Is War an Important Tool in Resolving Conflict? Part 1

Material prepared for a 6th Formers Debate (in 4 parts)

 

Part 1 – A Parable

 640px-Sculpture_silhouette_Armed_Forces_Memorial cropOnce upon a time there was a school. Actually it was two schools which had been merged. Unfortunately the merger never really worked and the two original schools remained rivals even though they all worked on one site.

As time went by the rivalry became worse and there were playground fights and after school meets at which the two sides fought one another. Pupils took sides and developed fierce loyalties to the old school of their choice. As a result fights broke out during lessons and even the teachers began to take sides depending on which of the original two schools they had worked in.

Eventually the School Governors decided to legalise the fighting and actually encouraged the pupils to fight one another to settle their disputes – not just till one or the other got a bloodied nose but to the death. This made fighting an important tool in keeping class sizes small. Indeed, whenever gangs formed in the school community they too were encouraged to fight – to the death. This made violence an important tool in combating rivalry between school gangs and legitimized playground fights.

Sometimes when two pupils were in the middle of a gun fight one of them would fire at the other and miss and accidentally kill a pupil who was not involved in the dispute. The teachers reassured the pupils that this was merely collateral damage and they shouldn’t be too worried about killing innocent bystanders; after all, fighting one another to death was an important tool in resolving conflict.

From time to time the Deputy Head would give the pupils a pep talk, encouraging them to keep fit, learn the most effective ways to kill one another, and be ready to kill or be killed the moment a dispute or argument arose. If there were no particular arguments or conflicts between the pupils the Head Teacher would organise what he called ‘War Games’ and the different classes in the school would fight each other until one was defeated, no matter how many pupils died in the process.

As a result the pupils developed increasingly sophisticated weapons, graduating from conkers and bows and arrows to knives and eventually guns. The school chaplain encouraged the school orchestra to play stirring marches at assemblies at which he would give out medals to the pupils who had killed the most in that particular week and the whole school would cheer and applaud them.

Understandably some of the pupils, particularly new arrivals, were extremely distressed and upset about the way their school was being run – in fact they were terrified and scared stiff. But if they refused to fight or take part in the violence they were lined up and their fellow pupils were commanded to shoot them in cold blood for cowardice.

In spite of all the dead bodies that piled up week after week the School Governors insisted that killing one another was the best way to encourage discipline among the pupils and an important tool in resolving conflicts in the school and that the pupils would be acting quite legally as it was school policy to allow them to murder one another.

The Governors themselves never visited the school or took part in the fighting; they simply insisted that this was the best way to deal with conflict. The Prefects at this school were expected to take command in a conflict and motivate the pupils and force them to engage in murdering one another until the conflict was resolved.

You might think that no parent in their right mind would even contemplate sending their child to this school – but the parents were told that the legalised expression of violence was an important tool in building character, instilling discipline and making their child into a really tough guy. Indeed, if a child showed reluctance about being sent to this school the parents would accuse them of cowardice and if the pupil had a girlfriend she would threaten to break off the relationship unless the pupil joined up and fought for ‘his’ school along with the others.

The school chaplain assured both sides that God was on their side and gave dead pupils an impressive funeral. As the bloodshed and loss of life went on the Governors sometimes wondered if there might be a better way; but nothing ever changed, they were all too set in their ways.    To be continued…

Note: This material was prepared by the Rev’d Canon Donald Macdonald as part of his contribution to a debate for 6th Formers on the motion “In the year we commemorate the 1914-1918 war this house believes that war  is an important tool in resolving conflict between nations”.
His address is quite long and has been split into four parts which will be posted over four days.
Part 1 – A Parable
Part 2 – Lessons Not Learned
Part 3 – Violence Breeds More Violence
Part 4 – War is a Crime Against Humanity
Donald has been a member of the Green Party for over 30 years. A statement on the Green Party position on War will follow at the end of Part Four
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