A civilized society does not deny the causes of conflict

The most backward, reprehensible cultures are those where the abuse of animals, the pollution of nature, the exploitation of children, the repression of women, and intolerance of religious, cultural and political diversity are allowed to flourish.

The world does not need reams of essays and articles on the subject; it is a very simple equation. What is not so simple is when an individual, a society, a community or even a country projects an image that may seem outwardly democratic and civilized but relies on obfuscation, ignorance and outright lies to promote a hidden agenda.

The intractable situation in Israel/Palestine is a case in point. There are good and bad people on both sides of the divide, but most commentators are happy to demonise the opposing side as a whole, in the process dehumanising a whole group of people. The horrific murder of three young Israelis has lead to waves of emotional outbursts from people who, in the first instance have a very limited knowledge of the historical background and current dynamics in the region, and secondly are clearly feeding off their own prejudices.

The easiest way to identify a hidden agenda or bigotry is when the person commenting completely ignores (or denies) any subtext to a situation, especially when conflict is involved. If you point blank refuse to include cause and effect, denying underlying facts that led to a conflict, you are not interested in a solution. You have declared a form of war for whatever selfish reason drives you. And in that cowardly selfishness lies true, insidious evil.

It is disconcerting that the same people who vehemently decried the murder of three Israeli youngsters, kept mum on the apparent revenge killing of a young Palestinian. How is one young life more important than another? As tragic and horrifying as the murders are, why keep silent about the underlying tensions that led to them? Israeli settlers are aggressively encroaching on Palestinian land in what is nothing less than a land grab, tacitly supported by the Israeli government. There is more than enough factual evidence to support that statement. For a first person account that gives some perspective without being inflammatory read MintPress founder and editor-in-chief, Mnar Muhawesh’s article, What The Media’s Getting Wrong About Israel And Palestine — And Why It Matters.

This is not just an Israel vs Palestine issue. Overpopulation and the competition for scarce resources have created a world ripe for conflict. Conflict that can be easily stirred up by those with an agenda and the means (religious or otherwise) to manipulate the ignorant, desperate masses. Watch the VICE documentary about would-be child suicide bombers in Afghanistan. Most of the boys are completely illiterate and at the mercy of mullahs who brainwash them with twisted messages supposedly from the Quran.

The world has seemingly become a more intolerant place over the past decade with a corresponding spike in cultural and religious conflict. According to the Pew Research Centre the share of countries with a high or very high level of social conflict involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, with hostilities increasing in every major region of the world except the Americas.

With sectarian conflict raging across the world, from the civil war between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions in Ukraine to the threatening genocide in the Central African Republic due to battles between Muslim rebels and Christian militias, it seems that Samuel Huntingdon’s somewhat one dimensional early 1990s prediction of a ‘clash between civilizations’ is becoming partly true. Violence has even erupted between Muslims and Buddhists in Southeast Asia, in a region not generally known for religious violence.

Why the increase in sectarian conflict? Some pundits blame globalisation that brought disparate cultures into close contact amid increased competition for resources. There may be another even more dangerous factor – the massive convergence in main stream media since the 1980s that has meant that a handful of powerful media moguls are now potentially controlling what the majority of the world’s people are watching, reading or listening to. If the most visited newspaper website in the world, MailOnline, with 12 million visitors per day, can blatantly lie about something as trivial as George Clooney’s personal life, what do you think the people who run it are going to do when a story impinges on their shareholders’ vested interests?

Of course the ignorant masses are not just limited to poor, third world countries. It is obvious from the functionally illiterate arguments of those living in relatively wealthy Western democracies how easy it is to inflame any public opinion with emotional rhetoric. There seems to be a massive disconnect between the opinions of most citizens of the developed world and their knowledge. It is obvious that a broad based dumbing down effect has stripped the average Westerner of even a modicum of historical, philosophical and geopolitical insight.

The main difference being that the indoctrinated child suicide bomber had no access to information, while hipster number three tapping away on his or her iPad, and liking or sharing the latest crap from Buzzfeed, did. So which is the greater crime? The willful ignorance and moral and intellectual laziness of the privileged that allow injustice to flourish or the violent act of a marginalised, uneducated child? Some days it’s difficult to say.