12. On Ideological Internicine Wars


Historically there have been many wars between and among nations. Now and again there have also been conflicts and wars within nations. These civil wars have been just as disastrous in terms of destruction and death.
But there has arisen, in recent times, another kind of internecine war in many contexts whose potential for hurt and harm may not be fully clear. I am referring to the ideological internecine wars (IIW) that are proliferating everywhere.
I define an IIW as a conflict in which opposing parties from within a system reach such extreme positions in their ideological differences that they are constantly and vehemently at each other’s throat. The virulence of the partisans in such wars arises from the conviction that the opponents are not only wrong, but misguided, manipulated, and are threats to the well-being of the group to which all belong.
IIWs are never declared openly on a given date. They are usually the end state of conflicts that have been simmering for a long time. Invariably, they are the result of a threat (real or perceived) that the more reflective members of groups and its leaders experience vis-à-vis their nation, culture, or religion. In other words, IIW can occur on at least three different planes: political, cultural, religious.
On the political plane, political IIWs tend to develop when there seems to be an imminent threat to the very existence of a nation. When this happens, normally a nation responds (protects itself and/or attacks the enemy) militarily. However, one may not always know which other course of action one ought to take in order to assure one’s safety. Because the matter is of national survival, the proposed or adopted approaches could become drastic. When opposing views take on rigid and mutually unsympathetic positions, opposition parties in democratic countries become severe critics of one another. Gradually, disagreements degenerate into inflexible polarized positions. Usually, in a democratic system, there is only one person in total power, i.e. who has the final say on certain fundamental issues. Therefore, when a political IIW develops, that person becomes the object of the most harsh and hateful attacks by his/her opponents. Then again, since academics and intellectuals are more generally resentful of authority, they become active internecine warriors. The one hopeful element in a democratic country is that sooner or later the wielders of political power change, and the IIW may not reach a state of bloodshed. This doesn’t happen in authoritarian regimes where dictators are there to stay until they are overthrown by a violent revolution.
Many cultures in the world have been drastically affected by modernity. Whereas in the matrix of Western nations, the changes have arisen from within, countless Non-Western cultures have undergone and are undergoing significant changes as a result of friendly as well as inimical contacts with a colonizing West. Therefore, the changes that have occurred, and that are still occurring in Non-Western cultures, are not looked upon in positive terms by many within Non-Western frameworks. Cultural IIWs occur when there is a real or perceived threat to the culture, and intellectuals take opposing positions as to what is to be done about it. Essentially, one group tends to take the position that changes in culture and belief systems are inevitable, and that certain values and patterns that have emerged since the rise of modern science and the European Enlightenment are universal, while the other group maintains that science itself is a construct of an imperialistic West and that not all the so-called Enlightenment values have any relevance in non Non-Western countries. Therefore the upholders of indigenous cultures regard the others as thinkers who have been brainwashed and enslaved by the West. Thus have arisen cultural IIW in a number of Non-Western contexts.
Finally we have religious IIWs. All through the ages there have been conflicts among sects in practically all religious traditions. In centuries past, some of these led to bloody confrontations and inhuman persecutions. Usually they arose from varying interpretations of the doctrinal foundations of a religion. With greater political and cultural sophistication, intra-religious persecutions were gradually erased within the Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist traditions. When it is associated with sharing of political power or the dominance of one sect over another in a governmental context, religious IIW develops. There are ample instances of this in the current world. But here too tensions arise in religious traditions between those who call for drastic changes in the framework of the religion, if not its overthrow, and those who wish to hold on to their traditions without significant changes.
IIWs are inevitable when groups refuse to budge an inch from their respective positions. By and large, they can be dangerous because they arise from rigid irreconcilable positions, and the whole group or nation is polarized into mutually hating groups. In that state of mind, the opponent’s position is exaggerated and painted as evil, reason tends to get blurred, and solutions are hard to find.
If allowed to fester for long IIWs could result in violence and armed conflicts. Perhaps the only way to peacefully and fruitfully handle the situation is by the opposing parties sitting down together, admit that both have the overall welfare and well being of the whole group in mind, and explore ways in which each side can concede a little so as to bring about mutually respecting and helpful positions, and proceed to act together.

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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2 Responses to 12. On Ideological Internicine Wars

  1. John Mikes says:

    I would go back one step from “wars” to the military training, which is indeed an education in the perfection of skills to kill people.
    Humanity should reach the developmental level of denying all killings and not authorizing it – in fact idolize and reward murder if it is with the blessings of (any) state or religion.
    Self defence needs a threatening aggressor and such occurs only in the underdevoled primitive state we are still in. Criminal behavior must be
    educated into a noncriminal lifestyle, of which a prerequisite is a fair living standard for all with tolerance against others. Then we can start to build a better humanity.
    My dream:
    John Mikes

  2. Fergie says:

    I am very glad I found your blog on facebook. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my sister were just preparing to do some research about this. I am glad to see such reliable info being shared for free out there.
    Best Regards,
    Ab from Santa Ana city

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