The world is burning. Every day people are dying in several countries around the world due to violence, hunger, illness. Most of the time these illnesses can be cured with little effort if they would only have had the medical know-how. Hunger wouldn’t be necessary if we, the west, would share some with the rest. But violence, violence is a difficult one. I’m very much against violence (then again, who isn’t) and I’m very much against armies to. I acknowledge the fact that there are countries in the world that need an army, but The Netherlands is not one of those countries. In fact, most of the European countries do not need one. The number one reason to have an army is to look good in the eyes of United States of America. We have to have some helicopters and fighters to send to other countries because otherwise we don’t fit in the group. It’s like boys playing on the playing ground: if you don’t have the cool toys, you’re out. I’m not against the USA, but them being the most violent country in the world (does anyone contest this statement?) gives me enough reason to not really like their foreign policy. One of the most common arguments would be that we need an army not to attack but to defend those who can’t or to step in where two groups are massacring each other. Sounds reasonable, and noble and I would be in favor of an army, or ‘peace force’ if it would work. In my opinion, it does not, and it has to do with a certain mindset: ‘we, The West’ will ‘help’ them to ‘solve’ their problems. As you can see, three words are between apostrophes: the problem-words.
We, The West
First of all, there is no we in West. Ok, maybe there is but there is no unity in the countries in the West. The West is not one big group exactly thinking alike. The West is not one big group without problems. The West is a flawed group, with a lot of internal problems. for example: 15% of the Americans live without health insurance. That is an issue, if you ask me. Europe’s youth unemployment has never been higher and is not lowering. Gay and Bisexual men and women are still afraid to hold hands in our great civilization, ‘The West’. If you ask me, ‘The West’ has enough problems that need to be solved before we start sticking our nose into other conflicts.
Can we help? Can we go to a country, analyse the problem and come up with a solution? The problem here is with problem. can we know their problems? Can we understand, for example, why the Hutu and the Tutsi hate each other so much that they start chopping each other up with machetes? To me, these questions are almost rhetorical, because I think we cannot understand their problems to the fullest extend. Does that mean that we can’t help? Sure we can help, but we have to change the way we help. We cannot go there and force two fighting groups to stop, hand in their weapons and start democratic elections. We are called in by the governments for help but the country itself is not ready for it. Of course, in reality this process takes some more steps, but the idea is the same: come in, call them to a halt and tell them how to do it. Daddy stepping in, grabbing you by the ear and telling you to behave. Remember, “Big Daddy” himself is the one fighting over toys on the European Playing Ground.
Now, normally I’m good at pointing out problems without providing a solution. This time I do have one: providing an Idea instead of forcing it. Give them the ‘manual for a democratic state’, the ’10-steps-to-peaceful elections’ and the ‘peace for dummies’ and tell them: you might want to read this. And if you like it, try it out. See if it works for you.
Solving a problem is coming up with a solution to the defined problem. I think it’s fair to add that this solution should be a satisfaction to both sides. A Dutch comedian came up with a solution for the Hutu-Tutsi conflict: give one party high tech weapons and let them wipe out the other party. Sure, it is a solution. The conflict will be ended within several days. But I think we all agree it is not really an ethical way to solve a problem.
The classical problem-solving example is the problem with the orange. Two sisters both want the last orange available. How does Father solve this dispute? The obvious answer is: split the orange in 2. Sounds good right? Well it is not the best solution. If Dad would have asked, he would have found out that sister 1 only needs the inside of the orange to make juice. the second sister wants the outside of the orange for a cake. Asking provided the best solution and solved the problem perfectly.
Now we can’t possibly compare the Hutu to sister one and the Tutsi to sister two. And their problem is hardly an orange. furthermore, I doubt whether asking what they want will provide us with information to solve the problem. It is questionable whether every problem can be solved. Simple problems like the orange problem can, but the Hutu and Tutsi problem might have dimensions that we cannot simply identify and understand.
So, what is the solution for the problem that there might not be a solution? First of all, I don’t think what ‘we, The West’ do is useless. I do think that we should reconsider the way ‘we, The West’ try to help. the intentions might be good, but quite often short interventions turn into long, messy conflicts. more than once, ‘we, The West’ left a country with few improvements made. ‘we, The West’ should apply a different mindset: conflict, peace, justice, equality and democracy are no fixed blueprints, and they are not necessarily the ultimate and most desirable goal. These concepts are fluid, they can and will be reinterpreted as time goes on. That should the strategy of ‘we, The West’: inspire them to develop a form of government, a form of society, a form of peace which is best suitable for them. Consider them as brothers who are in conflict and stop pretending to be the ‘Big Daddy’. ‘We, The West’ might learn something from our brothers.
Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009.” U.S. Census Bureau. p. 22. Issued September 2010.