Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Capitalism: Has it failed?

Capitalism deals mainly with having the economy as the driving indicator of success. Basically if the economy is going well so does everything else. That theory is difficult to deny until the people are no longer willing or able to continuously consume. Constant consumption is a capitalists dream and that need to consume has also brought the current economic situation to life. One factor that we must be in complete understanding of is the fact that capitalism has always been mixed with socialism. This mix has recently been a model that many countries are looking to perfect.
Working in post conflict areas, the idea of market or economic focused society is an area of great concern. However, it is not the top concern. The need for jobs is always present in every society. More importantly is the desire to be a part of society, to indulge in the composition of what makes a society vibrant, safe, fun, and adventurous. These qualities are not born out of capitalism, they transcend every and all economic theories.
There has been a slow move towards socialism as the pursuits of capitalism have wreaked havoc. In fairness the economic situation around the globe can only be blamed on the people that are operating the system of capitalism. That exact statement about the blame being on the people that operate the system, can be made about communism in the late 1980’s. It was not communism or capitalism that failed – it is us, the people that fail.
We must stop putting blame on the differing systems and focus on the true factors of social breakdown. The only factor that counts is the people who are operating the system. For years China has operated as a communist ideology which is now the powerhouse of economics in the world. Even when we look at the model of capitalism which has been the RUSA, socialist ideology sprang up during the 1930’s with the formation of unions.
Looking at the ideology of free market capitalist economies and government regulation there is the reality that a free market is not in the best interest of society. In a free market monopolies will eventually take over. This has lead governments to mandate the creation of competition by breaking up a monopoly or allowing other actors into the market.  With such examples we can see how capitalism has been practices, to a point.
There is a great desire to blame the system or use the moniker “they”. In truth there is no they, and the system is us. We are experimenting to find the perfect balance. In that effort we employ differing methods, systems and ideology. We must keep in mind that no matter what style or composition we come up with, in the end it will always come down to the people who are tasked with its operation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

peace in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya

Transformative peace in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya will take considerable effort. There is no doubt in the effort needed, what will always be an unknown is how long peace will take. There can be no timeframe set out before because there are too many variables.
It will only take one act of massive violence to dislodge months or years of peace work in any of the countries mentioned above. We often hear about the atrocities being committed by the Syrian government yet very few of the equally horrible atrocities committed by the rebels. Think about it for a moment, how do we know it was a member of the Syrian army that set off a bomb? All the rebel factions and the government forces are using the same make of weapons. Furthermore, the rebel factions are very much against each other as well. There is an internal fight for which rebel group is going to take power once the current government falls. With that each rebel group gains ground if they stage attacks on other rebel positions so that it looks like the Syrian government is the aggressor. There are just too many questions and to be answered and there is little to no trust in anyone during such situations.
Looking at Afghanistan we have known for the past year or so that complete chaos is the most likely reality in 2015. More and more news reports are coming out that indicate failure of almost every project to sustain peace in Afghanistan. Also the reports we read point to a very dire need for international forces to remain. Unfortunately that need is going to fall on deaf ears as the violence grows. The lack of political will has cemented a strong understanding in the minds of terrorist that the worlds military powers can and have been defeated. That is a terrible reality for the entire world.
In Libya, the unrest with tribal conflicts and a strong belief that the government is doing nothing has made peace very difficult. There are calls for lengthy Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, Disarmament programs still need to take place and strong political leadership has not happened. These three issues are front and centre yet there are very little solutions which the people believe in. There still exists a great distrust of all politicians and tribes which are seen as lining pockets and power hungry.
Iraq has experienced many problems since the end of the occupation. Sectarian politics has once again gripped the country as it did during Saddam Hussein. The reality is that life is more insecure today than it was 15 years ago. What is even more troubling is that there seems to be no change in the near future.
Societies are elements of life which move slowly to the requests/desires of the people, even though a society is made up of the people. Such a reality is a mind trap of understanding which usually ends with that average person being frustrated. Sometimes that frustration turns into violence. To transform a society the focus needs to be on the point where frustration is resulting in violence. That is the tipping point of peace.
Being frustrated is a positive element as it indicates a deep concern of the individual for positive results. The major obstacle in the transformation is to reach each person’s goals and time frame. Another point which is in dire need of understanding is the reality of how long peace takes. Weeks, months and years are rarely enough, even a decade is short term. For a violent society to change, the vision is for a generation of people to pass through. Still the need for strong, trusted leadership and clear vision is needed more than actual peace within the first few years after violent conflict.Even though I stated that there is no time frame, peace theory speculates that a generation of people needs to turn over for lasting peace to take root. In the cases of the countries listed above, the end date for combat/peace operations should be 2043 at the earliest.
 That amount of time will provide the people ample opportunity to build, educate and experience the transformation of society. Such a time frame will allow the people room to discuss how they want to live as country of people, not just as tribes or sectarian groups. Such a long term plan allows the people to understand who they are going to be and how they will live. Those elements are the roots of transformative peace. What we are experiencing now in the countries named is a cycle of violence.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two worlds, peace or war?

We are all witnessing the transition of Libya and Afghanistan as each struggles with the chaos of post-conflict life. For some reason, peacebuilding mission have an extreme challenge with communication as it pertains to the growth and success of peacebuilding programs.
It is not enough to build a school, have an election or even pass laws. There has to be mutual care and respect for each other. With the recent shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai is a strong indication that peace is very far away in the region where Afghanistan is. In Libya the second Prime Minister in as many months is proof that the society is still fighting for control. In each of these situations there is a strong need for communication to the average person. Even though that is well known, there exist a “catch 22”.
The catch 22 is this; the people need to experience peace in order to be peaceful, so if the larger society is not at peace how can the individual be at peace? This reality was very clear to Harold Laski during the 1920’s, “Self-expression is thwarted at the root unless the certainties we are asked to accept coincide with the certainties we experience.”[1] As the tribal/clan fractionalized societies of both Libya and Afghanistan continue to fight, that makes peace more challenging for the individual to accept.
One of the largest problems with peacebuilding is the almost insane desire to jump right into a democratic society. The task of rebuilding is an enormous one. Just taking the weapons out of the hands of the people is a challenge. At the same time you have to deal with the hatred, corruption, destroyed infrastructure and many other large scale projects. The need for immediate elections is one that I believe has been over rated.
The best thing for a country that is fresh out of a violent conflict is to be ruled with absolute safety first and that is basically a police state run by a coalition of nationals mixed equally with international donors. This is an imperfect situation but the safety of the society needs to be protected first. Part of that safety is trusting the people that are elected. In post conflict societies there have been more than enough examples of corrupt politicians. Even in peaceful countries corrupt politicians are easy to find.
Afghanistan will take decades more time to have it as a peaceful country. Libya has a greater chance of obtaining peace quicker due to the very short war which took place. However the tribal issues are similar in both countries and each carry the same prospects of destroying what little peace exist.
 Living in a peaceful society really does need everyone to believe in the peaceful society. In a conflict zones that is very difficult but it has to be accomplished, even if one person at a time. It must be well known that peace is very fragile. A person that cheats on their spouse only furthers the destruction of society, as such actions destroy respect and trust. That is how fragile peace is. “We are becoming more and more dependent on each other and let us hope this will lead to our understanding and respecting each other better.”[2]

When we look at the shooting of an innocent girl, that entire conflict should come into focus. Why that war takes place, why the thousands of girls who met with similar actions need to be defended. Furthermore we must see and understand the connections between Amanda Todd and  Malala Yousufzai. Thinking of these two girls and the torments that surrounds their lives just makes me wonder, what will it take for people to wake up and understand how fragile peace is, how destructive we can be and how mindlessly selfish we act. These two girls will most likely be forgotten within five months, which has more to do with the mentality of people today but the circumstances that surrounds them will be front and centre.
The world can be cruel but that is a personal choice. When it all comes down to answering why it is that way, take the deepest look at your own life.

[1] Laski, Harold J. The Dangers of Obedience and Other Essays. Harper & Row, 1930. Pg. 29.
[2] Fry, Douglas P. The Human potential for peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence. Oxford University Press, 2006. Pg.,247.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Is the pursuit of peace insane?

For those that live in a society where peace, order and good governance is as ordinary as the sun shine, it is difficult for those people to truely understand the ease in which chaos and hell could emerge then become the new normal. For those that live in a society where chaos and hell are ordinary the struggle for peace is almost an impossible dream. For the most part those people are correct, peace is almost impossible while forces work to ensure chaos and hell remain. Afghanistan is one such place.

Afghanistan has not known very many peaceful moments for generations. At the outset of the current war and just three years ago the political leaders of the International Security Forces were promising to remain in Afghanistan until the job was done. Now the leaders are saying the job is done, that is complete garbage and these leaders know it is.

If you can not handle the commitment do not even get involved. Why lie and decieve the people of Afghanistan into thinking they have a reliable friend when you are planning on leaving them to twist in the wind? This short sightedness and lack of courage to hold true to a commitment is indicative of society today in a great many ways. It is similar to the over used jargon of BFF, which is to be Best Friends Forever yet it is more flavour of the month. The hypocrisy is rampant and spreading fast throughout the world.

We have countries being ripped apart because the weapon makers can not stop bringing their goods into areas of combat. Furthermore, countires that speak about sovereighty, rule of law, protecting civilians and other such grand platitudes are also implicated in supporting the violent destruction of many societies, such as Syria and Iraq.

I know the popular phrase within defense circles is, "well there is not much you can do when they come on to you." This philosophy is so backward and ignorant that it just makes you wonder if peace is ever going to come to the entire world. At this moment I turn inward and let my own mind be calm even though the world around me is insane.

Such moments are when I need to walk around and see the small miracles of happiness. Children playing, smiles on those that I greet and finally to realize that I am at peace within myself. I have worked very hard to reach this state and often times people will try to take advantage of that. Even in those moments I realize that the person has no mindset to formulate any better options. As I think of that person, I relate that individual with world leaders who act with idiocy.

The world is full of complications, if it were not it would be very boring. Each person has their own path to make. I trust that everyone is doing their best to ensure that life is peaceful. However I have experienced enough to understand the impact of insanity.