Friday, April 17, 2009

The Vietnam Experience : A few questions

This post comes a bit late, yet is very much relevant for the world we live in today. I have been traveling a bit around South East Asia lately, and War tourism was something I always wanted to do. The best start would obviously be Cambodia and Vietnam. So off I went into these two beautiful countries to explore an area which holds immense interest for me.

Why wars has been a topic of interest in the recent past, more so because of the increasingly conflict ridden world we reside in. The finest thinkers of the day have expressed themselves on the topic, with often diametrically opposite viewpoints. Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of civilizations states that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post cold war era. Amartya Sen, in his book Identity and Violence: The illusion of destiny argues that the root cause of all the violence is when people see each other with singular affiliations (Hindu or Muslim, in the Indian context) rather than having multiple affiliations. Yet another viewpoint is the one put forward by Paul Berman, in his book Terror and Liberalism says that distinct cultural boundaries do not exist in the world anymore.

But more recently, in the past 50 years, we have seen wars being fought for primarily ideological reasons. The Vietnam war was fought so that America could contain the spread of communism across the world. In their race for world domination, they have left behind a legacy which no American wants to inherit. My first stop in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) was the War Remnants Museum. I always felt the war was unjust, but the visit to the museum was all it took for me to realize that this was much worse than I thought. The next two hours I spent there made me realize what a contradiction our lives are. We fight wars to achieve peace. But is the peace we attempt to achieve, the promise of the a better and safer tomorrow, worth the human cost we pay. And I have not even begun to question the methods we adopt. Is it an inherent trait within the human race, that we can thrive only on conflict ? The hunger for power and recognition is something which has led to the doom of man, for countless centuries we have been fighting wars under some pretext or the other. These wars are fought on the pretext of national pride. Is patriotism an albatross around our neck ? I guess I have been asking far too many questions, as always. Even if nations can justify a military offensive by harping about national security, what cant they justify is the means to the end.

Looking at the pictures of the victims is something which should always make one think. What is it about power and patriotism that make an average citizen into a war supporting moron is the moot question. The pictures in the museum are a testimony of a race gone wrong, a tale of how the most intelligent species on the planet has managed to find a way to annihilate itself, how we have developed mechanisms within our society to ensure that we do not progress as a species, how we have managed to achieve what evolution, disease and hunger were trying hard to do over the past years. The destructive mentality of man and his selfishness to the core ensures that for his immediate gain, he will conveniently overlook the mayhem he creates in the process. The concept of the dignity of human life seems like something which only academicians have the time to think over. When one man decides that another one is not in his definition of mankind anymore, he forgoes all his inhibitions, turns a deaf ear to his conscience and executes a mindless act he shall repent when the adrenaline rush is long gone by. When a country decides that in order to prevail, it is wise to adopt a burn all, kill all, destroy all we must understand that we have come to a point that our so called intelligence has deserted us. When a human life becomes a mere statistic, and is treated as number devoid of all human and emotional association, when one country thinks that it she is superior than the other, and the citizens of the latter are lesser mortals, when a nation feels the need to educate, liberate or civilize another one, when one culture is seen superior to another, when the value of each life is not at par, we must understand that we are surely spiraling towards a society we never wanted. Neither we dreamed of it, we did not plan to work towards it, no one really desired it but our actions have finally bequeathed it to us. Our actions cannot be justified under any pretext as this is something that has to go beyond all cultivated intelligence. On the ground, it boils down to instinct. When spontaneity takes its course and instinct rules our actions, we must realize that we are no better off than animals. That is according to me the final downfall of our culture, civilization and our supposed intelligence.

If you were wondering what made me write such a post, you can check out the pics here. I would like to warn you that they may be a bit depressing, as a friend of mine found out.


Anirudh said...

Brilliant post.. :)

Samhita said...

beautifully expressed thoughts...

and the pics were quite depressing but so was the war...

Amlan Nanda said...

awesome post!
I think deep down, its not human instinct to collectively hate another group of human much so as to condemn them to such painful death.

The process begins with dehumanizing the deaths- collateral damage, kafir,communist,zionists and the other such euphemisms pushed by the war mongers and lapped up by the media.

Seriously Funny said...

Thoughts which should have only been obvious. Put down very succinctly. :)

Utsav Mamoria said...


Thanks man! keep dropping by


Yup, and the pics were just a small percentage of the horror on display. I couldn't take more after a point :|


True. Dehumanising does play a big role, because killing isn't easy and everyone wants to feel less guilty. The moment you feel that you haven't killed a man, life becomes easier I guess

@Seriously Funny

Unfortunately, these obvious thoughts don't cross our minds when we are witness and possible collaborators to such tragedies

Abhishek Chopra said...

Truly moving!! Can there be a practical end to this? Because there can be no clear winner at the end. :(