Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Social cohesion must be guarded against divisive political rhetoric

By Gwynn Mac Carrick - posted Monday, 2 June 2003


In order to analyse the ties that bind a society the best starting point is to ask the question in reverse. In asking, "What are the causes of social collapse?" we can identify what a disconnected society might look like and satisfy ourselves of the elements essential to restore a sense of connectedness.

As I proceed to deconstruct the question of social order, I do so mindful that I am attempting to explain away completely and perfectly that which no one really understands ... until they are deprived of it. That is to say, our understanding of the functionalities of society is never so acutely and profoundly grasped as at that moment when dsyfunction and chaos render the social contract meaningless.

The question of social cohesion has been a preoccupation of mine throughout my professional career, in which I have journeyed through the depths of human depravity and the incomprehensibility of mans inhumanity to man.

Advertisement

I have waded through eye-witness statements detailing heinous crimes, pored over photographs of mass-grave exhumations and studied the personal effects of casualties of war that constituted material and forensic evidence for the prosecution of war criminals - and I have wondered what led to this insanity.

I have squatted with families, in refugee camps in Bosnia recording their chilling stories - and wondered at the capacity of humans to move beyond bitterness.

I have acted as defence counsel for a militia commander on charges that were offensive to the common conscience of the world - and wondered at the human condition.

I have stood among rioters and looters and watched Dili's infrastructure go up in flames. Disavowed of any romantic notion of anarchy - I wondered what separates us from savages.

I have worked in societies fresh from the scourge of war and breathed the suffocating air laden with residual feelings of hatred, spite, antagonism, prejudice, and defensiveness hanging oppressively over all - and wondered at the little acts of kindness obvious by the unexpected relief they brought in a community where rule of law was arbitrary, if existent at all.

I have proofed witnesses for war-crimes trials and listened to their explanations of how hatred was engineered through contrived vernacular - and wondered at the effectiveness of mob oratory in inciting blind prejudice.

Advertisement

I returned to Srebrenica with a busload of widows - and wondered at the futility of war in claiming countless civilians who probably didn't even hold an opinion about the politics that had claimed them as victims.

I have cross-examined an illiterate, unsophisticated, dying woman, a victim of war, propped up in the witness box gasping for air and wincing at the pain caused by a tumorous growth the size of a football on her left side. As she humoured my probing questions about the sexual violence occasioned upon her I couldn't help wondering what she stood to gain, save for the vain hope that history may document and generations be destined never to repeat.

All the while I have returned to an abiding fascination with the philosophy of Karl Marx, in particular his construction of a "utopia" and his concomitant belief in the perfection of man. At the very foundation of his teachings were two basic assumptions.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Article edited by Ian Spooner.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Gwynn MacCarrick is a Human Rights lawyer based in Hobart. She has appeared as Defence counsel before the UN Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor, has worked with the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and in between her domestic criminal practice has taken up various postings with the UN High Commission for Refugees. Gwynn is undertaking a doctorate in international criminal law at the University of Tasmania Law School.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Gwynn Mac Carrick
Related Links
Feature: Obdience to the Unenforceable
Photo of Gwynn Mac Carrick
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy