By Jimi Bickersteth
The clock on the mantelshelf struck eighteen-thirty five in the Liberian capital of Moronvia; having just arrived moments ago from its suburbs of Soglepie, Gbarnga, Janata and Edna. Was I well rested! Well, holiday – fourteen days in the last fourteen years was a marvelous antidote to the pressures of work.
Good! Thinking of what I was able to see of the country and global situation lately, do we call it a global revolution?, but I was slightly depressed with the seeming globalization of terrorism and easy accessibility of arms and munitions exhibited, and particularly, in the wake of the US longest “war to end war” in Afghanistan brazenly shown on global networks.
Now, staying up all night, I began to ruminate on world affairs. But, gutted in this instance by the memories of the aftermath of wars, conflicts, armed struggles and the costly human and material destructions in its wake, which was endless. In this nation the sights of starving children and wandering adults was an anticlimax of the orgy of violence and killings and destructions. It appalled me.
The television opposite me suddenly became boredom itself. In the stuffy room, looking at my granddaughter flouncing in her rocker, across the large window, was a line of wire fencing strung out across the dusty, barren fields. On the far side of the field, one could see a little cluster of buildings. The night was becoming hotter and I was sweating. The dust too bothered me, hanging everywhere all over the place, the one’s that had spurted up over my shoes and filled the cuffs of my trousers as I dust my feet on the foot mat made me sneeze repeatedly.
All the buildings were bleached white by the sun and rain and they seemed to sag like weary old men too tired to stand straight and too indifferent to lie down. People, orphans, widows, widowers, deformed and or maimed were standing in the various doorways, as if waiting for the red cross rations, but no!, they were merely, watching, uneasily, the endless sordid sight of poverty in the dirty and unpleasant slum. One could feel their hostile nervous looks.
In the open doors, the women stood watching, behind them, children, who peered round their mothers threadbare and dirty skirts, stared at the heavens with innocent, black infant eyes. The men lounged by the broken gates of the shacks, like advance guards, prepared to take the first shock before an attack could reach their doors.
They were a motley-crew, dirty, hard and suspicious. This was the aftereffects of war. And, one wonders at the present grand, global arms markets. A market where Buyers are confused by the sheer proliferation of armaments models and makes available, that, signposts the imminent nascent threat and fear of Nuclear Armageddon.
As I stood watching in a steady stare across the window, I thought of the proliferation of Arms and Armaments and its implications for World peace, and the seventy some years of the United Nations and its exquisitely, ill-defined role to ‘moderate’ and or ‘maintain’ world peace and its collective security.
Really, there was no association of ideas to account for the reason why I should suddenly think of the UN, in spite of the remains of devastating destruction around me. But the idea stuck. The organization’s name slipped into my mind all the same, and I immediately tried to discard the thought.
I’d rather, in the mood of realism, focus on governments, politicians and ambitious leaders, “‘that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter”‘. Leaders, who by their makeup, disposition and composition were somewhat too far away from the reality of everyday existence, the feelings, aspirations and expectations of the teeming mass of humanity and again, their realities. And, what does the world have as an end result? “Highways that lie wasted, the wayfaring man ceased. The earth mourned and languished. A world where the children are come to the birth, but there are no strength to bring forth.”
Now that the UN stuck in my mind, I saw in my mind’s eye, the clear picture of the Bible verse from the Isaiah Wall across the street from the United Nations Building in New York city: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”. But could this be true of our present world and its future! In the face of the present showoffs by arms manufacturers and leaders whose nations boast of abundance of uranium for nuclear weapons and with brilliant scientists in tow, that remained a doubtful proposition.
As I sat on watching the TV this night in this war-torn, obscure corner of the world, I saw a circle of light shown above the fan-light and the painting of an angel with wings and a halo of frizzy white hair. Why white hair? Mine is black. What little did it matter. Suddenly, around the halo, I began to see silhouettes of the sequestered United Nations, surrounded by big, soft, round octopus fangs and a thread of power in between them as if spun by an army of spiders. The result was a web in a thrilling sequence, everywhere and nowhere; in an obscurantism; deliberate, implied or otherwise, it is preventing the ‘World” from fully grasping the real essence of the mythical global organization.
It was a lot more like the struggle of science against religious obscurantism. And, yet, the darkness around me was full of the oeuvre United Nations presence and actions – in the face of the several global: a. wars of attrition, b. cold war, c. civil war, d. post wars and after wars, e. terrorism and terrorists attacks and war-torn cities around the globe, f. debilitating economy and pervasive lack and round suffering all around.
Outside, a car, one of the very few that exists in the country, went past with a noisy change of gears. I shrugged at the thought that, the efficiency, necessity and relevance of the United Nations, an organization with wats in its ears, over the Arms-market apocalypse and a proliferated arms distribution networks would make a swell title for a book.
Back to the moment, the world is not immured to the aftermath of the European War and the first World War (1914-1918) – wars that seemed not to have ended. The easy access to ammunitions by terrorist groups and gangsters always catching security operatives unawares. The availability of consignments of pump-actions, aircraft artillery, Thompsons, AK47 and Machine guns are two-a-penny and with a bullet costing less than a dollar, anyone, kids inclusive, could procure any of the assortments without getting out of bed. This has become an issue that have reached a threatening proportions, and, which must not be swept under the carpet.
The amount of arsenal in the armaments bazaars makes it look as if the world is preparing for a war. The only thing it ain’t got at the moment is someone to fight and most times the world powers who ascribes the authority to Police the world often become meddlesome interlopers outside of their shores.
In spite of its grand sovereignties, the otherwise ‘peaceful’ world has been converted into a fort full of trenches, and with the world developing a large measure of trusting little nature; the slightest of provocations could sling the global superiority-war race and the deployment of supersonic aircrafts flying at Mach two (ie twice the speed of sound), destructive arms, nuclear, chemical and biological inclusive.
The new world is one blundering into darkness as underaged boys-and-girls carry and use rifles effectively, and the staccato-crash of gunfire music to their ears. The world appreciates the inventions of military hardwares and advancement of armaments, the advanced training of its armed forces rank and file; but the very production of these and the world’s proposed use of them is threatening the continued existence of our world. To many across the globe, the present precarious situation of the world is a paradox.
The above as a background, can the world indeed be saved, or is the battle lost already. It is thought-provoking a proposition that the United Nations have, arguably, appeared to have developed a slight warp; in its paleness to the fringe of the world’s headaches, which its failing economy and the arms race is fast becoming. It was passive in the way it was going about reacting to the world, at best like a monkey with its paw in a bottle. That nothing in it inspires confidence of a failsafe world system for the future.
In this space confined op-ed, it is necessary to précis, in the abstract, glimpses of the story of its seventy-some years of existence and its continued relevance or not in world politics. One, peace, global peace had been identified since the day of yore as: a. the bedrock, and, b. the mainspring of the healthy evolution of Man and society. Two, it established that unity was a corollary of peace, in an ideal world, (with a greater political awareness – a ‘small’ global ‘village’, or what is fondly referred to as a “small world”, that was becoming more interdependent, socially and economically), it was an excellent idea.
A world filled with the memories of horrors, large-scale destructions and widespread sorrows, tears, bloods, and deaths, that was caused by the Napoleonic war and World War one, led many war-weary, tired and depleted of men and material resources European States to consider what ‘alliance’ could be made to forestalled future occurrence of a disagreement that could lead to a war of such magnitude, and were ready to accept some checks on their sovereignty. Hence, the formation of the UN in relation with a modern political structure of a ‘new world’, was healthy, welcomed and accepted.
In the search for a peaceful global confluence, the UN was birthed with lofty ideals, to: formulate and stabilise, peaceful, progress-oriented coexistence in the global relations of member nations in an heterogeneous world. However, it has always been a success story when it comes to tackling the effects of the problems of warring states not the root causes.
With the benefit of hindsight, if the UN must be continually relevant in the global scheme of things, the office of its Secretary-General should be made independent of the security council and the superpowers ‘Big vetoes’ acting from base motives, and, whose inherent absolutism, is in the politics principle that those superpowers should have powers without limit or restrictions; and, without any amendment to article 99 of the charter, such that the S-G’s office could effectively recognized any turbulent part of the world in this arms race saga and or any other infractions that may likely put the world in any upheavals and pursue appropriate and prompt actions and or necessary sanctions.
The world lose money in the process of purchasing arms, because of the age-long believe in a faint irony, and a fitting cliché, of, “if you want peace, prepare for war”. Money that should have been useful in prosecuting the global war of eradication of poverty, in a world that is a little tired and scared of a fight: and practically controlled by mass invasion of poverty.
Talking peace entails political and economic freedom. With its numerous apathy and shortsightedness and the acknowledged failings in its configuration and its favouritism to the big spending superpowers, like the UN, even the biggest trucks have load limits, and this has blatantly, exposed the UN organization.
Jimi Bickersteth can be reached on Twitter @bickerstethjimi