Thursday, 3 January 2008

Incomprehension

I'm not my usual cheery self, and it's not due to the news that my current customer wants to extend me for another year (which a few months ago would have been reason enough to send me over the edge). It's this:

A little over seven years ago, incompetent hanging, dimpled or pregnant chads caused the US election result to be disputed. This was inconvenient for Americans, who waited reasonably patiently for the result to be determined, but was the source of much amusement on the other side of the channel. Some of the jokes being made were even rather humorous - the declaration of the revocation of Independence being one of them.

The 2004 elections were similarly derided this side of the pond, initially because the "Murkans" elected the wrong guy (again), but were also criticised for more sinister irregularities in the vote, less easily dismissed as incompetence. Still, to the best of my knowledge, no-one died in the aftermath. True, service personnel and civilians are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq, and possibly in greater numbers than has they picked the other guy, but I don't recall reports of wide-spread election violence and Gore supporters going on the rampage.

Not so in Kenya. There's nothing funny about the happenings there following Mwai Kibaki's disputed victory over Raila Odinga. People are dying. This is horrific. There is no democracy in killing.

The reports we get of the violence and massacres seem to conclude that they are almost inevitable given Kenya's tribal composition. Are they? Are they any less obscene and saddening for their motivation? Or are we missing what seems to me to be the most obvious observation which is that there really is nothing excusable or inevitable about inter-tribal violence and perhaps instead of trying to explain these occurrences, we should rediscover a sense of horror and incomprehension?

13 comments:

KindaBlue said...

Ditto for Pakistan, Indonesia, Timor, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Kosovo...

But Why? said...

Kindablue,
You got it in one. Why be bothered and affected by killings when we can analyse what's going on instead?

Rob Clack said...

I'm horrified by the reports from Kenya, particularly as I have 2 very lovely cousins living in Nairobi.

Kindablue has a point, but I still think your response is apposite.

Rob Clack said...

btw that is one hell of a science pic of the day! I've never heard of paranath..panarath..paranthet..those things! Sun dogs and big faint rings around the sun, but never anything like that.

But Why? said...

Rob C,
There was something in the reporting which struck me as being extremely distasteful - almost that it was being done with an air of academic fascination and enjoyment. Striving for unbiased and dispassionate reporting is commendable, but does that really leave no room to acknowledge the tragedy of such events?

Glad you liked the paranthelic things - I love all that stuff. Mind you, I thought the picture of the water droplet on the roseleaf a few weeks back was superb, too.

Kindablue,
On re-reading my comment, I realised it could be read in more than one way - I was intending to convey my agreement with the applicability of my whinge to other conflicts, which I think is the point you were making. I seem to be thinking myself into a tizzy again...

CresceNet said...

Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é http://www.provedorcrescenet.com . Um abraço.

But Why? said...

Courtesy of Babelfish...

"I very liked this post and its blog is very interesting, goes to pass for here always =) Later gives passing back in my site, that is on the CresceNet, waits that it likes. The address of it is http://www.provedorcrescenet.com. One I hug."

Thanks, Babelfish.

Don't interpret this as a wish to be spammed in multiple languages, but hitherto I have been spammed only in Portuguese. I suppose it's a little more likely to elict a favourable response than spamming in, say, Welsh, but it'd hardly be my spamming language of choice, unless bloggers are disproportionately Portuguese or Brazilian...

Does anyone know?

trousers said...

Yes (to the post, not the spamming - I can't answer that) the reporting often does that, it kind of distances the horror since these places are far away; still it hasn't stopped me being shocked regardless of some of the seemingly inevitable inferences that are being made and the filtering that goes on.

Good post.

KindaBlue said...

No problem, I got your meaning first time round.

What irritates me about our (as in first-world societies collectively) view of conflict across the developing world is this: if the same things happened over here - people being roasted alive in church buildings, say - would we be describing it as "tribal" rivalries? Somehow I doubt it very much.

I don't mean to slip into analysis and detract from the horror and senselessness of it all, but Noam Chomsky make some very good points on issues such as this. He particularly highlights the double standards applied across the developed world - which somehow makes all of this seem more horrific.

Pixie said...

man's inhumanity to man knows no bounds. Whether tribal or religious or both someone always claims to have right on their side.
That is not justice.
it is wrong, this world is too small and delicately balanced for all this war.
pxx

But Why? said...

Trousers,
Thanks - though I do sometimes wonder if I'm just gibbering incessantly and inanely...

Kindablue,
Spot on - we wouldn't dismiss it or explain it away as "one of those things that could never happen here", we'd initially be shocked and offended by its occurence, and perhaps later begin the soul-searching to find answers and reassurance that we could prevent it. I doubt we'd dismiss reports of scores of people being incinerated in a church with a wave of the hand and a comment along the lines of, "The victims were Protestant, and such occurrences are sadly inevitable in a predominantly Catholic region following the election of a Protestant leader... "

Pixie,
It is wrong. It's very wrong. I do hope I never discover what it is that drives people to do these things to each other.

DJ Kirkby said...

Yes, why do people kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong?

But Why? said...

DJ,
It's all screwed up. Your comment reminds me of that old proverb: An eye for an eye...

An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.