormously well by ideologic concepts  and jargon  totally unfamiliar  to the  slogans of prior public conditioning  for war’s acceptance.   Rabid Jew hatred, the superiority of the Aryan Master  Race,  the mongrel breed  of  Red Russian  Communism   and Jew capitalism that gave added impetus to Hitler’s “Drang Nach Osten (drive to the east)  for “Lebensraum” (space to live).  It was a struggle between the pure Aryan  German race and the dread combination of Jew capitalist/communist Red Russian.   One of the most powerful oxymoronic combinations imaginable.   The international scheming, controlling money bags Jew, financial wizard plotting to acquire capitalist control of all the wealth  for evil Jewish purposes and the Red Russian Bolshevik plotting to wrongly redistribute this same wealth and power to the struggling and oppressed  worker.   All conflated  into one powerful foe in Soviet  Russia and other more liberal nation states.   Powerful, incendiary material with just enough shreds of fact to make very successful rabble rousing, with which Hitler harangued his growing Nazi  party   in many long rambling speeches.   There were indeed several successful Jewish  bankers world wide, (Rothschild) and Jewish very liberal political exponents in Soviet Russia (Trotsky).  But  only  the demonic imagination  of a Hitler  fused them into a passionate, distorted  propaganda  reality  that was to fuel his “thousand year German Reich.”

        But this rather controlled, nation state rather accountable conflict, where friend and foe were evident in definite differing uniforms has gradually  blurred into the  confusing and dangerously vague guerilla war concept, where small groups ambush, set off  remote control roadside bombs, bring down hovering helicopters with shoulder fired rockets, and use the cover  of night for unnverving continual forays  in familiar jungle territory, which was the insidious and successful strategy in  Vietnam.   In fact,  the only full blown military encounter was the Tet offensive  launched late in the war by the Viet Cong, and in which  they were defeated by the combined south Vietnamese and American forces.  But by then we had lost the public opinion support of the American people,  who became disheartened at the mere fact of the enemies ability to mount what  was a desperation attack  at all and insisted  on a complete military withdrawal.

        And now we have finally the complete leveler of all,   and the most cost efficient weapon of all, and one fueled completely by religious fanaticism alone---the individual suicide bomber  who for exalted, profound emotional reasons  straps him or herself with  hidden bombs  which they detonate in very populous places for maximum lethal effect.   Their eternal reward for men are many compliant virgins in heaven.   For women who are now engaged in this deadly endeavor  the Koran  is still being interpreted and  pondered.   But oil rich Moslem sheiks  even now, on earth, hasten to reward the families of  these Moslem martyrs with sizeable mortal bounty, about $25,000 for each such suicide.    It is the prime growth industry in the Moslem world, which has literally no economy except the extremely fortuitous oil  rich lands  they inhabit,  and    which is owned by the rich sheiks and potentates of the Islamic world.

        But the reason  for killing is now a purely religious  one.  To rid the world of the infidel, the unbeliever,  the one who does not believe in Allah, God in the Islamic sense, from whom   Mohammid received  the last heavenly divine message  in about 660 AD.    Most of this holy message was received over a period of a month or so with Mohammid the enthralled listener as Allah spoke.  Much as Moses was an enthralled and humble listener to God on Mt. Sinai  for almost forty days, and took down all  the core concepts of what was to form the future Jewish religion down thru the ages,  Muhammid  transmitted Allah’s message  in almost monologue form to his followers  in what was to  become the Koran, which replicated much of the legal and moral standards explicit in the Hebrew and Christian testaments, but also distinctly  stated the superiority of this new manifestation of Allah’s will  over the other prior monotheistic Jewish and Christian  Godly avowals-----even unto the point, with some large minority  of Islamic believers—of killing the infidel,  the idolatrous  non believers,  who were, of course,  adherents of the Judeo- Christian   western cultural tradition.

        When Moses came down from Mt Sinai after his 40 day encounter with the Lord God his face was aglow with an other worldly white radiance.  Which soon faded  as he tried to implement the profound ethical, moral  and legal code God had given him, to make the “Jews a holy people, a nation of priests and teachers”.  Indeed many positive and negative events occurred as they wandered in the desert for forty years, for “they were a stiff necked people”, before they were allowed to enter Canaan, the  Promised Land,  under Moses valiant leadership.  With Mohammid  his first post Allah revelations were more mundane and pragmatic---- but very pertinent.  While he failed in inspiring neighboring Jewish tribes with his  new  divine message he gradually convinced his fellow Arab cohorts of  Allah’s  new, urgent doctrines,  which  proclaimed  the primacy of the new revelation  as elaborated in the Koran, the testament that superseded  both  the Hebrew and Christian  scriptures.    While jihadic extermination was not stressed the militant spread of the supremacy of Islamic was  encouraged and within a hundred years of Mohammid’s death the Moslem Arabs had spread the new Islamic religion by military conquest  into a vast empire, including western Asia, North Africa, Sicily, the Balkans and Spain. Then extermination was not the goal, but many were slain fighting the conquering Moslem armies. Subject people who did not convert became slaves, or more likely  dhimmis, second class citizens with restricted privileges.   Such was the fate of the Jews and Christians  at the time,  but with eras of notable exception, when the  caliphate did show respect and  acceptance of Jewish traditions.  Such was the benign fate of Maimonides, who was court physician  to  Saladin’s vizier in Egypt.

        Indeed, for many centuries Islam was a prime  factor in the spread of learning  and culture.   Advances in mathematics, astronomy, medicine and the preservation of ancient Greek and Roman classics were of great importance to the gradual enhancement of learning in the face of the “dark ages”  late in the first millennium.   But past that time Moslem culture started to stultify and not make progress into modernity.   Today the ratio of  new ideas and techniques  as measured by new  patents awarded shows Western  patent and copyright approvals almost 100 times greater than Moslem  ones!!   And, of course, we have few, if any, Moslem works of art in our museums or galleries, even though international eclecticism in our museums and galleries  is one of our most courteous attributes.    What we have, alas, is a residue of frustration and hate by a younger Moslem generation who realize that  they are in the backwash  of a western civilization far ahead of them.  One that they must bring down and destroy to make the playing field level again.  Jihad to the fore---infidels be damned!—So Allah has decreed!    And because of the dread mix of suicide bombers and small “dirty  nuclear bombs” individual obsessed fanatics are very, very dangerous now!

        Going back to the future, it is necessary to include, and conclude, with the granddaddy of struggle and killing, that of Athens and Sparta from about 431  BCE  till about 404 of intermittent fighting, the Peloponnesian War, a struggle between a sea power, Athens, against Sparta a dominant land power, for  control of the key areas between them that were vital, so they thought, for the commercial and economic  viability  of their life.  After thirty years of intermittent combat and occasional truce, and much loss of life,  Sparta won out.   This marked the end of the flood tide of Athens dominance in the arts and sciences, although its influence still was of major importance world wide, and  was soon spread  almost universally by Alexander the Great, a pupil of Aristotle,  who was a prime product of the Athenian enlightenment prior to the  debacle of the war.  Alexander spread the concept of Hellenism, a popularized version of the great Greek intellectual glories before the great Athens Sparta struggles that Athens finally lost.   Alexander was the missionary of this enlightenment because of his military genius, conquering much of the world to the east,  even into some of India.  Mohammid went west  about 1,000 years later, you remember.   But first the military slaughter prepared the way, evidently the spent human blood  fertilizing the way for civilization’s flowering in the  Hellenistic age that followed Alexander’s path.

       

        War and mass killing of one’s fellow man (and woman, of course)  seems to be an integral  element of human history.   Probably  almost as much time spent  in the planning and execution of killing as in the peaceful aftermath of recovery from the devastation  wrought.   But the recovery  has been significant, even remarkable.   We have more than doubled our world wide population in the last hundred years.  From less than three billion then to more than six billion now, despite all the killing involved, which seems to be over  a hundred million people.  And a significantly large number have been living above the so called poverty level, however you might define it.  The crucial problem, however, is the relative ease that we now have of   destroying our fellow companions on this splendid planet.   Or even the planet itself.  (If you want to  put a religious spin on it, a midrash states that God created  and destroyed the world about ten thousand times before declaring Himself  reasonably satisfied.    Perhaps He might try once more and start all over again  with man’s destructive help!) 

        But we have been down this dangerous destructive path several times in the very recent  past,  with the League of Nations after World  I, and the present United Nations  after World War II   in place to prevent a  World War III, where nuclear weapons could be involved.  The League of Nations failed, of course, leading to World War II, and the current United Nations, which now has the United States in an active role—which was not the case after the World War I---does not seem too powerful a possible deterrent to strong or  willful nations, as Iran and North Korea seem to portend.  Indeed, mutual  armed deterrence (MAD) during the nuclear stalemate  between  the United States and  the once all powerful Soviet Union, each with a large storehouse intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs),  capable of  vast destruction, was the fearful deterrent for almost fifty years.  Now, of course, the United States is the sole super power,  not opposing but perhaps supplementing  the United Nations.   That is, if the US and the   UN agree on a mutual course of action, which is not exactly a foregone conclusion, nor is the US financial situation  as solid as it was before the Iraqi “adventure” began.   We are not, at times, because of limited resources, able to accomplish some wished for  outcomes,  nor do we have willing allies to add their manpower or money—accept the gallant Tony Blair  and the English!

        But. of course, as Winston Churchill  said,  “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war”.  But there is something to be said for overwhelming force  and  unconditional surrender, as were the Allied Armies terms at the end of World War II.   Or, to put it most simplistically  by Mao Tse Tung, leader  of the revolutionary Chinese Communist forces,  “justice comes out of the barrel of a gun”.    Or  in Plato’s Republic, one of the disputants says that “Justice is the right  or the stronger.”  Or in the immortal words of Leo Durocher, “Nice guys always finish last”.

        But above all dialogue and words, words, words.

Better than “Peace in Our Time”—like Neville Chamberlain’s duped  and deluded  triumphal declaration at Munich.  And then ceaseless effort to see that the treaty terms are enforced.   And making sure that we not stint on continued military and security  upgrades.  And so, perhaps, make Man’s Inhumanity To Man much easier to avoid.