On War, after Half of a Yellow Sun

War is the most pointless thing ever, and yet it has endured for so long.

I’m sitting on a plane. I just finished reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a fictional book set in the reality of the Nigerian Civil War/Biafran War of the 1960s.

For some reason, I was almost physically touched by sadness when Olanna and Odenigbo were told that their poet friend, Okeoma, had died. It was as if I could hear Olanna’s screams in my head…

The thought that struck me and made me blink severely for a long time to stop the continually threatening tears – which eventually fell – was the pointlessness of war.

I don’t belittle the issues that cause war – patriotism, power-drunkenness, and poverty, among others more inexplicable – but I strongly condemn war. I condemn the actions that bring it about, and its effects on people; those who become the accidental casualties, the intentional fodder, the unassuming collateral.

Why do we do war to ourselves and others? I say “do war” because it seems to me to be  something we do to people, it’s not something that just happens. To say it is something that happens is to deny the gravity of the experiences of conflict and the life-long effects that it has. It’s to deny the personal-ness of war – the feeling of being in a unique hell, not assuaged by the fact that it is also a corporate one. This of course is with regards to the people who are actually victims; the effects don’t completely elude the perpetrators, it’s just not as smarting or immediate as it is for the victims.

I can’t sum up war, or its causes and effects in a page, but I do wonder… Sitting here on this plane, flying over lands, homes, families, and daily lives, I wonder. I wonder, for example, what someone will write about Syria in 30 years’ time. I wonder who will be recorded as culpable, who will be remembered as a peacemaker, and who will be said to have turned the other way “while we died”*.
* The “book within the book (Half of a Yellow Sun)” was titled, “The World Watched while we Died”.

 

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