The Imp of the Perverse

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been with us for quite some time now, a fact that very few can have failed to notice.

So far, it has spanned two centuries, been around for a period of 65 years or thereabouts, brought death and destruction to thousands and untold misery for so many more. There has already been an inordinate amount of money spent on its upkeep and the prospects of it ever ending well seem vanishingly small.

But why should this be the case? What prevents both sets of combatants and the world in general from terminating the whole affair, thereby ending its lethal legacy and allowing much more productive pursuits to take its place?

Perhaps there should be a list of the main reasons for this.

1.  It’s mankind’s ancient curse, the territorial imperative, still very much in evidence after millennia of similar conflicts.

2.   There is intense religious divergence, rivalries so strong that no power on earth can reconcile all the faiths that are in contention here.

3.   Cultural differences and the past history of the region conspire to harden hearts and cloud minds, making sound judgement a rarity and proper disposition of the matter an impossible dream.

4…Too many factions, institutions and people have shaped the conflict and have also been defined by it. Their presence continually reinforces the situation and makes the dismantling of it a task of Herculean proportions.

And, perhaps, there is one more contributing factor that should be mentioned.

5.   The extreme longevity of the dispute might indicate a deliberate unwillingness to be parted from its embrace. Does the undertaking of it then supply some special need, one not consciously acknowledged but present nonetheless?

Has an element of masochism entered into these proceedings? Is the chance to be freed from such torment somehow unwelcome; could a final release from its grip actually be resented?  And is this one more reason why every approach and initiative aimed at resolving the matter seems doomed from the very outset?

The conflict cannot now be ended because too many have become used to it, are over familiar with its presence and, in the perverse manner of men, are thus reluctant to accept its loss. If something has been around for too long, it can become so ingrained in the human psyche that preparations for its sudden departure might be looked upon with suspicion, if not outright dismay.

It might be worth calling to mind here the legend of Prometheus, chained for all eternity to his equally eternal rock. His crime was to steal the secret of fire from heaven and then entrust it to the keeping of Man. The daily visitations of the eagle, feeding upon his flesh, may have, in time, come to signify the only real relationship that he has in an existence otherwise devoid of every other meaning.

And, if one day, the eagle dies and thereafter ceases to make its accustomed appearance, will this new situation seem better or worse to poor Prometheus? What a pity that so novel an experience must forever remain without comment from its mythical captive.

However, the chains that hold millions fast to this seemingly endless conflict in the Middle East have all been devised by men and not gods.  As such, we should be capable of breaking free from them at any time.

But, perhaps, like the unfortunate Prometheus, we have all grown so accustomed to our predicament that we no longer look, hope or even wish for release. And so the chains that bind us have only grown stronger and heavier with the passage of years.

If ever we are to escape their confinement, something much sharper than any sword will be required to accomplish that purpose.

The London Olympics were officially opened in earnest yesterday, presided over by the Queen and various other dignitaries.The original Games were held in honour of Zeus, who was, by all accounts, a somewhat capricious deity. But even he was moved to provide an exit clause in his very questionable treatment of Prometheus.

Where, I wonder, is ours and do we even have one? If it is not found soon, we all stand to lose much more than medals or laurel wreaths. We may lose everything that makes life worthwhile.

The race is to the swift and the strong. But do we know how swift and strong we can really be? At this late stage in the game, there may be only one way to find out.

About the Author
Engineer, Virgo - now retired having worked 30 years in the field of medical diagnostic imaging for a major German multinational. Based in UK .