Understanding the war

Farnham and Romano speak about the war scene

by Audrey Nolin Sotiriadis

Captain Derrick Farnham of the Canadian Armed Forces, and Dawson professor Pat Romano,  spoke about how to appreciate the difficulties of understanding the war scene in Kandahar, Afghanistan from a philosopher’s perspective and the importance of thinking critically when analyzing our views on military power at the Humanities and Public Life Conference on Tuesday March 23, in 5B.16.

“With a uniform, I don’t want to be here. If I’m not wearing a uniform, as a philosopher, I’m thrilled to be here,” said Farnham.

“We can’t be rational unless we’re emotional […] Emotions influence our ability to make rational decisions,” Romano said, reminding the audience of how emotional our views of violence and military power really are.

Captain Farnham has a Philosophy background and seeks to demonstrate the theatre of war. He stressed the fact that humans cannot understand what war is like without having experienced it. He insisted however that Humanities courses can help people in understanding what it is like in Afghanistan.

Romano added that critical thinking and awareness of the nature of war are necessary “if we want to create a less militarized world.”

“You have three pillars to really understand: Think critically, world view and combine the two and you get ethics,” says Farnham.

Farnham focused on the word “school” to make the audience understand the difficulties of understanding since we are misled by the media.

“I learned three things about schools when I got to Kandahar. Students go to school for half a day, there are no buildings for the schools and most teachers haven’t graduated from high school,” Farnham said.

He emphasized that it is challenging to get correct information on what’s happening in Afghani schools since no statistics are kept by the Ministry of Education. He explained that as strangers, it is important to be able to listen and observe to better understand the local culture and peoples’ needs.

Farnham gave other examples of how in Kandahar, they do things differently from what Westerners are used to. The media shows a literal image of schools, roads, and hospitals in Kandahar, without exploring the underlying cultural and economic issues. Westerners think that their ways are the best and wonder why Afghanis do not adopt them.

“I am open to the possibility to understand,” Farnham said.

To understand what it’s like in Kandahar, it is important to think critically and to understand that there is more to the world than each individual’s own experiences.

“What’s happening in Kandahar, a place where you haven’t been, is hard to understand. Your Humanities teachers have given you the ability to understand,” Farnham said.

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