Once upon a time, the known world was dominated by two great city-states. Rome and Carthago. The balance of terror between them eventually led to the total destruction of Carthago, at the hands of the Romans. Nothing else was destroyed this time. Mankind had not yet invented weapons of mass destruction.
Much later, the rivalry between (primarily) Germany and France led to a bitter world war with many millions dead. Germany was defeated, with a peace treaty designed to keep the German people down. Naturally, this led to yet another bitter world war, even worse than the first. Dividing people into faction and balancing these factions against each other only lead to more violence. It works this way on the world scene, just like it does at smaller scales.
After the second world war, we got a new balance of terror, this time between “the western world” and “the communist world”. For decades, this balance of terror held mankind at the brink of apocalypse – the third and final world war, the one that would end all life on Earth.
Dualism. A struggle between two factions. If not good versus evil, then at least black versus white or blue versus orange. We have it on every chess board, and in most other games. We have it in most books and films. It is in our culture, and it is deeply entrenched in our minds. It is so easy, comforting in a way, to see the world as one big conflict. As one big story, with one big plotline. However, this dualism is a comfort that mankind can no longer afford. We have grown to smart for our own stupidity.
Balance of terror has always been destructive. The destructive capabilities we have at our fingertips these days, however, are greater than ever. And they keep growing. We are gradually transitioning from a world with reason to fear great empires launching nuclear missiles to a world with reason to fear individual suicide bombers carrying nuclear bombs.
In this world, there are many who try to build up a new dualism. This time with “Islam” being redefined from being one religion of many, into suddenly being some kind of force destined to either be defeated or rule the world. This destructive fantasy is being perpetuated not only by those who who have totalitarian dreams of a global Islamic Caliphat ruling the world, but also by a lot of western non-Muslims who long for a new enemy – either for themselves or, in the case of former fans of the Soviet block, for the USA.
Today is the international Human Rights Day. It is also the day when The European Union receives the Nobel Peace Prize for creating lasting peace within Europe. While some critics point out that it was NATO that kept Europe safe from Soviet and that Europe kept clinging on to colonialism well into the sixties, this criticism is really beside the point. What EU did accomplish, and this is what it did get the nobel peace price for, is to defuse the whole concept “France versus Germany”. Eradicate it from the way people think of the world, probably once and for all.
Here in Jakarta, the local representatives of EU celebrated the award by holding a seminar on what regional organizations (such as EU and ASEAN) can do for promoting peace. The details was mostly about economy, but the main point was about overcoming antagonism. Moving on from a world where we fight each other to a world where we fight together for democracy and human rights.
I think the environment also got a brief mention. Could have been more. Because if people need common enemies to unite against, then global warming and other threats to the biosphere are surely among the prime candidates. Mankind need to move on from dividing itself into categories and then having these different categories of people trying to slaughter (or simply oppress) each other. Move on to facing more abstract opponents. enemies that can’t be defeated by labeling someone an enemy and then punch him in the face.