The launch of a new blog, strange times, and some email discussion with the old friends involved led me to think about the question: Do we live in strange times?
Through the media I hear about strange and usually horrifying events around the world, things that make my normal day to day activities pale into insignificance:
that Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe has withdrawn from the presidential race - amongst all the violence in that country the one that stuck with me was of a woman having her limbs and breasts cut off for supporting the MDC
images of jobless South Africans setting fire to and / or beating refugees from surrounding countries, including Zimbabwe
an american ship laden with relief supplies for people devastated by the cyclone in Myanmar (Burma) waiting for a week and then sailing away because the military junta wouldn't give them permission to enter
ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan
Yes, the times are strange, you might even say, insane. Insane Times.
There is lots of talk and endless hand wringing on the media about what to do about these situations. Someone should intervene it is sometimes said. Morgan Tsvangirai has called for intervention in Zimbabwe but will it happen? Almost certainly not. Maybe there will be more sanction which often end up hurting the poor more. The United Nations is too weak and divided. And it's "not allowed" these days for an imperialist power to intervene against a former anti-imperialist freedom fighter, Mugabe, who has turned into a fascist.
The United States intervened in Iraq and that country is slowly, at great cost, transforming from a fascist dictatorship under Saddam into a purple fingered democracy. Last time I checked the surge was working. So, I do still support the Iraq war.
But people on the whole, in my day to day normal world, do not demand intervention against fascism or genocide. On the whole, they prefer to say "terrible thing" and go about their affairs - be it teaching, shopping, watching the footy, playing with the kids, paying off the mortage, planning their retirement etc. The "civilised world" is insulated from the oppressed world, often hard working and anxious about its issues but also, in the main, comfortable and complacent about the real issues of suffering humanity.
Some donate to World Vision (a band aid) or like me support more developmental approaches like the OLPC. But it's all changing far too slowly for my liking. I don't want to stand by and watch on TV while women have their breasts and legs cut off for supporting democracy. Something more urgent is required.
I think we need a political leadership that will stand up to fascism and genocide both locally and internationally. Whatever it takes. Otherwise, we are not even civilised, we still live in an age of barbarism. We have not got the leadership we need and we seem to be moving in that direction at a glacial pace while large parts of humanity suffer terribly. My basic contention is that we have the resources to solve all of the world's basic problems - genocide, fascism, energy, poverty. But we lack the political know how or will to achieve that. So, for these reasons, I also believe we live in Strange Times.
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