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Thoughts of War, A War of Thought

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 14, 2022 15:28

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The Ukraine conflict is incomprehensible to some. It defies the logic of statecraft as we have come to know it. And yet to some it is inevitable, logical. It is an argument between the deaf. It is a war between systems of thinking.

The Economist recently carried an article seeking to explain the resilience of the Ukrainian state and people in the face of almost unimaginable challenges. "It's a Cossack thing" the subtitle explains, referring to individualism, mutual support, a sense of community. Of course the article trends to the emotional. Ukraine has, in its history, torn itself apart in many different ways. Yet there is a sort of logic behind the thought. 

Foreign Affairs, in its turn, looks at recent history: The attack on Ukraine is the third attempt, the third miscalculation of the Russian State, in taking on a smaller country and believing in its success: Finland in 1939, Korea in 1950, and now Ukraine. Why does this happen once again?

Humans understand the complexities of the world by categorizing things, events, concepts. Marxists based the system of dialectics on categorizing, on grasping the key points, the essence of things, on developing a synthesis of history and society. Watching television news, one gets the impression that the rest of the world does not bother trying to understand anything - 59 channels and nothing on is an expression I heard once. 

But thinking in categories may lead to error. Humanity is so diverse, so perverse, that it defies categorization. The chaotic, intuitive, messy, banal nature of democracies defy logic and sometimes just defies all odds, all indications that resistance against an overwhelming force will be futile. One may underestimate the opponent, having categorized him into a synthesis of inferiority. 

Recent political debates have once again raised the specter of categorization: Immigrants, black people, Liberals, people with differing sexual orientation are all attributed characteristics, categorized, assigned roles in society -- most often negative roles.

The whirlwind of rumors swirling around the present crisis, but also the Palestinian, Eritrean, Uighur and Myanmar crises, echo descriptions of peoples with diminished humanity, states that should not exist, and, the dreaded term: the final solution. 

China's 14th Five Year Plan is premised on the state leading technological and scientific research, developing a centrally planned market economy. But while this may succeed in areas where goals are clearly categorized, such as rapid rail or aircraft development, it is less certain where the will of a diffuse, chaotic market must be predicted, or where scientific and technological development takes unpredictable paths. 

The risks of categorical thinking were discovered by the Greek philosophers. While Eichmann, Hitler's henchman, claimed to be a categorical thinker the regime he represented was defeated by people, nations that thought reactively, analytically, predictively. 

The situation we have now threatens the existing international order. Two thousand years of democracy are at stake. The Cossack in us must speak up, or be put in little boxes, categories. 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on April 14, 2022 15:28

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Source: Al Jazeera
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Russia's defence ministry says the missile cruiser sank as it was towed back to port following an explosion and fire.

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