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Make Love, Not War - Why There Is a Legal System

Updated: Mar 15

It seems to me that there is a trend to challenge the courts, to protest against the laws and the way they are implemented. All too often people claim that they are ready to take up arms, or rather, that others should do so in the service of some cause or another. All too often the people who do so have no idea of what war and violence entails.

Matthew 24:6 warns that there will be wars and rumors of war, but that we should not be alarmed. On the other hand, we read that Leon Trotsky warned: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."

I have been interested in war since my youth. I did compulsory military service and did not have much direct exposure to the sharp end of war, but my generation saw many young people permanently scarred in one way or another while fighting wars old men commanded. I acted as a peacekeeper in one conflict and lived through several other incidents of war. 

The conflicts in Africa and also in Ukraine led me to rediscover a collection of stories about war by Ernest Hemingway. Men at War published by Fontana in 1966 warns that, at the beginning of America's war with Japan, all was expected to be over in six months. The anthology goes on to recount, in the words of men who had been there, accounts of war that cannot be understood by those who hadn't been there. Of youngsters facing death in the air, in trenches and on lonely hilltops.  

A series of armed coups scoured Africa in the past months. The latest, in Gabon, has overthrown (although the outcome is not final) the long-entrenched government there. This follows on that of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. While this is not confined to Africa (there was the attempted coup in Turkiye a few years ago), there seems to be a trend at the moment, as explained in a recent paper

Dr. Kouassi Yeboua in his paper seeks to understand the causes, and concludes that, in many cases, the democratic means available to citizens are flawed, that leaders use the power of the State to remain in power without delivering the services to them that the constitutions demand. Electoral fraud and endemic corruption lead to popular support for armed takeovers, but this seldom delivers any positive results. Instead, a chain reaction of violent political change, oppression and poverty seems to follow. 

Yet we hear politicians glorifying the taking up of weapons. I recently read a call, by a Senator of Georgia, USA, to oppose proper legal process with violence and, indeed, he promised that he would take up a rifle. And this is not an isolated voice.

In South Africa a small political party preaches violence, thinly disguised. Its leader, Julius Malema, calls himself the Commander in Chief of his Ground Forces. Strong on personal adulation, the party's rhetoric harks back to the struggle against Apartheid. A similar theme is heard from the daughter of ex-President Zuma as she calls for the removal, by force, of 'Western puppets' from power.

Anthropologists speculate that society emerged when our ancestors took the trouble and time to tend to members of their group when they had medical emergencies such as broken bones. Such individuals would be a drain on the group and a liability, but the community would invest in and care for the wounded person. 

Modern societies are based on the understanding that the whole is greater than its parts. This then presupposes that there must be a system of law to regulate and govern such a society. Laws that are accepted, equitably applied and enforced with the needs of society in mind are what separate us from what early thinkers described as 'nature, red in tooth and claw.' 

Unless we are interested in violence, in war, unless we respect and apply the rules our society accepts by consensus, we are doomed to descend to the law of the jungle. 

I have been there, and I can assure you, you don't want that.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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