Maybe it’s Contemporary Warfare (or maybe it’s Maybelline.)

What? War? I thought we were in a time of world peace (sort of)?

And uhm… make-up? I’m confused…

Well, supposedly this is the closest we’ve gotten to world peace. Commonly referred to as ”relative peace” or ”long” peace. It’s based on the idea that war for conquest is pretty much obsolete, punitive wars are nearly gone too and all the colonial wars have ended (*cough*). This leaves civil wars, most of which have cooled down over the years. The term ”long peace” marks the time from after the second world war, to the present day, due to the absence of major (obvious) wars between the dominating powers of the period aka the USA and Russia (previously USSR). Such a long period of ”relative” peace between major powers hadn’t been documented since the Roman Empire.

Major ”in your face”-wars, the ”blowing citys into smithereens” kinda wars might be over (it’s not, major citys in various countrys in the middle east are war zones, and we’ve got groups of people immigrating en masse) but from the toning down of guns and loud air-raids, we’ve seen the rise of a new form of warfare, namely the title of the piece, Contemporary Warfare (que off-key horns).

Technically, modern warfare isn’t that new, because the term covers everything after the gunpowder revolution (c. 1300- 1650) to now lol. So… how do we narrow it down to what I’m here to focus on? Well, luckily (modern) warfare tactics are divided into 5 generations, each generations set of tactics generally influenced by whatever was relevant at the time (so like guns from 1300’s and forward vs mounts and sharp things basically every generation before that). In this piece I’ll focus on 4th and 5th generation tactics, but if this is the first time you’re hearing about any of this, here you can read about the remaining generations.

Starting with the 4th generation (4GW), these tactics are characterized by a return to decentralized forms of warfare. Meaning here it might be hard to spot who’s fighting who and when/where the actual war in taking place, blurring the lines between war, politics, soldiers and civilians. A classic example includes any war where one of the major participants is not a state/recognized government, but rather a non-state actor. If we look at the Cold War, major powers fought to regain grip over some of their previous colonies, and with the non-state entities representing said colonies lacking muscle power to fight back, other methods became essential. Movements were created, propaganda was spread, espionage, secrecy, surprise attacks or means of terror were used to fill the obvious gap in raw muscle. The tactics themselves aren’t new, you’ll see similar tactics in previous slave rebellions or anywhere else where there’s a huge power-gap.

The 5th generation (5GW) is like a semi-continuation of 4GW. They share many similarities, and since it’s under development right now the definition itself isn’t quite finished, but so far 5th generation war is characterized by the usage of propaganda and information tactics, in hopes of accomplishing strategic, operational, and tactical objectives, without measurable damage that can be identified by the target. The goal is for the target to not know they’ve been attacked, resulting in loss before the fight’s even begun. If you google 5GW you’ll be presented with a number of pieces on Al Qaeda since these tactics are most commonly associated with terrorist organisations.

5GW espoused by the likes of Al Qaeda, with aspirations of setting up alternative political systems. They’re opportunists, intent only on destruction. But even pointless violence can have a perverse logic, for the sudden, irrational destruction undermines the idea that nations are viable in the modern world.

US Army Major Shannon Beebe, Wired (magazine) 2009

Alright alright, so now I understand the current generation of warfare, when do we get to the part where you explain why we’re talking about this?

– Right about now.

I chose modern warfare as my topic this week because these same tactics are all around us, and they’re being used on the daily by several other countries, organisations and companies. Not for the sake of terrorism, but for the sake of power. These tactics aren’t terrorist exclusive, and more common than most of us might think. Let me give you an example that ties to my meme-esque title. Earlier I wrote that this generation is characterized by the usage of propaganda and information tactics, in hopes of accomplishing strategic, operational, and tactical objectives. What if the tactical objective isn’t to take your city, but to take your money? Maybe it’s contemporary warfare, or maybe it’s Maybelline, is a play on the commercial slogan ”Maybe she’s born with it, or maybe it’s Maybelline”, by the cosmetics company by the same name. Most people have heard or seen it around, if not in an actual make-up commercial, then as a meme, since the slogan gained popularity for being catchy and easily meme-able. The company’s intention might not’ve been to go viral, but it was definitely intended to be stick. Just memorable enough, so it’ll stick around to the point where when I’m trying to think of a title, this is what I crawls up from the pits of my brain. It was also most likely the culprit behind why 14 year old me (subconsciously) thought it was a good idea to buy their shitty foundation. Objective accomplished.

A lot of the people reading this now, probably have that same phrase resting in your mind. It’s not that big of a deal, I guess, just a make-up add. However, if a catchy phrase can make you subconsciously favor one brand over another, what’s saying the same can’t be done with political partys? Or decisions in referendums? Or make you leave personal information up for grabs for the ability to virtually befriend people? This is how easy it could be to push an incentive. An alternative humorous title to this piece could’ve been – Capitalism’s invisible ”war” for your monetary favor. I say humorous because calling it war sounds like a click-bait scandal.

Nonetheless, let’s get to the conclusion.

The generations of warfare tactics reflect the times during which they were developed. It might be easy to think of war as heavy guns and infantry, but that’s not what the new tactics of our generation will look like, because it doesn’t reflect the big players of our generation, which is globalization, an information overload and favoring efficiency (I haven’t even touched on the internets role really, so that’ll be a beast for another day). Weapons and muscle are always gonna be relevant, for the fear they instill and damage they do, but if you can win people over by re-wiring them to think like you, or (as a reference back to the quote) undermine the viability of their nation, people wont even notice they switched sides, you’ll win masses without bloodshed, reserve immense amounts of energy (and it’ll take less to start a war too).

The lines between fields of study are getting blurrier, as we progress into a future of less black and white areas of discipline whilst adding more gray. So, what I wanted to share with this was the value of perspective through these examples, as well as the relevance of staying up to date on things that you initially might think doesn’t concern you. The world is becoming increasingly intertwined and time waits for no one. If you’re asleep, somebody is going to make your decisions for you. Just like how that catchy commercial made my decision for me.






Interesting articles and links:

Long Peace

World Peace

Contemporary war: Ethnic conflict, resource conflict or something else?

Modern Warfare

Gunpowder Revolution

Generations of warfare

Give it back (part 3)

Alright, so we’re back at it again with the last part under this title. This time we’re talking about supremacy! Specifically white supremacy and the role it played in the history of archaeology. (Aka the role it plays in today’s debate about shadily obtained artifacts.)

First you may wonder why specifically white supremacy? Why not just supremacy alone as a concept?

Well that’s an easy one. Supremacy alone is just a term used to describe predominance, sovereignty or hegemony. It’s literally the state/condition of being superior to all others in authority, power or status. White supremacy however, is the racist belief that white people are superior to other people and therefore should be the ones in power. This birthed a system and a political ideology that perpetuates an institutional domination by white people in every field from politics to culture and history.

From the Cape to Cairo, Udo J. Keppler, 1902

So let’s zoom-in a bit,

White supremacy was absolutely booming from the 1800s to the mid 1900s. Like a real hit. We had scientific racism, race-studies, colonization, apartheid, Jim Crow Laws, the Atlantic slave trade, like there was a lot. Zoom in a little more and we hit a man named Rudyard Kipling, the biggest poet of his time who in 1899 dropped the notorious poem ”The White Man’s Burden”. For anyone that might’ve read some of my earlier posts this isn’t news to you. This poem covers part of the very essence of the ideology that is white supremacy. A desire (and excuse) to take land, raid tombs, forcefully impose Christianity and seize power. To quote an excerpt:

Take up the White Man’s burden—

    Send forth the best ye breed—

Go bind your sons to exile

    To serve your captives’ need;

To wait in heavy harness

    On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

    Half devil and half child

The White Mans Burden – Rudyard Kipling

I’ve linked it above if you’re interested in reading the whole thing, but yeah, there you have it all. The guilt, the part where they’ll receive hate from the people they’re oppressing but must stand tall, the supposed god-sanctioned raids, the ”saving” and the enslaving too.

So how does it relate to the blatant stealing of artifacts you ask?

Here’s three major ways. We’ll start from the top. First of all, colonization provides access, you go and come as you please, you’re the one in charge, you’ve claimed the land, and it’s impossible to steal from yourself so your conscience is clean. Secondly, there’s accountability, fast forward to now, your countrymen literally wrote THE law in the past, and laid the foundation then for the jurisdictional system of today so there’s nothing officially holding you accountable from that time. Thirdly, we cover the saviourism, if you validate keeping an object regardless of history, by expressing concern, claiming you’re more suitable to care for it, who’s going to argue? No one. Especially not, since you ensured it. Colonization enriched your country and crippled others, securing your country’s financial position for generations to come. Besides it’s your burden, your duty, to take it upon yourself as better equipped, to assist in this noble cause of preservation. See It’s a deadlock. A wheel that spins itself.

So what can we conclude from this?

When posed with the argument ”we’re more suited for the job so it’s our duty to help”, highlight that sending money to fund a country to accommodate an artifact also qualifies as help, and that the desire to ”step in” and ”grab hold” smells of (white) supremacy. Another option could be to assign ownership of the artifacts to the country of origin, and set up a ”loan situation” with the current country of residence, until appropriate action towards an ideal housing environment is taken. This way the country of origin can financially and ethically benefit from their own history. The countries that requested independence should be treated as equals regardless of where they’re at in their development and stepping on them isn’t the best way to further the field of history nor cultural preservation.

This part culminates the ”Give it back” piece, and so I’ll be back with something new (and old) next week.

Give it back (part 2)

Alright so let’s pick up where we left off – How the illegitimate claim of ancient artifacts acquired during the colonial-era relate to power play and supremacy. Last time we ended on the note thatWalking into somebody’s home and taking something that belongs to them is stealing, regardless of whether you were invited in or fought your way through. It doesn’t become any more yours simply because time keeps passing”. So what can prompt somebody to do this? Well let’s get into it; In this part we’ll focus on power play.

Artifacts are enriched by being viewed in their place of origin, not only does it hold a unique connection to the area where it was produced but for somebody to come view it as a visitor, the historical context would become that much clearer due to the relationship it shares with it’s surroundings. I believe that link should be honored and respected.

If the argument against this is a desire to exhibit it where as many people as possible would get a chance to visit, I’d rather we value the historical context. People are going to have to travel to see it regardless, and exposing artifacts to high numbers of tourists posses a risk and tends to damage them. As seen with the tombs of the Valley of Kings, or this coffin in a museum in England, and these are examples of things that remain in their country of origin, yet the amount of visitors haven’t gone down.

But hey, let’s get into the term itself and let’s start with the illegitimate claim (stealing) and the power play part. So what is a power play?

”A power play is an attempt to gain an advantage by showing that you are more powerful than another person or organization, for example in a business relationship or negotiation.”

http://www.collinsdictionary.com

Take the Pantheon Marbles (aka Elgin Marbles after the man who stole them) for example:

Pantheon Marbles (Temple of Pantheon, Athens) in the British Museum, London

This collection of sculptures were shipped stolen in rounds from their home in Athens to Britain between 1801-1812, under the supervision of a Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin. Bruce claimed he received an ”a ok” from the Ottoman Empire who were ruling Greece at the time. Once in Britain he was met with both support and criticism but ended up being exonerated, thus he preceded to sell the marbles to the government, who then handed them over to the museum, in which they remain today.

After gaining its independence in 1832, the Greek state began a series of projects in order to restore monuments and retrieve looted art. Expressing disapproval of Elgin’s actions as well as requesting the collection be returned. However…. they still haven’t been.

Here’s where the powerplay comes in, let’s back up a few month, it’s now February 2020 and a draft of an EU document surfaces. Here the Union suggest attaching a demand for the UK to return Pantheon sculptures to Greece to its negotiations concerning post-Brexit trade deals. To quote:

”The parties should, consistently with Union rules, address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin.”

The times of London

Regardless of how happy I’d be for this to possibly be a legit demand which could result in their return, this also serves as a juicy example of the issue at hand. Here several nations have agreed and acknowledged that Britain possesses illegally obtained artifacts which should be returned to their country of origin, yet the EU is trying to strike a deal, because legally there’s not much else they can do. These artifacts that are just supposed to be there to encourage learning and embody history (reference to my previous post) suddenly become a bargaining chips of power. So now we have both partys acknowledging the artifacts as something of great value due to their actions (Britain’s almost 200 year long refusal to return it and the EU’s Brexit demands to give it back).

The conclusion we can draw from this is that anyone that wishes to reduce this discussion to a matter of childish wonder, supposed ideal circumstances and impartial care, needs to step out the sandbox and look at it for what it is – a powerplay.

There’s real monetary value in culture, there’s influential value in owning objects of historical significance, and the people who discredit modern art, or wishes to lower modern day cultural funding, are the same people ready to fight when you speak ill of their mother ‘cause then it hits home. Some of us might’ve missed this or semi-forgotten it along the way but ultimately It’s about heritage. There is (and I cannot stress this enough) real power in knowing where you come from and owning items connecting generations back and the world leaders in my example literally just showed it to you.

If you’re more curious about powerplay amongst nations/groups of people, or wish to dig deeper in the use of this type of tactics, I recommend looking into Contemporary war/warfare or Dehumanization. However, if you’d rather it handed to you in a neat Marakulus wrapping, I’ll most likely write a piece on it in the future.

Seeing how long this got…. we’ll save supremacy for the next part lol.

Catch ya then!





Interesting links and articles:

Greece demands Elgin marbles for EU trade deal

Brexit: EU to ask UK to return Elgin marbles to Greece in trade talks