Those poor lost souls who won’t listen will find out for themselves after losing many more human lives trudging along that oft-traveled trail! Any road a country’s leaders choose to follow in an attempt to settle internal or external land disputes should be abandoned if it leads to periodic strife, loud saber rattling, terrorism, and destructive wars over the ownership and management of the land.
Unfortunately, the majority of the world’s leaders still insist on recognizing property rights based on arbitrary past actions by powerful political alliances that no longer have an established, meaningful power base. Violent, bloody challenges to prior arbitrary decisions about a country’s boundaries will erupt whenever a serious inequality is perceived by the landless or the excluded inhabitants. That usually happens when the aroused landless victims and their leaders are ready to die to change the status quo. (e.g. Israel.)
So, what’s the solution about territorial disputes? Trade land for peace? Expropriate land to pay for the discriminatory consequences of prior colonization? Deforest the land so that no life can exist there? Exploit the land so that a new group of daring elite humans can get rich for awhile?
All solutions that recognize the right of a provisional government to decide who can own property have led to trouble for mankind. They are just excuses for a variety of political actions hoping to stop violence caused by the landless refugees. These unhappy people won’t accept resolutions about insoluble territorial disputes. They would rather sacrifice themselves for a small share of something tangible that they probably can’t farm or manage.
Too bad, isn’t it? Should legalizing the “rights” of temporary squatters be that important? Does owning a tiny swatch of inert Earth (possibly unfit to sustain life) mean that much in the final analysis? Can humans ever be taught to share?
People own land, control land use, move the soil around, and dig under the surface. Yet they have no guarantee that someday some new political power with the force of “eminent domain” won’t come there and expropriate their “legally obtained” and “peacefully acquired” property using whatever excuse it chooses.
Who has the right to own any land? The first inhabitants, the victorious invaders, the shifty developers, the tough mortgage companies, the current national government, or the powerless individual whose name is on the title? For these temporary property rights the “legitimate” owners supposedly must pay taxes, bring any property improvements up to code, and carefully “maintain” it. Unless, of course, the owners are uncaring slum landlords or inconsiderate land speculators, or both!
The wars over land go back to the beginning of recorded history. Whenever the political power shifts inside a country or brutal invaders take over, the ownership of the best land changes hands. Tribes of savages fight over territory like animals.
The rules in the animal kingdom are simple: he or she who is the strongest challenges others of the same species who venture into the terrain marked by the dominant animal of that species. Human society has copied that modus operandi. Walk softly, but carry a big stick or a nuclear bomb. Honor the sovereign boundaries of your neighbors’ land provided that neither of you have any dreams of expansion. Defend yourself diplomatically until that fails. Then, ready the military forces for appropriate offensive or defensive maneuvers! Just don’t act in haste without considering the long term consequences!
It is frustrating for the common man-in-the-street in the U.S. to watch the political and military activity surrounding the strife in Israel, Spain, Kosovo, Tibet, Indonesia, and the whole African continent. How can Americans determine who is the “rightful owner” of some particular piece of foreign land?
As the prominent superpower that inherited the world’s unsolved problems after the abdication of our former superpower partners, the Soviets, we are in the unenviable position of playing the role of King Solomon. He didn’t want that job either and queried the Lord as reported in II Chronicles of the Old Testament of The Bible: “For who can judge this thy people that is so great?” Royal edicts about dividing up land aren’t any easier to accept for many local inhabitants than Solomon’s decree to slice a newborn baby in half was for one of the two Jewish harlots!
None of the geniuses in our nation’s capitol has demonstrated the renowned Wisdom of Solomon. Together they have run up the world’s largest debt, refused to pay dues to support the activities the United Nations, and avoided many conflicts in foreign countries like the Sudan and Somalia that might expose the lives of our voluntary military forces to unwanted danger.
Despite having at their disposal a high tech military arsenal second to none in the world, our bold politicians don’t possess the ruthlessness of a conqueror like Genghis Khan. Our timid political threats don’t automatically strike terror in the hearts of disobedient statesmen and restless leaders who have aggressive, expansionist agendas.
Today, it is politically incorrect to openly ravage another country. Any aggression terrifies the leaders of our international organizations who want peace in our time. Wars only lead to more killing, rape, slaughter, and infrastructure destruction, actions that breed hatred, revenge, and eventually some kind of terrorist retaliation.
The only safe road to the future of peaceful co-existence passes by the finger posts of tolerance, sharing, and integration. This route has many forks, and bad decisions can detour your caravan into disputed territory full of reasons to resort to the use of power, deception, discrimination, and broken promises.
The animal genes in the human creature always influence our leaders to seek the animal solution: eat before getting eaten, kill before being killed. Unfortunately, this philosophy rarely brings about what the enlightened of us generally think is best for everyone: orderly and tranquil co-habitation.
When you see all the strife in the world, it is very difficult to envision how to bring peace to bitter enemies. Most world leaders try to do this through negotiation and by carefully splitting up the land and resources. This policy usually leads to untenable situations, unintended consequences, and continued bad feelings, if not outright hatred. Not the desired long term solution! The path of least resistance eventually leads to more conflict and a return to “square one” of the famous board game called “Domination.”
Leaders don’t have to go that route, however. They could opt for the only possible way that people can live together in relative peace by trying to integrate everyone into the system. Optimistic, Utopian, naive? Of course, but a safer approach to settling long standing grievances over land.
Mentors try hard to teach “teamwork” as a method for achieving our goals in sports, business, and other group endeavors. Why not attempt to convince the members of our communities that working together pays off rather than polarized conflict? After many centuries of fruitless searching for an end to violence, hostilities, and war in the world, we have become so cynical that we believe that there is no road to a lasting, universal peace and genuine, sincere concern for each other. We end up playing Dr. Eric Berne’s game “Yes, but…” every time a solution based on common sense is suggested in an effort to build trust amongst divergent views.
The land is not ours. Most of it is owned by someone else. There are inequities, misuse of property, and deliberate fraud to expose. We must challenge those issues in a legal framework, even though we have yet to devise a totally acceptable international parliament and world court to handle trans-national issues.
Otherwise, we will return to the well tread path of repetitive failure, as we have observed in Israel, Ireland, and Yugoslavia. If government leaders continue to accept turmoil as a solution, why should we consider changing our modus operandi? Why lament the existence of periodic and territorial conflict? Why advocate laying down arms to negotiate a hopelessly flawed “peaceful” solution? Whom are we kidding? The innocent or the victims of the next violent outburst of dissatisfaction over boundaries and land distribution?
All the members of both disagreeing parties must be taught from their infancy, that aggressive behavior, physical violence, and uncontrolled emotions are counterproductive. Those gains from such behavior are illusory and temporary. That social progress should be measured in having a peaceful environment in which to enjoy the fruit of our lives and work instead of a threatening, stormy atmosphere of conflictive relations over the paucity of resources and a finite amount of land.
Our ancestors didn’t exit the jungle by continuing to fight over the few natural gifts of some undeveloped terrain. Only when we organized ourselves into friendly bands of humans working in harmony and respecting order have we made some social progress and material gains. Still, we usually ignore the small community lessons we have learned when we join others to become citizens of a large nation.
The task of overcoming historical and geographical prejudice, hatred, and bitterness throughout the world will certainly be extremely difficult, but it is the only road out of the horrible, vicious circular path of aggression, retaliation, more brutality, followed by repetition of slaughter and devastation. Integration is never an attractive proposal to those who possess the “upper hand,” who own the land, who control the wealth, and who manipulate the minds of the innocent, poor, and intimidated serfs.
Even in a democracy such as ours in the U.S., the powerless one-man-one-voters have their representation diminished by rapid population growth. In populous states, their vote is practically worthless. All the verbose misinformation published at election time makes it impossible for a voter to sort out the truth about a candidate or an important proposition. Despite the uphill battle with polarized controversy, each citizen desires to live in a country and in a culture where he or she can thrive
The long term necessity of integrating everyone has to take precedence in making short term political decisions. Since the short term consequences of integration are apt to create tough decisions for our business and political leaders, it isn’t likely that integration will have a high priority until the people themselves are sick of the terrorism, the bombing, and the killing.
The recent industrial move toward globalization will only show us unequivocally that a high priority for a totally integrated world society is absolutely necessary. Disregard for poverty and economic inequality in other parts of the world will undermine any efforts to increase the world-wide standard of living and bring about peace. Civilization needs a basic change in orientation in order to take the next step on the land-mined road to a sound, lasting peace.
Post script: The foregoing article was started as the meeting in South Africa about Racism was wallowing in vehement rhetoric between various strident factions. It was ready for editing on September 10, 2001, the day before the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York were demolished and the Pentagon Offices were attacked by terrorists using hijacked commercial jet airliners.
These nefarious acts of deep-seated hatred only prove that until all people can feel accepted into our global human society, there will be periodic attempts to “even the score” by those who believe that they have been “left out,” exploited, and despised for their beliefs. Celebrations of any horrible devastation of an enemy are unacceptable, as are any destructive acts of retribution aimed to restore a false sense of domination.
Most humans are powerless individuals seeking shelter among six billion souls on this planet. Cooperation is our only hope for peace, integration our only implement to achieve that, and caring for one another our only principle for taking action.