Questioning War, Conflict & Violence


Author: Haile Lagi

Note: this posts covers some heavy topics, but I think you can handle it 🙂

It’s sometime around 6.00 pm, my dad just bought a new phone, my brother & I somehow simultaneously came to an epiphany of sorts, there’s an “unclaimed item” present in the home (it’s the free accessories that comes with every phone and our parents never use), see we ruined both of our earbuds and we both knew one of us was getting it, before you know it my brother shouts “dibs” but there is no way I’m giving up that easy, I haven’t listened to music in weeks…

I rush to the package and we start wrestling for it, he pins me, I counter, I pin, he counters and we both go on for a while, destroying the room before we decide without speaking this is getting us no where, we sit down and start to verbally argue – this is the bit that gets interesting – we were arguing for hours over the concept of what “dibs” means and the consequences that followed. For those unaware of what this popular and rather childish phrase means:


The importance of this episode presents itself in a disguised manner. As I reflected on what exactly we were arguing about, it dawned on me the array of fundamental concepts that were involved: Ideas of ownership, finite resources, supply and demand, economic systems, ethics and the sources of conflict.

Our argument further explored concepts of logic, validity of statements, the fallibility of memory, belief and justification. This seemingly trivial discussion of who gets what really struck a chord with me when I contemplated the cause of our wrestling match. One thing we talked about made a lot of sense, the purpose of the wrestling match was to decide whose will triumphed over the other. Seemingly obvious, but again extremely important.

Then I started to think that desire whatever it maybe and more importantly the ability to realize that desire is a major cause of inequality. Not necessarily as the direct cause but rather as a consequence of that inequality. Inequality creates strife, either by trying to right this wrong or trying to accept it, both create violence. Yet, I’m only suggesting a correlation not necessarily confining violence to inequality. To understand what causes all conflicts is tricky but I can’t help myself from asking why do war, violence and struggle exist?

It’s not the first time this question has been asked, for millennia this has haunted societies thinkers. Personally, I’ve experienced these things all around me growing up. From trivial disagreements and fights amongst my peers, to riots, bombings, people being burnt and killed, gunfire seemingly unending. I’ve seen the destruction and aftermath of violence in my home town, that was at one point declared in a “state of emergency” the feeling of not being in control of what was happening around me, being helpless, running away from my home for fear of being killed, seeing deadbodies and not fully realizing how fragile my existence was.

The reasons are many why these things happened, socioeconomic class divisions, religious intolerance, tribalism, bigotry, political social engineering, twisted ideologies, and many other reasons are causes. I believe these are symptoms of strife itself, the desire for equality, power, honor, fear, whatever reasons that are justified in a person’s mind, whatever cause that leads to action. I’m not interested in this cause or that cause and their reasons or justifications for “good” or “evil”. I’m looking for something abstract, the cause of the causes themselves.

Suppose an apparent paradox I heard from a fictional character:



To answer yes or no would be irrelevant, evil would remain. I bring up this paradox to illustrate what I understand to be the nature of conflict, it’s more contradiction than paradox. Perceived necessity causes most conflict, and this necessity is the irrationality that is the world (this is an existentialist phrase) and to eliminate conflict would be to eliminate it’s causation.

We do not desire conflict… Not really. It’s a means, a way to achieve whatever goal. And this goal (or desire or will) may be is to eliminate another conflict and in doing so conflict is needed. This is why conflict seems to constantly recreate itself through desire even if the desire is to destroy it.

Having a will is not necessarily a bad thing, not only can we not simply stop wanting things, we should want things, it’s the fundamental drive to creating the greatest works of art, achieve amazing feats in diverse disciplines, it’s us, that wish to cure cancer, that cute girl you like, all of humanity is contained in its will. Our desire is all we really have. But what I am saying is the things we desire as result of necessity can create violence, it’s not that we intentionally create it but that it’s created as a result of human nature. So you might think, it’s all the world’s fault eh?

Well not exactly, when I say the “world” or the “irrationality of the world” I’m not necessarily talking about a specific thing, it’s more of an interplay of a complfex system that brings about specific outcomes. I guess that’s the best definition I have and it’s in understanding this mad complex irrational system that I hope to uncover how to, at least theoretically end violence and conflict. But first comes understanding, to understand the problem might very well be the greatest challenge.



This is my take, I see the world around me, the conflict and chaos that is created and I wish to change it for better or worse. If you disagree or agree and  can help me understand this topic even better, or if you just have a comment, I’d love to hear from you, sharing Ideas after all is why I write, to hear all that can be said, to inspire conversation, and eventually change.

Haile is a Nigerian Student, Blogger & Contributing Writer at The Conversation Room.

You can visit his excellent blog here:

9 thoughts on “Questioning War, Conflict & Violence

  1. If conflict is a manifestation of our innate desires as human being how possible is it that it can ever be eradicated? Selfishness, vanity, solipsism, these are all human attributes and are a huge part of what causes conflict. Until we acknowledge that these attributes deprive us of peace and find a way in which to live without them. I fear humanity is doomed to an infinitum of war, conflict and violence.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. To offer another way of looking at it (this might just be Marxist) – conflict arises when a prevailing order – economic, political, ideological – develops too much uncertainty for a sub-group within the order. Order trends towards the hierarchical; these people over here who are doing very well under the current order continue to gain over those for whom the order does not work well (this will always be the case until utopia is achieved, an equilibrium of perfect, static equality – could this ever be possible?). Those with little or no power within the current order experience disorder, or uncertainty – they have little control over their lives, finding themselves increasingly at the mercy of those who prosper within the prevailing order. Inequality, as you said.
    Yup, this definitely just Marxist theory.
    But so eventually the disorder is enough to flip the system, creating a new order. This process of altering the order is known as conflict, be it through outright warfare or politics or revolts.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Conor, thanks for sharing Haile’s thought-provoking article. I found the following excerpt of special interest:

    “Then I started to think that desire whatever it maybe and more importantly the ability to realize that desire is a major cause of inequality. Not necessarily as the direct cause but rather as a consequence of that inequality. Inequality creates strife, either by trying to right this wrong or trying to accept it, both create violence.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is sort of like what Orwell speaks about in his article ‘Sporting Spirit’, when exercising your individual liberty becomes obstructive to someone else’s liberty. If we start a conversation on that, it will be chaotic because liberties have a way of getting tangled. While holding back your desire to do something might respect the other person’s liberty of not having to deal with it, it still will be a violation of your individual liberty of getting to do the thing you want. So, conflict is an inevitable part of daily existence. One might even say conflict is human, but actually, conflict is basic in all animals. Even if you are an organism that has the intelligence of a tiher

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m with you on wanting to understand violence/conflicts and all of the geopolitical and social factors that contribute to it. The more I learn about conflicts around the world, though, honestly the less I feel I truly understand. I want to insert myself more and more into world affairs, as I feel like such an outsider, playing armchair general, which is a dangerous and deeply flawed game to play.

    I feel cushioned from it all, here in the Midwest US, and the only time I really was exposed to the idea in a real way was when I was in Kenya shortly after the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi. And that was intense and confusing in itself.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this kind of stuff, it is really interesting to hear other points of view.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. You ask a number of interesting questions. Perhaps the most interesting question is to what degree one becomes the thing one hates as a strategy for defeating it.

    The United States is currently struggling with this question. It made a number of tactical mistakes after what it thought was the end of the Cold war. Perhaps the question is whether
    one can use forces that we might normally consider evil to do good.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This reminds me a bit of Joseph Campbell, the mythologist who argued that the ogre and the hero are two sides of the same coin. 🙂 Took me quite a few years to appreciate his perspective. Not sure I totally agree. But it is interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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