Monday, June 05, 2017

In the West we solemnize the deaths of our regular troops carefully and recurrently honor the memory of the soldier who dies for his country. Yet the civilian deaths we cause are rarely mentioned, and there has been no sustained outcry in the West against them. Suicide bombing shocks us to the core; but should it be more shocking than the deaths of thousands of children in their homelands every year because of land mines? Or collateral damage in a drone strike? “Dropping cluster bombs from the air is not only less repugnant: it is somehow deemed, by Western people at least, to be morally superior,” says British psychologist Jacqueline Rose. “Why dying with your victim should be seen as a greater sin than saving yourself is unclear.” The colonial West had created a two-tier hierarchy that privileged itself at the expense of “the Rest.” The Enlightenment had preached the equality of all human beings, yet Western policy in the developing world had often adopted a double standard so that we failed to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Our focus on the nation seems to have made it hard for us to cultivate the global outlook that we need in our increasingly interrelated world. We must deplore any action that spills innocent blood or sows terror for its own sake. But we must also acknowledge and sincerely mourn the blood that we have shed in the pursuit of our national interests. Otherwise we can hardly defend ourselves against the accusation of maintaining an “arrogant silence” in the face of others’ pain and of creating a world order in which some people’s lives are deemed more valuable than others.

— Karen Armstrong, Fields of Blood - Religion and the History of Violence, 2014, p. 365

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