I had a very wonderful and intense conversation with a friend the other day. What I learned was that he was very comfortable with the belief that might makes right. The winner writes the rules and that determines what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ In particular we were talking about the Palestine/Israel conflict. He said Israel had won the war, so they got to determine the fate of Palestine and the people of Palestine had no right to resist what Israel decided. To the victor goes the spoils.
I’m also reading a wonderful book, The People of the Silence, by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear. This is the story of the Anasazi and why they disappeared from their villages. The writers are spiritual archeologists, so the books hold archeological understandings molded by the authors spiritual wisdom. This book is part of a series and they are marvelous! The Anasazi had slaves. In thinking about it I can imagine that if one tribe went to war with another and took captives, what to do with these people would be an issue. Do you let them loose? Do you kill them? Or would making them slaves make more sense? This decision would seem to be one the victor would make.
Today we have protocols about prisoners of war. Yet, even today there are issues. When the conflicting parties are unevenly matched the issue of prisoners becomes an economic one. How much of your very limited resources do you spend on prisoners? Maybe ‘accidently’ killing them is the economically feasible solution? Often it takes money to be ‘ethical’ and abide by the rules. A lack of funds becomes a ‘reasonable’ excuse to bend the rules.
The protocols about prisoners of war would suggest that there is some kind of consensus about the value of the life of another human being – even if that human being is an ‘enemy.’ Are we moving away from the ‘might makes right’ kind of thinking? What actions are ethical and moral in war? Is war even ethical? The Hunger Games seemed to explore that issue to some degree. I believe that all violence is the last resort of a failed conversation. While that might be true, what do you do with people would won’t change their minds, with people who demand things the other party is not willing to give? How do you settle disputes when one or both parties are unwilling to shift?
In systems thinking the larger system always wins. This is not a ‘might makes right’ situation, even though it may seem that way. From nature’s perspective the health of the whole take precedence – always. Thus keeping the larger system in balance, whole and healthy means that those needs come first and the smaller system have to accede. The kicker, from nature’s point of view, is that the needs of the smaller system cannot be ignored because both systems are interrelated so the health of both is mandatory.
What would happen if we looked at our disputes in this manner? Would the Anasazi have treated their captives better if they had been more cognizant of the larger picture? Perhaps they would have created a means for the captives to work for their freedom or a way for them to become fully integrated into Anasazi society? Could we devise this same kind of situation for prisoners of war? We do have the beginnings of such a situation. Could we devise some way to settle disputes with these kinds of ideas in mind and remove the need for dealing with prisoners in the first place?
Does “might make right?’ What do you think? Please leave your comments below.