Saturday, 24 December 2011



Thousands of people walk across the new pedestrian Peace Bridge in Derry (54 degrees North, 7 degrees West) during the holiday season. The Peace Bridge crosses the river Foyle, linking a decommissioned British Army barracks with an urban expressway that cuts off the river from the city centre.

The Hegarty family in the city come to terms with the outcome of the inquest into the killing of young Daniel in 1972 by a soldier in the British Army. Relatives of the boy, dead over 40 years, still sound anguished on the local radio. They are not vengeful. They are mightily forgiving. They want acknowledgement and truth. They may get a prosecution.

In Baghdad (33 degrees North, 44 degrees West), families come to terms with the deaths caused by recent car bombs. They will still be grieving in 40 years. The legacy of grief caused by violent death in war is long. The invasion of Iraq to a) find weapons of mass destruction by delivering mass destruction as shock and awe and b) to topple a dictator by replacing him with political instability and blatant international theft will scar the people of Iraq for generations.

In Homs (34 degrees North, 36 degrees East) families face into the mid-winter festivities and the coming year with places empty at the family table. The Assad family will gather in power and wealth. Sensing threat, they will invoke their military might to further clamp down on dissent in Syria.

In Tripoli (32 degrees North, 13 degrees East) and Bengazi (32 degrees North, 20 degrees East), families will gather in relief and fear. A war is over - at least its violent phase - and they can make plans for 2012. Already the fragility of the new Libya that is emerging is evident.

The indigenous people of the Ene-Tambo (11 degrees South, 74 degrees West) river basin on the borders of Brazil and Peru know that if they pause now to celebrate they will soon have to face the predations of dam builders, logging companies, mining corporations and agri-business seed grabbers such as Monsanto. They know that their world is nothing more than a resource rich basket from which global corporations in league with central governments and urban populations will steal for profit and survival.

In 1651 Thomas Hobbes wrote The Leviathan. Quoted by Steven Pinker, Hobbes cited ‘three principal cause of quarrel’: predation, primarily of land; pre-emption of predation of others; credible deterrence or honour. Such a mix, updated to expand land to wealth in general, to include co-option with predation, to add hubris to honour and usurpation to deterrence, still applies today.

There is a mighty bridge in Isfahan (32 degrees North, 51 degrees East). The Si-o-se pol bridge was built in 1632, in Hobbes’ time, but in a different culture and place. Crossing the Zanandeh (the life giver) River, it is one of 33 bridges in one of Iran’s glorious cities. There are plans afoot to blast it and much else of Iran to pieces.

War never ceases. Walking the bridges is part of the process of opposing war. A small part. A necessary step.

Si-o-se pol bridge, Isfahan:
The Better Angels of Our Nature; book; Steven Pinker; Allen Lane; 2011

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