The Forum

Tribal Warfare: Thinking Beyond Violence

By Sarah P. Cassel, Co-Editor Long Mouth Social Forum

Imagine living your life completely without violence. You life is so devoid of violence that it is some far-off concept that “other people” engage in, but not anyone you know. Imagine never having picked up a gun or machete, never watching life cut short, never being afraid that your home may be taken over while you sleep. Imagine trusting the police and knowing that their job is to keep you safe from bad people.

This is not a dream. This is reality—for some.

Not every society is structured in such a way that allows people to live safely. With numerous law enforcement and government officials simultaneously creating and being swept away by a self-perpetuating system of corruption, the people on the ground are not left with many options. It would be irresponsible, however, to throw up our hands and leave everything—our decisions, our future, our freedom—to the will of “the system.” We cannot allow an abstract, though powerful, force to dictate our lives and set us against each other in a never-ending cycle of violent conflict.

Change must therefore begin on the level of individual families and communities, since waiting for the government to act has left people thirsting, like an arid desert, for a sign of care and attention.  Communities must invest in themselves and promote their own wellbeing—not by destroying their neighbors, but by befriending them. When one group is constantly struggling to dominate another, the single inevitable result is a perpetual exchange of power with numerous casualties suffered in between. No lasting peace can ever develop when groups fight each other for absolute dominance and give no thought to the future. The best each side can hope for is a temporary victory, which it is forced to celebrate while anxiously looking over its shoulder, knowing that a counterattack is swiftly approaching. If they wish to survive and prosper, communities must find alternative ways to resolve their conflicts, which will put aside their pride and taste for revenge.

Conflict is inevitable in every society, but violence does not have to be. We have a choice as to how we will react to an attack—perhaps not in the heat of the moment, but in the systems we create and the ideals we maintain in times of calm that will inform our future reactions. There are alternatives. Just think of the possibilities…

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