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Saturday Feature
Madness with reasons aplenty
Syed Fattahul Alim

          However much the reasonable and the sensible may hate war, it refuses to leave the earth. Why is war so stubborn that it will never leave humanity in peace? To put it differently, why is it that irrationality always prevails over rationality in human mind? War, which is a product of irrationality, destroys life and whatever it creates. What is the purpose of creating beautiful architectural icons, if it is meant for destruction by senseless acts of terrorism or war? War has destroyed many ancient symbols of man's creative excellence in Iraq. Terrorism has destroyed one of the finest architectural beauties of America. The latest instance of human folly in the form of war has again been unleashed in one of the oldest cradle of human civilization, Lebanon. The state of Israel has invaded this small and beautiful country with its fearsome arsenal of sophisticated, though deadly, weaponry. Israeli warplanes have been carpet-bombing southern Lebanon. Tall buildings, roads, bridges, schools, mosques, churches, UN observation posts, you name it, they are the targets of Israel's precision bombing! Why is all this madness to destroy this land of many legends? As a result of this madness, some six hundred thousand people of this country had to flee their ancestral abodes and take shelter in neighbouring countries as their homes have been destroyed by Israel's indiscriminate missile attacks, bombing from planes and shelling from canons. Another four hundred thousand people have fled to other parts of Lebanon, which Israeli planes and canons are yet to target. They have become internal refugees within their own country. Latest count on the number of deaths in Israeli bombing has already crossed the figure 400. The number wounded is around 1500. The casualty figure on the Israeli side is 50. Katyusha rockets fired by Hejbollah militias in southern Lebanon that hit the town of Haifa in northern Israel have been causing this death and destruction there. The ostensible cause that triggered this colossal human tragedy in Lebanon is abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hejbollah militias in Southern Lebanon for ransom. For two soldiers, Israel has destroyed southern part of Lebanon, killed hundreds of people, dislodged hundreds of thousands and devastated the entire physical infrastructure of the northern southern part of that country.
International community, it appears, is not much perturbed by this human tragedy. The reason is political. The USA, for instance, has vetoed any possibility of an early end to this hostility with the argument that a mere ceasefire will not end the crisis that has deeper roots. So, until a reason for durable peace is created, there is no point in pursuing the agenda of a hasty ceasefire. Moreover, there are plenty of other reasons in support of continuation of the war. For America thinks Israel has the right to defend itself and so take its time to continue its ongoing military campaign in Lebanon until proper condition of ceasefire is created. Therefore, again the reason in favour of destroying human life and settlement in a massive scale is justified for the sake of durable peace! What a fantastic application of logic to establish the irrationality of war. It is, as it were, a war of reasons to establish the reason for war! What an apology for reason to support an argument for devastation on a monstrous scale! It simply boggles the mind!
Humans are strange creatures. They sing their own praises declaring that they are the greatest creatures made by God. All other creatures have, as if, no other purpose but to serve humanity. Whatever is good on earth must therefore be useful for man. For otherwise, goodness itself would lose its meaning and purpose!
Meaning and purpose, however, are two different thought categories. Meaning is about comprehensibility of a thing, be that abstract or concrete. There are also other connotations of meaning, for example, meaning of life. But in the latter sense of meaning, it becomes identical with purpose. Then again, the question of clarity and comprehensibility is implied in the second nuance of meaning. But purpose per se is quite a different concern altogether. Because, one can be purposeful without being meaningful. Man himself is a classic example of purposefulness without meaning. Whatever man does, no doubt, he does it with a purpose. But should that necessarily have meaning? One of the most meaningless and also senseless things he has been engaged in since he descended on this earth from heaven is making war. Even war has arguments in its favour. But then arguments are but exercises in rationality used to justify actions people perform, meaningfully or not. First and foremost, war kills people and then unmakes what they make. Certainly, these are purposeful activities, but what meaning might they have? Killing opposes living, and by denying life to the members of the same species, the perpetrators of homicide deprive human life of its meaning. Nevertheless, one cannot say that the killers have no purpose. They have purpose like the soldiers and generals of the armies of great nations and heroes of revolution and their acolytes. They are all merchants of death and destruction and, of course, they belong to the category of humans who are praised, and hence, are especially famous for their strength of will, which is but the quintessential ingredient of purpose. Briefly stated, stronger the purpose or will in a person, the more value he carries in the eyes of his fellow people, because he also possesses a greater capability to destroy other people and their work of labour.
There was a philosophical movement in the latter part of the 19th century called irrationalism. The ideas of Nietzsche, Dilthey and Simmel in Germany and Bergson in France were the leading lights of this "philosophy of life." The philosophy of life negated the material basis of life and universe or, more specifically, the basis of scientific worldview. In the twenties of the of the 20th century Max Scheler and Oswald Spengler, the advocates of fascist "myth of the twentieth century" joined in to replace materialistic concept of life with an irrational stream or 'urge.' Irrationalism took the place of rationality and reason. For to them rationality could explain only dead matter, but not life, which is ever-flowing and changing and so reason kills life by its vivisection, called analysis. The philosophy of irrationalism driven by lust for life, naturally, gave rise to the lust for power and also war. For power, for its sustenance, needs war. Then killing and destruction follow as a corollary.
There were wars and their fallouts-death and destruction-before. But then people never really liked or supported wars as a matter of principle. Strangely enough, the philosophy of the urge for life turned out to be a philosophy to destroy life. Then came the first great war-the First World War- that involved the entire civilised humanity. The spate of senseless killing and destruction shattered the ideals modern man so earnestly cherished since Enlightenment.
The German philosopher T. Lessing, aghast at the demonstration of madness of civilised man in a battlefield during the First World War, wrote:
"The best symbol of history seems to me that sugar factory near Souches in Flanders which during the war, between 1914 and 1916, was fifty times captured from the French by the Germans and as many times recaptured by the French; moreover, every time several hundred men were killed or wounded and every time the survivors, now on one side, now on the other, sounded the trumpets for a great victory.; but in the end they were back to where they started from with a new battle… This senseless hell of incessant fighting for a change of power, this unending struggle of all against all for the sake of which such huge energies and talents, labour and values are expended that a mere tenth of them, placed at the service of the spirit, would be enough to turn earth into heaven-when will this torment end? What god should have revealed himself in this awful uninterrupted chain of battle places and warriors, lootings and looters' chiefs, marauders and pigs, deceived and deceived deceivers, ambitious orators and lucky soldiers who all together, like the unlucky earth itself, move only in everlasting circles?" Lessing then asks: should not history then be history conceived of as an 'alienated and alienating meaningless force?" The new philosophy of irrationalism, denying the Enlightenment ideals of reason and rationality, democracy and liberalism, thus wanted to see life through the prism of life, which again, denied life itself.
Human irrationality on a global scale was unleashed in the First World War. It again resurfaced with yet greater capacity for annihilating whatever good humanity created within two decades of that first Great War. The second Great War was the peak of human irrationality. Millions had to pay the price for human folly at its zenith.
Wars have not left the world even after those devastating experiences. On the contrary, the arguments for its continuation, and even further expansion, is growingly gaining ground. The height of irrationality is going still higher. Is then humanity heading for another catastrophe that would put the first two demonstrations of its frailty and irrationality to shame?


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