Welcome back dear reader, as always a pleasure to have you here.
First off, a happy New Year to you all. I hope your 2016 was a fruitful and enjoyable year and here is to 2017 being equally, if not even more, successful.
Unless you have been living under a rock we are all aware of the truly appalling and heinous acts of violence and atrocities being committed across the globe, ostensibly for religions, ideology, national sovereignty, economic advancement, racial protection. In fact you name it and there is someone gullible and ignorant enough to pick up arms to fight for their particular “cause.” Let me make very clear from the outset my unsurprising point of view, at least to those who truly know me, that this behaviour is never ever justified.
We have in the world, the thuggish and cult-like Daesh or ISIL terrorists, made up of large numbers of hardened criminals (which includes rapists, drug dealers, street brawlers and petty thieves) who suddenly believe they can claim some kind of “redemption” for their misspent and wasted lives by killing and maiming innocent people, both non-Muslim and Muslim. My rhetorical question to them is have they ever read any religious text (it is debatable if some of them can even read) or do they just believe the ramblings of some twisted guru or random video they see on the Internet? The latest New Years Eve bombing of revellers in Istanbul is just the latest in another example of their warped and delusional thinking. Attacks in Baghdad, Berlin, Nice and Maiduguri only serve as a terrible reminder of this global scourge we must all unite and defeat.
It isn’t just Daesh we should be focusing on (although Daesh would gladly like it that way and so would right wing politicians in the West) but also the Buddhist nationalist terrorists massacring Muslim and animist ethnic minorities in Myanmar (Amnesty International has documented these minorities plight exhaustively if you wish to read more) or the record number of 16,000 child soldiers (according to latest statistics from UNHCR) being wontenly slaughtered for political purposes in South Sudan.
On the other side we have the less violent but intolerant views of right wing politicians. You know I’m talking about Donald Trump, Nigel Farage,Marine Le Pen, Frauke Petry and all the other wannabe demagogues stalking the plains of the USA and Europe. Their responses to the latest terrorist outrages is always wholly predictable and frankly breathtaking in its sheer audacity of political point scoring. By this I mean they automatically express condolences to the victims and then finish by blaming Angela Merkel, liberalism, the media, the “elites”, globalisation or religions. Yet, when we blame them for sowing the seeds of hatred and division they cry foul like little children.
My whole point in my piece here is to argue that we have to acknowledge human nature in all of this. I’m not absolving religions or ideology entirely for some of the blame but what we must understand is that ideology or religion, be it Communism, Islam, Buddhism, Fascism, Socialism, Christianity, or numerous others throughout history, have merely been used by unscrupulous individuals as a vehicle to power and to transport them to their ultimate destination. Namely power, wealth, control, domination for a handful of deranged and perverted individuals who have no morals or ethics. Whether these individuals truly believe what they espouse and feed to their untutored and unwashed followers is open to debate but we all know I mean people like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, Bin Laden, Kim Jong Un, Joseph Kony, Slobodan Milosevic, Mao Zedong et al.
What I would like to finish with is a call to action for liberals. For too long I heard, when I was in London especially, from family and friends that we were in some kind of prosperous, democratic, post-racial, gender equal, open minded and enquiring world and that London epitomised this. I never succumbed to this post Cold War fallacy of an ‘End of History’, Francis Fukuyama inspired victory of our capitalist and democratic system over all others. For too long we liberals assumed the whole world thought like us and that we had achieved our goals of equality for all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or non belief. Tolerance reigned supreme and we could all get down to the business of making money and freely expressing ourselves. However, it was always a fragile project and very much a work in progress.
It is important not to underestimate the smugness which previaled during the 1990s and early 2000s. When this system all came to a crashing halt in 2008 it took liberals and leftists a long time to snap out of this cosseted mindset and realise we still had much work to do. It is still why we see left wing and liberal parties suffering across the Western world and why we must never take what we have for granted and not allow those who wish us ill to make us willingly surrender it, and sacrifice ideals such as freedom of belief or expression on the altar of so called security. This is the inevitability of human nature which often seems doomed to repeat itself, as any goodness scholar of history will tell you. Socrates, the great philosopher, identified so many years ago the Achilles Heel of democracy (in his scenario of the sweet shop owner vs the doctor in a political contest) the doctor being the politician who tells you the truth about how sickly an excess of sweets can be and the sweet shop owner who promises you a tissue of falsehoods by saying you can eat as much as you like without consequences to your health. Now where have you heard that before dear reader!?