Don’t be afraid of fear. Yours or anyone else’s. Fear like any other negative aspect of life is not something to avoid and ignore. Without fear you cannot know courage, bravery, or security. In order to truly know all the desired positive aspects of life you have to know the negatives; for both are subjective and relative to each other, and each are, in fact, dependent on the other.
Knowing and learning the stories of our worst times and events is paramount to our history, our growth, and our evolution as people, societies, and civilization.
Did you know that at least 52 countries are experiencing armed conflict right now as you are reading this? And that 18 of those are wars, whether major or minor. And five have been on-going, in some form or another since the late 1940s.
Most of us will never be POWs or civilians caught in the midst of war, thus, hearing and learning from the experience of those subjected to such experiences is even more important. And that is where Sadistic Pleasures by Ashken Arakelyan comes in.
The armed conflict that Sadistic Pleasures exposes is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former states of the Soviet Union, that has been on-going on some level since 1984. However, Armenia has had conflict with its neighbors pretty much constantly since the Turks expanded from their western China central Asian origins as far west as they could militarily occupy, which included into the Balkan region of Europe. Armenia has been a historic entity since ancient times, additionally, it has been Christian for centuries as well. Both of these characteristics have caused friction with the influx of Turk Muslims.
Ashken Arakelyan, a journalist grad student, studying in Germany returned to Armenia in 2021 to interview several POWs and detainees from the most recent escalation of the conflict, in late 2020. Some of their stories are brutally raw and all of them are substantive in showing how little people have changed since WWII or ever, if you prefer.
The interviewees are volunteer soldiers, nurses, civilians, both men and women. Some are young, some married, and some are even elderly. That is the brutal truth of war, No One is safe. There is not one right/good side and one wrong/bad side, it becomes a never ending cycle of violence that rarely ever settles anything and certainly never brings true peace.
This book should remind us that just because it doesn’t impact us directly doesn’t mean that we should ignore it. When we choose to ignore all tragedy that isn’t on our front step, then we are allowing worse tragedy to feel welcome on our own front step. No, we do not have to jump up and go pick a side in every conflict around the world, nor do we need to insist that our governments pick a side either, what we decide to engage in with each conflict should be based on the conflict itself.
While peace should be encouraged, sometimes war has to be fought and some wars have to reach a military conclusion. However, it needs to be fought with honor and integrity. There needs to be certain respect shown by all sides about what is acceptable and what is not. And that can best happen when every time there is violent conflict the combatants know the whole world is watching and judging.
Sadistic Pleasures reminds us what happens when we turn a blind eye.
War brings out the best in a few and the worst in quite a few more.
*I received an advance reader copy for free. No compensation for review.
Map credit: By Futuretrillionaire, CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22118731