Compared to last week's French air strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali, this week—world violence-wise—has been a bit of a wash out. If it weren't for some pissed off Egyptians, Turks, and the never-ending slaughter in Syria, I'd be so bored I'd have probably paid some attention to Obama's inauguration. Then again, when I think about Obama, I think about drone wars. So that's always a plus, I guess.
Last week was a joint effort by some butthurt loyalists in Belfast, some Chilean pig murderers, and some Bangladeshi police to band together and ruin my Christmas spirit. Well, fuck you guys, because this week marks the 30th World Peace Update and the last of the calendar year, meaning nothing you can do will bum me out now. Besides Friday’s apocalypse turning Earth into a smidgen of dust. But I suppose I’ll be dead before I notice that happening anyway.
So how exactly is the planet preparing for the rapture? Some are buying tons of non-perishable food, some are hiding in underground bunkers, and some are making trips to small French villages. Others, however, are far too busy rioting at wheelchair basketball matches, brawling with their fellow members of parliament, or bombing refugee camps to give a shit.
Last week’s World Peace Update looked at the riots engulfing Slovenia, the trigger-happy Tunisian policemen who tried to blind the citizens of Siliana, and the looming possibility of Bashar al-Assad gassing what remains of his population to death with nerve agents. But Christmas is fast approaching, so the world should be gearing up to take a quick break from all the skull-crushing, right?
Not so fast, friends. While the Christmas cheer is gradually taking over my apartment and driving me mad every time I walk into any shop in central London, the loyalists in Belfast (yes, again), a few Bangladeshi politicians, and some Chilean pigs have been vying to take Scrooge’s crown as the biggest festive downer.
If you thought the spontaneous violence that took over Belfast last week (people got really angry at the prospect of flying the Union Jack at City Hall, remember?) was a one-off, then you were very wrong. Since last Monday, barricades have been set up sporadically across Belfast, followed by clashes between citizens and police, resulting in about 29 injured cops and 38 arrests. Friday saw the frenzy climaxing in a 200-strong crowd gathering near the city center to set up roadblocks and be chased by police. Cars were hijacked and set alight, causing the PSNI to deploy their water cannon to deal with the rioters.
However, the weekend was relatively quiet. I guess the loyalists needed to gather some strength before attacking that unmarked police car on Monday. (The policewoman inside the vehicle fortunately managed to escape unharmed.) The car in question was monitoring the office of Alliance Party MP Naomi Long, who, along with other Alliance members, has faced death threats for siding with left-wing party Sinn Fein in the vote to take down the flag. Politicians from both sides have been vocal about putting an end to the violence, but their calls have so far gone unheeded, with more protests set for the rest of the week. Merry fucking Christmas, Belfast.
This column has been running for 29 weeks, which is seemingly enough time to cover every single possible way people can fuck each other up. We’ve seen political parties being shut down, MTV parties being taken over by riots, strikes, revolutions, people fighting over soccer and fish… even milk being used as a weapon.
I figured I’d seen it all, but this week people from the city of Freirina, Chile fought over pig shit. Local residents fought police over the planned reopening of a pig processing plant (“processing” means systematic slaughter, btw) because of the smell that comes from hundreds of thousands of pigs wallowing in their own poop.
The government closed down the site in May after fears of a potential health risk but decided this week that all was safe now. Residents who didn’t want to be subjected to the smell once again came out in protest, blocked the roads, clashed with police, and launched raids against the plant’s guards with explosives. So I’m guessing the smell must be pretty bad.
I’ll tell you what kind of people normally are reliable, though: scientists. So when I heard that some of them from the University of Oslo and the Center for the Study of Civil War have been analyzing the history of internal conflicts across the globe to determine what the future holds for the human race—and concluded that things are set to get a lot more peaceful—I thought I should give them a call. Half because I was interested in how they decided that we’re all going to be a lot nicer to each other and half because I wanted to make sure they weren’t all idealistic hippies in lab coats.
I spoke to Håvard Hegre from the University of Oslo to find out how the world is going to get better.
VICE: Hi Håvard. Can you give me a quick rundown of your study? Håvard Hegre: Yeah, it looks at factors associated with internal conflicts within countries—stuff like past conflicts, population size, poverty, and a few other things—and relates them to projections from the UN and the IRASA in Vienna to try and foresee the future of internal conflicts around the world. When we paired the statistics, we saw that conflicts will decrease steadily in the coming years. We predict a decrease from about 17 percent of countries involved in internal conflict to about seven percent.
That sounds good. Does that mean world peace is in the cards? Well, that may be a bit optimistic. Previous studies have shown a massive decrease in violence in general, though. I do think that people will always use violence, but it’s becoming rarer and rarer in modern society compared to medieval society. But no, I don’t think that world peace is ever going to happen.
That’s a shame. I noticed that one of the factors you mentioned affecting conflict is oil—do you think that resources running out could spark a rise in violence? It’s possible, yeah. One explanation of the decline is that warfare is becoming massively costly, destroying economic links between individuals, countries, and groups within societies. Engaging in conflict puts you at risk of severing those links and losing out on money. Oil is one of the things that’s still profitable enough to go to war over, but if an alternative is found, the economic benefits of fighting for it will be greatly decreased. I think natural resources are becoming less important over time, but it’s difficult to predict.