Tag Archives: war

Carla Drift – Changes and Conflicts 2

My last year in Amsterdam I had a beautiful spring, a spring like no other. The solidified time started to flow. Never before I saw more beautiful flowers and blossoms. Nature smelled like life.

Spring flowers blossom[1]

Life beamed and I beamed back. Everything around me still was as intense as in the three years as three centuries, but the icy chill thawed and stiffness disappeared in the warmth of the spring sunshine. I floated in a golden glow. “Life is a continual death of the now” – the sentence during the solidified time – changed in:

For our Self is
making and destroying one
and the same act

Sun shining in a cave


In the following summer and autumn I resumed my normal life. I still miss the intensity and the endlessness of the here and now.

The thesis for my study Humanities was “Preventing excesses during change and conflict”. The first part dealt with the circumstances in which excesses preferably manifest itself; the second part described the factors that have a damping effect on the occurrence of excesses.

Almost all changes pass silently. These silent changes are like breathing, blinking of the eyes or turning the head. The reason for the change can be reading the newspaper, seeing a picture or hearing a story. Afterwards our world is never the same. This kind of change is as natural as life itself.

The subject of my thesis focused on changes that cause tensions. In this post a few aspects of my thesis.

As starting point for the research I chose seven different perspectives for studying changes.

The first angle covered the scope of the change. The scope of the (directly attributable) impacts of the change – and the tensions it can cause – can vary from one individual, one family, one community, one city, one country, one continent, the world or the universe.

The second angle covered the intensity, strength and intensity of change. The severity and intensity can vary from a small ripple in existence to a tremendous event changing a whole life.

The third angle was the period in which the change took place. The duration can vary from a shock of impact of a large meteor or the explosion of the volcano on the island of Krakatoa in 1883 [3]. The effects of these explosions and impacts are still felt many years later, and can erase societies. Other changes have a long lead time: e.g. the onset of World War II or the introduction of literacy in Western society.

The fourth angle include tensions caused by changes of human needs. Here I used the hierarchy of needs by Maslow [4] where I divided the fifth hierarchy into three separate hierarchies: the need for knowledge, the need for religion and the need for self-realization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a model for human needs ranging from Self-preservation to Self-realization. Our Odyssey to “Who are you” is a quest for the Self in all its immensity and finiteness – we encounter Maslow’s model at a number of stage during our Odyssey. Tensions can manifest themselves in transitions from one hierarchy to another hierarchy – human growth is often accompanied by shocks. Tensions also occur in regression of needs by changing circumstances such as famine, insecurity, hardened conditions, attacks on the honour and/or obstruction of freedom of speech, of expression, creativity, religion and/or self-actualization.


The fifth angle included the stage of development of society. Generally a hunter-gatherer society has less resources for extreme violence then a highly developed agricultural/industrial society with a huge reservoir of surplus in people, food, resources and knowledge.

The sixth angle related to the degree of social stratification within a society [5]. With an extremely stratified society, the role of absolute ruler – for example, a pharaoh or emperor – is all decisive. In an oligarchy group, a dynamic process within the small ruling class is decisive. A non-stratified society has its own – for people seemingly chaotic – dynamics. Further analysis shows that this kind dynamics can often be displayed in a few parameters, but around bifurcation-points the outcome is very dependent on tiny trivial coincidences. Many people feel insecure in chaotic processes: quickly a demand for leadership arises.

The seventh angle was the manner in which changes and tensions are handled. This seventh angle represents the response of individuals, groups and/or society to changes/tensions. The reaction can range from ignorance, acceptance, compassion, objection, anger and/or resistance. This seventh angle was mainly covered in the second part of my thesis, where I discussed the factors that had a damping effect on the occurrence of excesses.

A full description and study of these seven angles was not possible within the framework of my thesis. These seven points of view were used in a case study covering the changes and tensions caused by men who only defended their habitat, via an initial growth of mankind – caused by better food – resulting in a surplus of men who temporarily moved around as brethren looking for self-affirmation by conquests, via a second growth of mankind – by further specialization in society – with men living in wandering armies who made fighting their profession, via a third growth – by increasing prosperity – with permanent armed forces endemic embedded in society. Here I examined the consequences for the organization of public order: the armed forces are a power factor in public policy which needs direct access to people (soldiers) and resources (horses, arms, food and feed, housing and room) for its existence. More than 10 years after my thesis, John Keegan has made a very readable study on this subject [6].


A year ago I read a nice observation on the attenuation of the “Word” in “An Iliad – A Story of War” by Alessandro Baricco [8]. As a footnote to his story of the Iliad, Alessandro noted that under the skin there is always the desire to stop fighting. He noticed this desire in the Iliad in dialogues, discussions and meetings – he calls it the feminine side of the Iliad. The debates and meetings – instead of fighting – go on endless ad nauseam. According to Alessandro, these discussions are a way to delay the fight as long as possible – it is like a dialogue by Scheherazade who survives by telling stories. The word is the weapon that solidifies the time during war. Even if the heroes discuss the way of fighting, they do not fight – thus they stretch their lives. The heroes are doomed to death, but they make the “smoking of their last cigarette, smoking it with the words” as long as possible. If they start fighting, they change into blind fanatics with full dedication to their honour and duty. But first: first there is the solidified time, female, a time of conscious delay and backward looks at the past. A solidification of time, that had similarities with my three years as three centuries.

Through this observation by Alessandro Baricco, we arrive at the consistency of public affairs – with the use of the word, dialogue, legislation, treaties and case law – and war – with its blind fanaticism, anger, hatred, revenge and unfathomable grief. According to Von Clausewitz [9], war is a continuation of politics by other means. John Keegan has noted that war is much older than politics and government.

With this thesis I finished my student’s life in Amsterdam. In autumn I entered everyday life.


[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lente
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zonlicht
[3] See also:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krakatoa
[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs
[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_stratification
[6] See also: Keegan, John, A History of Warfare. London: Pimlico – Random House, 2004 and an earlier study on Admiralty: Keegan, John, The Price of Admiralty. London: Penguin Books, 1988
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_organization
[8] Source: Baricco Alessandro, An Iliad. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2007 p. 153 – 154
[9] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_von_Clausewitz

Carla Drift – Changes and Conflicts

My move to Delft and Amsterdam caused many changes. My world changed and my family ties and friendships took other forms. I met many new people and we lived with each other at a distance or nearby depending on the circumstances.

The changes that I experienced with these moves, were the normal changes that young people encounter when they mature. I still am in touch with some friends from my school time in South-Limburg. My primary school boyfriend is happily married with his “secret” love and they have already children – I’m fond of them. I keep them informed of the usual things in my life and if we meet we make fun or we have a conversation about the developments in our lives. With some friends from my study in Delft, I still have contact. We meet each other occasionally.


According to my friends from Delft, my great love is in the stage of on-off relationships – I purposely keep him at a distance. After the end of our love, I held the attention of all men who were in love with me, at a distance. In Delft female students in the technical studies are scarce: I could have received  much attention, but that was not fair to them and to myself – I was clear on this point. On the other hand I was open for friendship and nice contacts. I had several friends who felt a dormant love for me. In Amsterdam the ratio men – women was in balance. Suddenly there was a lot less attention of young men; I preferred this in the solidified time.

With my family, I have always had a good relation. My two younger sisters have found – in my eyes pretty early – a good life partner; they are happily married and now they have a number of children. However, we still quibble as the three sisters. With my mother, the mutual appreciation has increased and the emotional distance remained. My father and I can get along very well, we visit museums or we regularly travel to cities in the Netherlands or abroad.

With nobody I have talked about the solidified time. Some of my relatives gave me extra attention. Well intentioned, but it had no impact on the intensity and chill; the time remained as endless as always. My father felt that there was something – he thought it might be grief about the loss of my beloved. He said comforting and also painful for me: “You have always been special. Also in grief, you are also special. Fortunately you do not seek comfort in something impossible”.

In Amsterdam at the time, I saw my emotional life as a growth spurt into adulthood – later it has received a name [3]. I was extremely aware that changes in people’s lives were irrevocably, past and present were solidified as in glass. The present is constantly changing – usually smooth and fluent –before starting to get rigid. Occasional conflicts often fizzle out – former quarrels with my sisters usually did not last long. Potential sources of conflicts within the society or between societies are often settled by political decision-making, legislation or channelled by treaties.


Sometimes the conflict escalates and creates a directions fight – at this point Amsterdam has a tradition to have demonstrations, riots, squatting of buildings. Sometimes these conflicts end with broken glass, some arrests and occasionally a few wounded. In the private sphere, there can be some broken dishes and a few clumsy hits can be exchanged between relatives. Other conflicts are settled through case law. The pressure must sometimes escape from the interpersonal and/or social tension.



Some conflicts derail and become nasty and vindictive matters. They can degenerate into massacres and civil wars within a society or into battles and wars between societies. These derailment are surrounded with all kinds of myths and rites so that the causes, the crimes and the consequences of the conflict receive an understandable place in a society. The consequences are always bottomless grief for all parties involved. The grief of the victor is often softened by the loot and the right to amend the history in its sole discretion. The consequences for the loser can result in confinement to a life under a different regime, but it can also result in destruction of every form of culture, in loss of the honour of men and women and even in complete eradication.


Looking for a scapegoat is a special form of conflict prevention within a society. People or groups with a different origin, appearance, culture, opinion and/or religion are easy to stigmatise as scapegoat. A society has the opinion that by removing the scapegoat from public life or from society, the original tension and/or conflict is also vanish.


Within my study Humanities I studied the course of changes and especially the reasons why some changes can derail so seriously. In nature we notice similar mechanisms in ants populations who can turn from a peaceful existence into a war population. These populations can also leave behind a track of destruction.

I studied the conditions under which small and large conflicts derail, the actions of people and their leaders who cause the derailments or contributing to it, the course of the excesses and the impact of these excesses.

The last year of my study Humanities in Amsterdam, I studied the intensities, the chill and the solidified time of conflicts, violence, battles, wars and genocide. I tried to figure out what was the cause of these extreme forms of change. I also studied how the horrors could be prevented.

[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendship
[2] Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introversione
[3] See also: Kuiper, P.C., Ver Heen (Far Gone). ’s-Gravenhage: SDU Drukkerij, 1988
[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics
[5] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribunal
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War
[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoating

Carla Drift – Study Humanities 2

In line with psychology and history, I studied the history of legislation and the limited role of language in the field of emotions, culture and character.

I studied the history of Law to receive a better understanding in the organisation of the society and the relations between individuals themselves. Long ago, everything was private and group law. In birds, the occupant of a territory has just a little better chance than an intruder – usually the intruder disappears unless the occupant is careless or is unable to defend his territory. The occupier needs the  territory to have sufficient food for the young birds.

A similar mechanism plays a role when people assert right on an area. In addition, people have developed customary law and hospitality for visitors. This hospitality is sometimes confined in guest law [2] – often exchanges of gifts as “objects in the middle” take place to achieve and consolidate confidence between inhabitants and visitors.

A long time ago, rulers already used law to show who had the say – was the boss [4] – in a given area. One of the oldest laws is the codex of Hamurabi [5]. With the dissemination of this Codex in cuneiform on pillars within his empire, Hamurabi showed who had control over the habits and the order within his reign. This codex of Hamurabi was a long list of penalties for infringements – most sentences had characteristics of “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Almost all penalties could be bought off with an “object in the middle” to restore confidence – the penalty on accidentally wounding the neighbour at work could be bought off with transfer of cattle to restore mutual confidence.


In addition to the right between people, there was also law that was aimed at the general interest. A part of this public law was included in treaties between kings and rulers themselves. The difference between these kings and rulers and the contemporary warlords is in many cases only gradual. The difference shows in the degree of cruelty and tyranny; occasionally the rulers and kings are wise and moderate. These treaties usually start with a recital that included the order and the habits already established between the parents or ancestors of the rulers; after the recital followed the agreements built on the former order and finally the provisions for non-compliance were mentioned in the Treaty. These sentences ranged from war statements to full eradication of family and populations.

Another form of public law was the law of war in which the habits for war and sieges were determined. A few examples. A city may usually prevent siege and looting by handing over a ransom until the time came when the city was completely surrounded; then only a complete surrender was acceptable. The looting of the city after the surrender or sacking took a set time of usually a few days. After that time the booty was distributed among the conquerors; after the conquest the inhabitants of the city were usually without rights for a certain time – sometimes they fell into slavery.

In addition to these forms of public law, there was also Community law – for example the use of common pasturage. By the end of my studies I read a study about old Irish law [7]; It is surprising how common this legal form – with many forms of mutual duties of care – still is. Much attention was given to preserving the general interest. Recently in our world, the Community law also includes the right of education, development and deployment for betterment of society. In the interest of the community, punishments such as “eye for an eye” are often changed in, inter alia, education and social reintegration.

In the field of language I studied how language reflected the relationship between people and how the world view is reflected in language. Later on our Odyssey we will encounter many examples.

Erich Fromm [8] has stated in one of his studies that we have lost the language for intensity and association. During my studies I noticed that our language is also very limited for expressing emotions, culture and character. In our contemporary society we cannot express ourselves adequately on emotions, love and culture. We do not discus much about these topics – language was not an adequate means for communication about deeper emotions between my great love and I. We always could communicate our emotions much better by using behaviour, movements and body language. The important decisions between my great love and I were always made intuitively – our underbelly was far more important than our thoughts and words. I once read that when French ask “Comment ça va?”, this “ça” relates to the lower abdomen – a beautiful thought. Probably we communicate in the field of emotions, culture and character more by behaviour such as body language and hospitality, openness and acceptance on the one hand, and ignoring, excluding and aggression on the other hand. In Holland until about 30 years through the pillarisation, the inhabitants were absolute masters in living next to each other with complete different religions. Nowadays ignoring between children is seen as a form of bullying – maybe this modus vivendi in Holland prevented far worse actions.

In my job I kept myself busy with statistics and correlations between results of investigations; staff and students in the Humanities could use some help in this area. As a limited intellectual challenge, I followed the developments of population mathematics; later I used this knowledge in different studies about crimes against humanity. This intellectual challenge I kept for myself – it seemed to me a good idea to play hide and seek at this point, because this form of mathematics was not included in the curriculum for humanities.

The next post is more about my daily life in Amsterdam – also a kind of hide-and-seek.
[1] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogels
[2] See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastrecht
[3] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastfreundschaft
[4] Man Leben would have remarked that “bhâsh” has the meaning “to speak, to name” in Sanskrit.
[5] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Hammurabi
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi
[7] See also: Kelly, Fergus, A Guide to Early Irish Law. Dublin: Duldalgan Press, 2005 (first edition in 1988)