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Offbeat – 25 October2013

I get the sense that we are neurologically hardwired to nurture our conflicts. It’s probably the ultimate expression of our altruism.


Nobel week is over. The peace prize went to some or other chemical weapons mob. I imagine that was a nod to the desire to have the Syrian mess over and done with, not so much what has been done. Chemical weapons seem to be out of fashion except in Syria. If there are dictators who pay heed to organisations that remove chemical weapons from the diplomatic equation then I suppose they deserve it.
I suspect, in the final analysis the prize should actually have gone to the powers who were itching to bomb the country back into the stone age. Or perhaps the news crews who spent so much time a couple of years ago showing the sort of gory end that awaits dictators.
Malala, the girl who got shot for standing up for education seemed like decent odds, but I suppose that it was inappropriate to give her the gong at her young age, and the fact that the Islamists would probably have made a point of disturbing the peace even more, had she won.
I pinned my hopes on the Congolese doctor who did the work on rape trauma. To my mind, that’s important, especially if the situation with chemical weapons can be solved with the threat of drones and huge amounts of weaponry. Pity that the doctor didn’t win.
I am not sure if there is much point to having a Nobel Peace Prize anymore though. It seems that the award is more a tribute to the act of sticking a finger in a leak in a crumbling dyke. Great stuff and top notch courage, old boy, but the fact is, the whole of the dyke will give.
No matter what the area of endeavour is, solving one problem doesn’t solve the thousands of others. There are too many different types of malcontents hanging around for a one-size-fits-all quick-fix peace thing.
I think that the next big breakthrough in the realm of peace will be a foolproof plan to live around the testosterone driven idiocy that makes a peace prize necessary in the first place. I’m dreaming. It will never happen. If conflict did come to an end, we’d all end up so bored that we would have to bicker at one another to keep our spirits high.
Here’s a case to illustrate that. An acquaintance posted on Facebook about how senseless prejudice is. Almost everyone immediately jumped in to defend his or her own prejudice, while attacking the prejudices of others.
It leads me to the point where I have to conclude that we are so fond of conflict, in this case, expressed as prejudice, that we will fight to defend it.
I get the sense that we are neurologically hardwired to nurture our conflicts. It’s probably the ultimate expression of our altruism. In order to favour the interests of others, we have to associate with them, and in order to associate with them, we have to find belonging in a group. In order for a group with common interests to form, it has to stand in contrast to groups with differing interests. So in order to be altruistic, there will be a need for conflict.
Conversely, in order for there to be peace, there has to be a conflict, which leads me to the point where I am about to advocate that the next Nobel peace prize goes to someone with highly intimidating weapons, a large army and willingness to use it. That would be the US. Or perhaps it could go to those pesky Islamists who seem to be oblivious to any threat, and keep causing the need for drones and armies.
This bit of sophism is not entirely new. It shows up repetitively in fiction. Perhaps the best of these stories is Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’, in which a superhero turned supervillain manufactures something so monstrous that most of humanity has to set aside differences to deal with the phenomenon. That’s the comic I am talking about, not the movie. The monster in the comic is much nastier than the nukes in the movie.
If peace is wanted, bring out the weapons and their threats.
Unfortunately, people who cause the need for peace don’t seem to have time to read and meditate on the significance of stories, so it looks like the Nobel peace prize will be with us for a while to come.

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