Opinion: The India Pakistan Conflict – Tribalism in the modern age and what we can do about it

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The current tension between Pakistan and India has taken over both countries. In the process, the media, politicians and social media warriors are capitalising on every opportunity to spread lies, propaganda and fake news. Today, I am not going down that rabbit hole of telling you what’s true and what isn’t. There is a larger, more important issue that needs to be discussed. War. And what it’s good for. The answer: absolutely nothing.

The topic of war and its effects can be made into a long philosophical discussion with nuanced arguments and hard facts. But, in my opinion, one fact rises above them all: during a war, human suffering is at its peak.

No matter which way you cut it, war brings out the worst in all humanity. Everyone concerned suffers psychologically and physically, maybe even the politicians or military leaders who propagate it, if I’m to give them the benefit of the doubt. As much as people like to say that even war has rules, who follows them? No matter what you do, innocent people suffer as a consequence. Some die, some mourn their loved ones or their lost property, some lose their limbs and their livelihoods. All over the struggle for power, money, resources or land determined necessary by the few most powerful people in a nation. They are the players and everyone else is a pawn to be thrown into battle and tossed aside when wounded.

The respect I give to India is its stand, in the past, to be a defensive force, most of the time. The military’s primary goal has been to protect our people instead of conquering lands or resources of another country.

That said, we have now entered a time where that protection has been taken for granted and people are calling for war against Pakistan. The Pulwama attack was horrific and tragic, and I understand the anger my countrymen feel. I feel it too. But to say the word ‘war’ is to speak from abject ignorance of the effect war has on the countries involved, especially if the countries have nuclear weapons.

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Nuclear power plays

Is it too soon for us to forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The bombs dropped on these cities shocked the world into stunned silence and a fearful peace from the sheer horror of their effect. Do you want tens of thousands of Indians and Pakistanis to be slaughtered in the blink of an eye, and millions more to slowly die with radiation poisoning, cancer and deformations? If you think we can level the opposing country and nothing will happen to us, you are sorely mistaken. War destroys everything on both sides of that imaginary line. And there’s nothing you can do on social media to stop it.

The role of the media

And the media is no less. They will hype the hell out of just one thing and make it seem like the sky is falling. In their race for viewers, they have dreamed up stories out of thin air and are spinning them as fact! Do you not realise the harm you are doing to your viewers and the public in general? Everyone has their own fairy tales they are fighting over, all because of you! People believe journalists. And that gives all journalists a responsibility to report the truth and nothing else. The crazy reporting the news channels are doing are making us the laughing stock of the world. And furthermore, misinformation is dangerous.

Misinformation & the social media

More than the mainstream media, it’s social networks that propagate the most misinformation, because there, anyone can make up stories, conspiracy theories and propaganda and share it with everyone they can reach. Nowadays, people seem to believe anything they see on social media as long as it comes from people they trust or respect. The implications of this, of course, are more far-reaching than just this topic, but we won’t go down that rabbit hole in this post.

Fortunately, this is one thing we can do something about. First, fact-check the news using the techniques I’ve described here. Make a big-ass comment about why the post is wrong, and if need be, report it. Also, check out altnews.in, it seems to be a good resource for figuring out what’s fake and what isn’t, especially regarding Indian media.

The root of war

Let’s take a step back for a second, all the way back to when we were still living in caves and little tribes in the forests. Being fearful and hateful towards other tribes was a survival mechanism. Fighting other tribes for land and resources was the only way to prosper and find fresh pastures. On the other hand, if you were being attacked by another tribe, it becomes the only way to survive.

As the human race grew, each tribe also grew to a time when tribes became kingdoms and kingdoms became nations. But our instincts remain the same even now. Whenever we look at a different tribe, we think of them as the “other”, the “outsider”. That’s why the states in India continue to divide and there’s civil unrest in the North East, in Maharashtra and other places, where people want to get rid of the “outsiders” so their tribe can live in peace.

Image Credit: https://www.tomgauld.com/

Image Credit: https://www.tomgauld.com/

And this happens all over the world in different ways - tribes are everywhere, even if we don’t consciously think about it - North Indians, South Indians, Russians, Americans, Americans, Middle Easterners, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Manchester United, Liverpool, Ireland, the UK, India, Pakistan, BJP, Congress, AAP, Conservatives, Liberals, you and your neighbours, etc etc etc.

Everywhere we look, there will always be an “other” who isn’t as cool as everyone in my tribe, who is out to get our stuff, who is just a bully, who is evil, alien, cold and devious.

Now, I’m not saying we all hold hands and heal the world as Michael Jackson wanted. That's just naive. But we need to step back and look at the big picture. We need to realise that these others we see, these outsiders, aren’t all that different from us.

Try this as a thought experiment. Look at the map of the world but try and forget the lines dividing the countries. Chances are, you’ll see how the people’s languages and cultures, and even physical features, aren’t divided by lines. Each culture fades into the next, subtly and softly. Other than a few words in the language or an accent of some sort, what else can distinguish between a Pakistani and an Indian? Or an Arab from an Egyptian? From a Briton and a Welshman? An Ethiopian and a Somalian?

The differences are subtle. The differences are beautiful.

Conclusion

I have been fortunate enough to have travelled to several countries and it has given me a perspective that I wish more people had. And one doesn’t have to travel the world to understand it either. It takes a bit of reflection. A bit of introspection. It takes a bit of empathy to know that the people across that imaginary border are very much like us in more ways than in which we are different. If the internet has done anything, it has given us all, a diverse human race from all tribes, a place to congregate and form one big tribe (offline people included).

Call me naive, call me a hippy, call me whatever the hell you want. But I know you can see some truth in what I’m saying. The people pushing for conflict are those in power who are hungry for more power, more money and more views, and you are just the pawns they are willing to throw off the board to get what they want. Don’t buy into their narrative.

Think for yourself. Put peace before war. Put life before death.