Twenty-five years ago the Berlin Wall, a dramatic symbol of the Cold War, was breached and then torn down. Yet, even after a quarter century, evidence of the Cold War culture permeates daily life. Regardless of policy decisions in Washington or the ongoing debate among scholars as to whether the Cold War ended or an new Cold War is beginning, evidence that many people long for the clear-cut, black-and-white days of the Cold War is easily found; days when media and governmental propaganda directed the public to the larger imperial struggle rather than at the ground level crises the Cold War policies perpetuated.
Crisis and war abound today with coverage of human tragedy and violent conflict filling the media streams, but intervention by Russia is viewed as being bad and intervention by the United States is viewed as necessary, even if some acknowledge it as a ‘necessary evil’. Cries for humanitarian assistance from those who are suffering, at times, are obscured by political tirades calling for retaliation and the placement of blame.
When World War I, The War to End all Wars, ended and the call for greater international cooperation went forth among the nations, politics stood in the way. When, after another great war, a second US president called for cooperation, the United Nations was formed. Yet, once again political rivalry and imperial competition undermined international cooperation. Under the cloud of Cold War animosity, it became evident that the United Nations could not prevent violence or war. However, despite such animosity, the United Nations became a vehicle for humanitarian cooperation. As the twentieth century wound down, there was hope that human suffering could be effectively addressed internationally even if it could not be eradicated.
The dawn of a new century violently reminded the world that there were many who preferred violence over peace. Sadly, the lessons of the twentieth century were not headed as fully as they should have been.
Isolation from the world was not the answer, nor is it ever an effective answer. No nation can become a hermit in this modern world without causing internal suffering. Military and humanitarian intervention into the crisis ridden regions of the world is a price great nations pay for the economic gains such regions provide. During the nineteenth and twentieth century, the United States expanded its trade and its influence worldwide. Time, and time again, the United States touted its right to intervene, first in the Americas and later throughout the globe. It was not the only nation to do so. The great nations of the twentieth century all benefited from the colonial and neocolonial policies that provided wealth to their citizens. The competition for resources led to war and certainly contributed to the Cold War game of Risk that dominated half a century. This competition also led to some of the turmoil of today, and is being used as justification for many of the atrocious acts of violence being perpetuated by radical power hungry groups. Yet, rather than working in cooperation to combat the human suffering that increases daily, the great nations seem to have splintered, at least if one reads the propaganda filled media accounts which focus on sensationalism rather than facts.
Has the world become more violent and less compassionate than at any other time in human history? Or is there simply greater means for news of the violence to be shared?
These questions cause me to ponder and reflect on the state of humanity and the crisis of mankind, but there is a bigger question that keeps tumbling around my head and disturbs me on a deeper level. Why would someone wish to sensationalize or embellish the already horrific levels of violence occurring in turbulent areas of the world? It is easy to understand those who wish to ignore the horrors man inflicts upon man, to deny the reality that man can be the most uncivilized of the creature of the earth. Those who hide from the ugly of mankind seek isolation and are naïve enough believe that closing their eyes in the face of danger will make the danger disappear. It is easy to understand their reasoning and their motivation, but the motivation of those who wish to make the horror worse than the evidence supports is much more difficult to pinpoint.
Do they seek to demonize the enemy? During World War II, the strategy of demonizing the enemy was key to gaining support for war. When the war was over, the hatred for the enemy was to magically disappear and the demon to become a friend. The same strategy was used throughout the Cold War. This strategy of demonization worked well for governments (even if the magic of friendship failed) and now seems to be adopted by non-governmental organizations (not necessarily a new tendency) with far reaching consequence including creating a huge volume of untrustworthy ‘news reports’ which make evaluation of world events difficult at best.
If demonization of others is the motivation, then what is goal? Certainly the issue of the worldwide violence and growing humanitarian crises is of great concern, but of greater concern is the growing push for more violence – retaliatory violence. When governments are behind the call to war, there is need for level headed evaluation and hopefully international cooperation. When the call to war comes from sources unknown or sources with questionable motives, the need for level headed evaluation and hopefully international cooperation is much greater.
Sadly, such cooperation seems to be of little value in a world which is seeking a hero, a world in which myth has replaced history and fiction replaced fact.
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