Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:03 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:03 | SYDNEY

The India-Pakistan border ceremony


Sam Roggeveen


16 May 2011 15:08

Just found this on an annoyingly addictive site called The Best of YouTube. (Don't click on this link if you want to be productive.)

The ceremony reminds me of a passage in John Keegan's masterly A History of Warfare:

...over the course of 4000 years of experiment and repetition, warmaking has become a habit. In the primitive world, this habit was circumscribed by ritual and ceremony. In the post-primitive world, human ingenuity ripped ritual and ceremony, and the restraints they imposed on warmaking, away from warmaking practice, empowering men of violence to press the limits of tolerability to, and eventually beyond, the extreme. 'War', said Clausewitz the philosopher, 'is an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds.' Clausewitz the practical warrior did not guess at the horrors towards which his philosophical logic led, but we have glimpsed them. The habits of the primitive — devotees themselves of restraint, diplomacy and negotiation — deserve relearning. Unless we unlearn the habits we have taught ourselves, we shall not survive.

The India-Pakistan military stand-off — mechanised and now nuclearised — represents Keegan's 'post-primitivism'. But this comically bellicose border ritual might actually be the kind of 'primitive' practice which keeps these two powers from pushing violence to its utmost bounds.