The rise of racism and sectarian violence. Humanism and Nonviolence must give stronger responses

14.06.2012 - London - Silvia Swinden

Demonstrations against African immigrants in a poor quarter of Tel Aviv turned violent last month. Firebombs were thrown at Africans’ blocks of flats, while shops catering for them were vandalised. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the migrants “infiltrators,” warning that the very character and existence of Israel are under threat by these black refugees. No surprises there given Israel’s chronic mistreatment of their own cousins, the Palestinians. In fact Neve Shalom Wahat al Salaam, the Jewish-Arab village in Israel showing how the two communities can live in peaceful coexistence, has just suffered an [attack]( http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/racist-graffiti-sprayed-at-mixed-jewish-arab-village-in-central-israel-1.435216?dm_i=5OC,U99Q,2Y26K9,2HJ0M,1) by racist thugs. And yet, one wonders how a people who suffered so much on account of racism are unable to show solidarity in a similar situation. We know, however, that fear is the worst enemy of compassion. And fear rules the roost.

Greece, Ukraine and France have also seen a growth of neo-fascist movements, some are being voted into positions of power by a disorientated and fearful population who see no future in the “more austerity” brand of crisis resolution. Many other countries in Europe and the rest of the world suffer increasingly from the scourge of racism and ethnic intolerance with increasing interethnic conflict.

The slippery slope from intolerance to genocide passing though dehumanisation and ethnic cleansing cannot be ignored. Sectarian violence – religious, ethnic, ideological – can destabilise any country. For exemple Burma and the sudden explosion of interethnic conflict threatening its “fragile” (the understatement of the year) path to democracy.

Syria is now entering officially into a civil war, fuelled by sectarian conflict. The hawks are getting their way, through the back door though. The doves are powerless because officially no elected governments are making decisions about troops and weapons; it’s all done through mercenaries, the privatization of war. And the vultures are making a killing, literally and metaphorically. Arms and pouring in to both sides and oil prices keep nicely high. It is of course an attack on Iran, Syria’s main ally, which may or may not have ambitions to become a nuclear power, but in the present it can certainly block the Strait of Hormuz and starve the US and allies of the daily 17 million barrels of oil coming from the Gulf States.

As the old quote goes, “in war the first casualty is the truth”, and so, aided by the world media, both sides of the Syrian conflict claim the other side started the violence and is responsible for the worst atrocities. How can anybody know what is really happening when an experienced reporter like Alex Thompson from UK [Channel 4 News](http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/hostile-territory/1863) comes back with a story of how Syrian rebels attempted to put him in the line of the Government Army’s fire: “I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.” Russia is saying *Niet* to the West on this one, another sign that things may overflow into the unimaginable.

Apart from Nuclear Weapons and carpet bombing, that kill civilian populations in a completely indiscriminate way, until now mainly unmanned drones killings, “personally” approved by President Obama, Nobel Peace Laureate, shared such attribute, (see the [BIJ]( http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/05/15/suspected-drone-strikes-kill-12-civilians-in-yemen/) report). A new little horror has just sprung out of the military-industrial complex: the lightweight mini-drone launched from the battlefield: [The Guardian]( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/12/us-military-mini-drones-battlefield). So, war by remote control increasingly protects the soldier but not the civilians as robots have a problem telling one from the others. “Collateral damage”, more dehumanisation, it can’t be good. The mini-drone can be carried in a rucksack, a terrorist’s wet dream.

**Only a New Humanism rooted on the methodology of Nonviolence can help us emerge from this crisis**

Feeling impotent in front of such a catalogue ruthlessness and apparently unreachable warped minds? Experiencing compassion fatigue for the victims? Unable to whip up enthusiasm for action, basically because you have come to believe nothing you do will make any difference?
You are not alone. Most people have bought the line from those in power: *worry about your own life and leave the big issues to us*. Except that the big issues are coming to bite us in the *derrier* and we cannot leave it to the self-serving *establishment* (now “The 1%”?) to protect us. Not to mention that our taxes pay for these not-so-far-away wars.

In 1969 a man said, high in the Andes Mountains near Mount Aconcagua: “This world is on the verge of exploding with no way to end the violence! Do not choose false doors. There are no politics that can solve this mad urge for violence”. And he proposed: “Carry peace within you, and carry it to others.” (Silo, *The Healing of Suffering*). This true guide of the Nonviolence methodology, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther king and Aung Sam Suu Kyi, opens the door to a New Humanism in which human beings rather than money or power are the central value.

UNESCO’s last 2011 *Courier*, was also dedicated to the need to see a New Humanism arise, and at present there are many more people involved in projects to bring about peace than strife. The 2009-2010 [World March]( http://www.theworldmarch.org/) for Peace and Non Violence launched by World without Wars and without Violence brought together thousands of organisations, politicians, heads of states, artists, professionals, sportspeople and ordinary citizens in more than 100 countries. If you ask anybody in the street: Do you want Peace? the majority will say YES.

**We are not doing enough**

So, if the majority wants peace and stability, how come we go regularly into these catastrophes? War is the worst thing that can happen to a country, people die, human rights disappear and the infrastructure collapses. We are soon going to be told that “a no flight zone” needs to be implemented in Syria to protect civilians. This should produce a bigger response than people gave in 2003 before Iraq for it would be the prelude to a bloodier and more extensive war, with *many more* civilians casualties. The only way we can affect this unfolding disaster is to put pressure on governments for effective arms embargos, to all sides. And work with different ethnic communities in exile on reconciliation, so that they may influence their families and friends in the conflict area. We must all do much more research into who are the actors pushing towards war, and work with that in our own countries, through Parliaments and through the Media – social media and alternative media if no access to the mainstream one.

As for the increase in racism it is important to spread awareness and build multiethnic communities, training children (and adults) to recognise their own intolerance and discrimination, not to feel guilty about it but in order to transform intentionally the mechanical assumptions our education and Media stereotypes (sometimes even our own families) have planted on us.

**It’s all in the Formation Landscape**

That thing we believe is *human nature* because it pushes us in this or that direction, is nothing but the way we were brought up, the information we were given, the experiences we had, what was fashionable during our childhood, the bit of religion we were told is the right one.

A curious thing religion, a source of comfort and meaning, compassion and love, but also including orders to commit genocide. It all depends which bits you read. Thou shall not kill, unless God insists on it. Some feel this invalidates religion but inbuilt contradictions do not prove or disprove, simply tell us that whatever was happening was interpreted by different people, just like it is happening today. All written in stone, like King Hammurabi’s legal code of 1750BC, that planted on a huge chunk of humanity’s Formation Landscape Retaliatory Justice and the right to Revenge as a given. Ubuntu in South Africa is an example of an alternative to this cycle of vengeance we take for granted today, with a little help from Hollywood.

Nothing in the human psyche or in society is deterministic. We can all change ourselves and the world around us. It may not be easy, but it is not impossible. “Carry peace in yourself and carry it to others” means taking an active interest, in the measure of our possibilities, to effect nonviolent change, even if it is one small thing, every day. Then observe meaning grow in our lives.

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