Humanity, evolution and the relativity of comfort

Actually I wanted to connect to my last post regarding the externalization of a search for a higher being and humans evolutionary heritage. I wanted to use the example of our desire for food (evolutionary given, easy to understand) and the agent detector (idea of evolutionary psychology) which was mentioned in my earlier post. But then I ate lunch with my in-laws and the plan slightly changed.

We sat today together to have a little “celebration lunch” of the 42nd year of their marriage. Somehow I mentioned that I personally never experienced real hunger (in order to direct the conversation to the point how sated the “rich” class on this planet is – the lack of self-discipline = connect argument-wise to the hyperactive agent detector, which also IMHO should be put into the atavism shelf).

Then the talk took a different direction (due to privacy reasons I will not publish the name of my father-in-law – I just call him “Z”, which is actually the first capital of his first name).

But to give the reader a chance to follow my quite emotional thoughts, I have to give you some background information. My wife left Sarajevo just a couple of months before the war started and the following siege of the city (1991). The rest of her family stayed in Sarajevo – and they experienced four years of war, trapped in a valley. Surrounded by a war machine.

There were the grenades, local combats and much more morally devastating the snipers. The snipers were paid in “Deutsch Marks” (DM) – a sniper got 100 DM for a man, women and children of course were just worth 50 DM. Perfidiously it was the idea not to kill the citizens – but to shoot them into their knees or hips. Because a sudden death would have been to easy. A suffering enemy has a higher value than a dead person.  And it produces medical costs for the opponents. Also the water canisters where a popular target. I feel like I have to vomit, if I try to imagine what kind of human one must be to follow this rationalization of terror.

My wife once told me that, while she was a civilian war refugee in the US, watched a TV report about the siege of Sarajevo. Suddenly she recognized that one of the snipers as one which whom she was doing skydiving in the pre-war times. I can not imagine what kind of feeling this observance must have triggered… How disillusioned one must be after realizing this sub-human morality.

But back to the lunch talk. I started/triggered the war memories by mentioning that I never experienced real hunger – I just can fairly imagine what it means. Or in other terms – once when I just moved out of my parents house I had money problems – so I had to “survive” with a certain amount of money. I was hungering for maybe one and a half day, till I got that money to buy some potatoes, onions, oil and eggs (salt and pepper was still in the house). So I can assure the reader, that I have no clue what real, lasting hunger means and does to ones moral habits. I had a well-arranged perspective – no real worries – just a personal level of pride which lead me to a point of view, where I hesitated to ask for help.

At the lunch the parents of my wife said, that they had for four years no water, electricity and safe supply of food (not to mention medical supplies). Getting to the water source meant a trip of ca. 1o km. A trip where it was not unlikely to be hit by a grenade or shot by a sniper.

*A big knot grew in my neck, listening to this daily experience*

Then he spoke about a few bizarre, almost funny incidents which I want to write down as long as the memory is fresh:

– One day, the war was still “new” and people in the city did not know how to behave in a war, Z was on the road to get some water. He saw a guy, running away from machine gun fire, holding his hands over his head. The guy said to Z: “Take care! There are machine guns!” Z said: “Don’t worry, they are from our side”. The guy responded: “From which of our  side?” 

– Z wanted to meet a guy who brought some meat for the family – so he went out, even thoug it was the “policy hour” – when everybody was expected to stay inside. But still he went out, and in the middle of a bridge that he was passing, out of the sudden, a super bright light of a UN tank put light on him – so he was SUPER well visible for the snipers. The UN soldier asked, what he was doing at that time of the night on the street – and said, that he wanted to help Z. Brilliant – by making him a target…

– Around Z’s home was the only broadcasting radio station of Sarajevo – it was in a building which was good protected from snipers and grenades. Z walked along by the building when a guy from the radio station stopped him to ask a question. Z took the time to answer the guys question. 10 to 15 seconds later a grenade exploded at the point where he would have been. So if he would have not responded to the guys question, he would have been blown away. He felt like a lucky bastard.

There are more stories that I heard, but I guess the reader gets an idea about the war experience and its absurdity.

Z said that he is actually thinking about writing about these events. But not to push the tragedy, but actually to point out the almost humorous aspects of the incidents. I want to encourage him in doing so, even so many stories and movies have been published since then. But I am convinced that HIS message should be transmitted to the next but one generation – his grandchildren (of course when they are old enough to follow this experience, maybe around 8 to 10 yrs).

As long as there is a reminiscence of war, we have to recall our ancestors memory. We have to remember what has happened to make sure, that humans never ever do this to other humans again. And we as a civilization should be angry, and develop a constructive resistance against fear, which leads to hate, which leads to war. It would be such a waste of potential, if we would end up killing each other, instead of developing our planet, while working on interstellar travel. Yup. I mean it.