Daily Archives: 23 October 2007

Love Thy Brother (and His Beliefs)


I somehow don’t seem to manage to do too many of my blog entries without referring to the Spanish Civil War. Well, here I go again.

The Spanish House of Congress in Madrid has just passed a Law of Historic Memory (Ley de memoria histórica de España). With this legal framework, the misdeeds of the Franco regime are finally declared bad practice, even illegal. Some relatives of victims of this Spanish civil war between brothers will now be able to claim compensation, or recognition, or at least might have their dead family members unburied from mass graves, to put them to rest in a civil manner.

There was indeed a war, often between members of the same family, with wounds that are still not healed, even now, seventy years on. Perhaps the new Ley will help the healing process.

The point that I am trying to make, though, is that nothing unusual occurred in the Spain of the Thirties of the last century. Nothing, that has not occurred elsewhere as well, at other times, or that is occurring right now, somewhere, at this very moment. Just look at the American War of Independence. The Armenian genocide. Ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. The Hutus-Tutsis conflict in Rwanda. The current Turkish-Kurds conflict. The Burmese confrontation between the Military dinosaurs and the Buddhist monks. In fact, any war. Any conflict. Any genocide. Any confrontation. Any fight: a pub brawl, a football match gone wrong, a rugby match lost.

It is the old Biblical conflict of Cain and Abel, of the first and second sons of Adam and Eve.

The problem is that us humans seem to be in conflict with our brothers, our neighbours or our compatriots because of a code system that has been instilled in us from the earliest of our days, and that we seem to want to fight tooth and nail, to uphold, even at the cost of committing murder. As I say, not a problem restricted to the Spanish, but inherent to the Human race.

Each group of people, each community and each segment of society seems to establish some code of conduct, as to what is allowed and what is not, or what is desirable, appropriate, conforming, or what is to be achieved in life, etc.

You have the gender groups. You have males, females, children, adolescents. You have religious groups: Catholics, Jews, Muslims. You have desert people, city people, rural people, western people, Asian people, black people, money people, stock market people, left wing people, conservative people, students, artists, rich people, widows, gay people, punks, military people, hippies, indigenous people, Amish people, politicians, backpackers, hikers, pilgrims, religious zealots. You have the fundamentalists and the Anti-Abortionists. Mothers. The Greens. The Neo-Conservatives. And you have zillions more human categories. 

Each of those groups or communities appears to love everyone who belongs to the same group and at the same time, seems to loath everybody else who is outside of their own defining characteristics, belonging to a different group, race, creed, uniform, religion, language, code or whatever. The herd instinct, if you want. The hatred of the black sheep.

Each of these group entities conforms to the code of practice of their own particular group, it seems, and those who do not conform within that group seem to get punished by the other members of this clan or tribe, or otherwise reprimanded.

Those group code rules appear to be most vital to the members of the group that adhere to that specific code, whilst often seeming ridiculous or bizarre to other groups. 

I suppose a group conformity code even exists amongst some species or packs of animals, as well. Wolves, let’s say, for example.

A rather good and current example amongst humans is the ongoing battle of belief systems between the Western world and the Islamic world. The one world does not understand the viewpoint of the other one. Many mistakes are continuously committed by assuming that the population of the entire planet should follow the same code of behaviour as one does oneself, which is of course not feasible. The antipodals tick in different ways from the Alaskans, shall we say, and the Sunnis prefer to differ from the Shias. In fact, the Republicans differ from the Democrats, and the Labour from the Tories. Cain versus Abel, everywhere.

A telling example is a rather ridiculous photo that I saw the other day of an American pinball bowling track being newly inaugurated in Baghdad, Iraq, to bring the blessings of U. S. American values (bowling and democracy) to the underprivileged people of the Middle East.

It seems bizarre to me to think that a victim of war torn Iraq would like nothing more, right now, than to learn the rules of pinball bowling. 

To a Muslim, it also seems quite obvious that one would happily adhere to the Islamic fast of Ramadan, whereas a non-Muslim would most likely not succumb to the rigid restrains of this annual practice, or even to Western style Lent. Catholics might have adhered to Lent, a few generations ago, but do on the whole not follow this practice any longer.

Social patterns and codes seem to change, then. Some groups of society are quicker to give up on a code then others, or adapt new codes. Sexual behaviour patterns are one such code, virgin chasteness for instance. Divorce, or drug consumption, binge drinking or hooliganism, are others. 

I should think that this Cain & Abel conflict would be a very compelling phenomenon to look into at greater depth, and the problems and errors that this obviously involves. Perhaps it becomes evident, though, that this conflict also possibly provides a safety net for people who want to feel more secure as part of a group/community/family/network, or simply, herd. 

Perhaps people prefer to be wrong in union with others, rather than be right, but stand out and feel stigmatized.