Friday, August 22, 2008

Video Too Dark

Someone saw my first YouTube video for the Global Understanding Institute. Last night I asked her what she thought of it. She said it was very dark. She didn’t like it.

She was referring to the lighting, and also the muted and somber tone of my voice. Yes. It was very dark. Shot in the low-evening light of my apartment far past midnight. Neighbors asleep downstairs and across the courtyard.

It was supposed to be, I told her.

I was speaking about genocide, after all. Death on a nearly unimaginable scale, if World War III ever broke out.

There is a book published by Stephen Ministries entitled Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart. The title is based on the Biblical Proverbs:
Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on soda,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Proverbs 25:20

I explained to Vien there are people out in the world today who are dying. The darkness was purposeful. I was speaking to people in quiet, subdued tones because to me it was reverent and respectful. If I was all smiles and cheery, it would be disrespectful. Too cavalier. Like trying to show a whacky cartoon to people weeping at a funeral. There is a place for humor to leaven a situation that is too grim. There is a place to even tell a joke at a funeral. Yet first we must recognize the suffering around us. To give credence to the claims of violence and respond to those whose pain has gone unanswered to date.

Yes, I began grim, because to deal with the possibilities of nuclear war, genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape, racism, religious zealotry on a murderous level, terrorism caused by suicide bombings, pillaging and destruction, and all the other perverse results of human conflicts... Simply put, it will not be a light-hearted job. Even the stunning aftermath of a widespread natural disaster will be sobering for those not prepared.

This video was to first acknowledge that there is a problem. And that it must be addressed. To name the worst form it could take: the prospect of World War III occurring in the 21st century. And to posit manners in which we can help understand what causes such conflicts, and hopefully diffuse them before it can take form and overwhelm us.

“I looked back and saw the limbs of my colleagues flying through the air...

Today, listening to National Public Radio in the car en route to my various destinations, I heard the following:

• The day after President Musharraf of Pakistan stepped down from office, suicide bombers killed 67 people and wounded at least 102 at the nation’s largest arms factory.

• Russia cut off military relationships with NATO and delivered a blunt ultimatum: either side with Russia, or, if we continued to support Georgia, to face the consequences.

• Fighting in Somalia has gotten to the worst level since the end of the 2006-2007 war.

If poorly managed, this could turn into the world’s greatest nightmare scenario.

Reading deeper into the Pakistani attack than NPR covered, in this Associated Press article one discovers that over 250,000 people were displaced due to the recent government attacks against the Taliban in Pakistan. “Amid the violence, the coalition government appeared to be veering toward collapse.”

We must gravely consider the truth that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. What shall happen in the event of an outright Pakistani civil war? We are faced with the first case in human history of a nuclear-armed nation facing widespread violent internal conflict. The generally peaceful dissolution of the former Soviet Union was difficult enough to manage and mitigate. The situation in Pakistan is far more volatile.

In South Ossetia, the death toll apparently is far less than the Russians first claimed. I had heard claims of 2,000 dead South Ossetians (out of a population of 70,000). That would have been 1:35 killed. Then it was 1,600. Apparently now it is 133. An order of magnitude smaller than the Russian news sources claim; a ratio of about 1:526. Still a very significant number for a small community. It is akin to a terrible tornado hitting a rural county.

On top of that, the Canadian press reports Russia claims to have lost 64 dead, and 323 wounded; Georgia acknowledges 160 dead and 300 MIA. The Red Cross took in over 1,000 to its hospitals in Georgia.

This fight was known to be coming for months; the Russians were provocating for it. Now it has also turned into a showdown with NATO itself. Cooperation between Russia and NATO has ground to an abrupt halt, though this might have more to do with the Polish missile defense system than the South Ossetia/Georgia conflict. Yet Russian politicians are warning NATO it clearly has to choose between cooperation with Russia, or to support of the Georgian “criminal regime.” In response, oil prices sharply rose. Of course, as an oil producer, Russia does not mind this situation.

If this was not enough, fighting in Somalia has grown in intensity. It has spread past the capital across the countryside, and even out to sea, where piracy has risen its ugly head again — including the seizure of an oil tanker.

Algeria was also hit by a series of explosive attacks this week, including one bomb that killed 60 persons; Al Qaeda claimed credit for the attack.

I do not mean to be alarmist, yet I do urge immediate attention, vigilant observation and prudent deliberation, as well as to request we all ask the governments involved to not exacerbate the situation further.

My own feeling is that the breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are already lost to Georgia. The Russians are pushing for the “facts on the ground” to be acknowledged. Yet much of this situation was formented long ago. During the days of the irridentist movements and wars of the West Balkans, South Ossetia and Abkhazia began their movements to leave Georgia.

The likelihood of them being the sparking point for World War III is very, very low. Yet politicians are flirting with that sort of language. While the Christian Science Monitor is denying the possibility of Cold War II, I would argue that it has been upon us since the day the day the Berlin Wall came down. The Great Game continues.

This, again, all goes into why I shot my first video in such somber lighting and tone. I wish for you to listen to me even if I am quiet. I wish for you to see I mean no harm. Then, I wish to express my thoughts. They are indeed somewhat dark. As they should be. Yet my hopes are that we get out of the darkness and find the light of hope again.

Please make comments and let me know if you see something that needs to be pulled into this discussion.

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