Fraught with violence, the human race resorts to it as if it was endemic and the most natural of any recourse.
Looking at a map of the world, it is difficult to find a region unscarred by a dislike, often bordering on hatred, of the other. If Ukraine is the latest phobic eruption holding the world’s attention, it is not the only one.
In Nigeria, it is north versus south, east versus west and now fundamentalists against the status quo. The latest news has a train being attacked by Boko Haram and senseless killings.
In Sri Lanka, once a peaceful island, it has been Tamils versus the native Sindhalese since the 1980s until the former were mercilessly defeated. It has led to scars and the mistreatment of Tamils. Such divisiveness without healing has its own problems, and at present Sri Lanka is suffering a severe food and fuel shortage, no doubt also due to more immediate reasons.
In India, differences are regional and geographical: West versus East, North versus South, indigenous versus mainstream, and, thanks to the ruling BJP, Hindus versus the Muslim, Christian and Sikh minorities.
Is Western Europe immune? Unfortunately not. The advertised liberal tolerance for minorities and immigrants is skin deep. To recall a conference in West Berlin … the young girl offering information on what to do and visit in our spare time told us to avoid a particular area. On further inquiry her face assumed an innocent expression of distaste as she quietly whispered, ‘the Turks, you know’. I had heard exactly the same words from a friend in the Netherlands who meant well when warning about areas of Eindhoven some two decades earlier.
The U.S. is a sad case. Slavery was followed by black segregation. Denied decent schools by the system of local property tax funding of education, African-Americans were relegated to the lower social strata often serving as domestic help.
And unwritten codes of behavior can limit professional advancement for those in corporate management. Of course civil rights legislation has improved but not completely eliminated this type of behavior. Moreover, recourse to the courts can result in the litigant being considered a trouble-maker causing further damage to career prospects.
Frustration has sometimes led to riots both in the U.S. and Britain. Yet nothing changes habits of mind or ingrained prejudice. So separate cultures develop dividing us further.
Then there are the standards of beauty impressed upon us. It leads to the increasing demand for eyelid cosmetic surgery in South Korea and nose jobs in Iran although not exclusively in those two countries.
When are we humans going to learn to accept each other as we are … in our exquisite variety? Perhaps when we do, and also learn to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than war, we will live in a world where we can work together to resolve the real existential problems facing us.