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A direction for Syria

Syria is an issue that demands new ways of dealing with conflict.  The majority of the public concede that more refugees must be accepted, a point with which the prime minister appears to also agree now.  The problem with refugees is that many consider them to have a similar effect on their destination nation as economic migrants would, so much so that the distinction between migrant and refugee has been one of the points of contention during the last few weeks.

Any government which has a major issue to deal with must seek to find the strengths in the situation rather than simply run scared from the problems.  David Cameron infamously said that the solution to the crisis was not simply to accept more refugees.  In this he is correct; the solution must go further than this.  Opportunities must be sought to help those refugees in regaining their lives and their self respect.

It has been suggested to me that training refugees in how to fight and wage a war might be a solution, so that they can return to their nation and reclaim it for themselves.  Whilst it is certain that many of them are currently unprepared for the conflict around them it is also certain that many of them are plainly not going to fit into the mold of a soldier.  If this nation were overcome by war how many of the people you know would plainly not be up to the task of fighting in the traditional position of a soldier.

Likewise, military action and airstrikes are considered to be a necessary path for foreign governments.  Military action is one of the courses that people oppose on idealistic grounds.  For many it is simply out of the question, like suggesting a cull of squirrels to a group of vegans, it is not going to be taken well.  While I do not offer opinions on potential military action I accept that it might be the chosen method of those in power and at present it might not be the time to resist that decision.

My opinion on the path to resolving the situation lies in knowledge.  Perhaps it is my past as an educator that compels me to consider knowledge to be the most important way forward, just as I would assume by brother, the military strategist, to support military action.  Different people from different walks of life will have different ideas which must be respected on the strength of their experience and specialist knowledge.  And there lies that world ‘knowledge’ again.

The people who are currently being forced out of their country bring with them a great deal of knowledge and they also need a great deal of knowledge.  They should be trained, but the training should not be in basic fighting skills.  In a nod to the military perhaps they should at least be trained in strategy and logistics, but mainly they need training in problem solving, team building, diplomacy, and other arts of gentle control.  Britain or any other nation should not be considered a final destination for any refugee.  These other nations should be considered places where they can regroup and discover methods and ways in which they might regain their homeland.

The communication that is allowed by the use of the internet will enable a political state to exist without geographic boundaries.  It is possible for people living in Berlin or London to communicate with people living in small villages in Devon.  Refugees must be aided in organising themselves as a cohesive group while also allowing them to integrate into any host societies.  The inevitable result of segregating them would ultimately be resentment on the part of hosting native populations.

While integrating with host nations, the refugees would be able to create cohesive groups to try and find solutions to their own problems without the need to rely on others to take action.  Offering them training in bureaucratic and diplomatic arts would give them more peaceful weapons to win back their homes.  In exchange they can offer knowledge of their own.  People who live in nations outside the conflict need to hear about what is happening, why it happened and what led up to it happening.  The arabic language they speak is something that more of use should grow accustomed with considering the way world politics is currently shaping itself.
This exchange of information would strengthen not only them but us as well.  While I am sure that military maneuvers may be inevitable just as David Cameron asserted the solution was not simply to accept more refugees, I assert the solution is also not simply to rely on further escalation of conflict.

Since writing this I have had my attention drawn to this additional content:  https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/14710-britains-syrian-diaspora-unites-to-build-peace-in-their-homeland .  It is uncanny how closely it connects with what I have written and is probably more worthy of being read due to the information and facts contained within.

Altruism and Materialism

The careers advisory board has revealed that young people at present prefer to seek work that will principally make a difference.  Work with a purpose greater than simply serving one’s self.  This is at odds with what the generally accepted wisdom currently is.  We have recently lived through an era marked by Thatcher’s privatisation of public services; Milton Friedman’s assertion that the greater good is best served by companies always seeking growth and the benefit of their shareholders above all else; Gordon Gekko’s ‘Greed is good’; and Ayn Rand’s philosophy that through devolution of responsibility to our own selfish interests the greater good of the whole is served by all members of society focussing on the mote in their own eye.
In a world where we are all surrounded by materialism proclaimed on every billboard, and the quest for the latest and greatest technology as soon as it is released, it seems surprising that those who are now entering the job market have their attention focussed on a more altruistic end than earning enough money to take part in the 20th century model of consumerism.  Over time a pattern has been revealed whereby times of prosperity are marked by self interest, and times of recession are marked by altruism.  Naturally the committed capitalists will cite this as evidence that self interest causes prosperity and altruism leads to recession but living through the current economic downturn it is plainly obvious that altruism is a response to the uncertainty of a world in which there is not enough to go around.
Go back further to World War 2 and we are all familiar with the tales of the blitz spirit.  As everyone was forced into terrible conditions by the constant barrage of doodlebugs sent over from Germany the city dwellers of England drew together with such bonds of camaraderie that many people have looked back fondly upon the war.  Our basic humanity will not allow us to sit idly by while others suffer.  Likewise our basic understanding of justice will not allow us to give excessive pity to those who exhibit their failure to contribute during good times because they are drunk on cheap cider in the doorways of derelict houses.  We are well able to tell the difference between those who are undeserving of poverty and those who should be able to escape it by an effort of will power.  There may be some who do not care at all about the poor under any situation and there are also those who will go out of their way to help others no matter what the situation but these are the outliers.  The vast majority of average people seem to react by helping those in need during hard times and helping themselves during good times.
It would seem that there may be something in the philosophy of selfishness, but only in times when society is running on an even keel.  When society is experiencing times of hardship then the philosophy subconsciously followed by average people is far closer to the ideals of Marx.  The pattern is observed not because people have made a conscious decision to follow one economic model or another but because it is inbuilt at the most basic evolutionary level.  If society is ok then we do not need to worry about society; we can focus on our own well being.  When society is falling apart then we had better start worrying because we live in society and society surrounds us; if society goes then we all go.  This is something with which we have had to live for millennia.  We know it is a tendency and need that has been constant for millennia because that is what is necessary to cause it to become part of our psyche.
Intellectually there may be many reasons to ignore the sea change in popular consciousness that has been recognised by the careers advisory board but it is hard to ignore the similarity with the flux of the cycle of revolution outlined by Crane Brinton in his anatomy of revolution (1938).  Without the change in thought and approach that has been shown by jobseekers the financial breakdown would lead to the organisation of the discontented before impossible demands were made on those who rule.  The shift in popular consciousness may well be a safety valve protecting this from being an inevitability.  The mass consciousness becomes a hive mentality that has evolved to seek the survival of society as a whole.
Where until recently happiness has been sought by the satisfaction of material desires the goal posts are continually moving.  It has been proven that in countries with greater economic equality there is a greater sense of happiness but in those where there is a great gap between the rich and the poor there is far greater dissatisfaction.  Satisfaction of material desire is relative.  Mankind strives to keep up with the Jones’s to satisfy their desires.  This is what the entire conspicuous consumption supporting our consumer society depends upon.  This is the greed that Gordon Gekko and more recently Boris Johnson have been telling us is good.  This is the driver that has propelled our economic success thus far.  The reason it is dying now is because it is futile.
Just as someone suffering from depression has simply given up under the futility of fighting the slings and arrows of ebbing fortune, the mass of popular society has given up on trying to reach the unattainable carrot that is being pulled further and further out of its reach.  The wealthy are now known as ‘the one per cent’.  They are separate from the rest of us and they have decided the way to maintain society’s wealth is to allow us, the 99 per cent, to have less of the wealth.  Society is no longer wasting its energy trying to reach a dangling carrot; society is scrabbling in the dirt for whatever crumbs have fallen with which it may sustain itself.  There will still be some of the poor who will attain wealth but for most people there will never be the attainment of anything close to the kind of wealth that exists within gated communities and marble towers.  For some people the attainment of enough wealth to buy a week’s worth of food is out of reach.
That is why happiness and fulfilment is being sought in altruism.  Happiness through satisfaction of material desires is no longer practicable on a societal scale.  The vox populi is singing a different tune.  The old order will either be forgotten or if the dinosaurs do not listen it may be overthrown.  Whatever happens, there is definitely change ahead.