Perception in Chaos: Understanding our Reactions to Conflict

Today, a series of bombs went off in Iraq, killing and injuring hundreds – marking it as the deadliest attack in Iraq so far this year. Such an event ought to shock and call for action, if only in our hearts. Yet, it was not the top story in many newspapers. If the same number of people had been affected in the same manner in a different country or circumstance, it would have screamed breaking news and demanded attention. Indeed, the significance of events is based on the perceived context and succession of prior events. This may explain how destructive trends spiral downwards, desensitizing human minds and hearts in the process.

World wars. Genocides. A Cold War era teetering on the precipice of turning our world into radioactive dust. In times of relative peace, we might reflect on how our moral standards fell so “low”. Were we held hostage by authoritarian leaders? Were we temporarily blinded or paralyzed by the suffering surrounding us? Our perception of reality is determined by the assumptions we hold. Now, imagine for a moment, a world of chaos and conflict. We would be bound to participate in and be affected by it. The loss of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people might not move a soul. Peace might be an exception, a news-worthy event. Conversely, in a world of peace and order, even an isolated violent act could stir up global consciousness. We have already seen examples of this in our lifetime. The key is to be mindful of how situations escalate. Look at the trajectory of circumstances; are they pointing towards more disintegration, conflict, and suffering? If so, it’s vital for all stakeholders to recognize this within a larger, evolving context. It demands flexibility. It’s anticlimactic. It may not result in any grand prize or recognition. It may merely serve as a humble reminder: You did the right thing and potentially averted a devastating future.