I’m still shaking my head over marches in Charlottesville where one of the white supremacist thugs ran down the crowd in a car, killing one woman. That dead woman, taking part in an anti-racist protest, was not only killed, the Nazis vilified her on social media. I will not put a link to any entries. I don’t want to encourage any publicity for these despicable people. They are just as evil as the Islamist fundamentalists. Don’t forget the young Nazi who went into a church and murdered nine black people. That’s up there with the young Muslim who blew up innocents in Manchester. And now just yesterday, sixteen people were killed in another deliberate vehicle attack in Barcelona.
Many of us older people are wondering what happened after 2000? Everything seemed to be going so smoothly in the world, and then the wheels fell off. I think the answer has two arcs. The first is about the haves – the wealthy 1% who own more than the rest of the world combined, and the people in power wanting to return to the glory days of the past. And the second is about the forgotten people, those who can’t make ends meet, who find themselves without prospects, without hope.
History happens in cycles. I’d love to think we humans might learn from history, but we don’t. In 1920-30’s Europe, Germans, resentful of their treatment at the end of the War to End All Wars (huh), looked around for someone to blame for the crippling debt and unemployment. A fellow called Hitler came along and told them it wasn’t their fault at all. It was those mongrel Jews. Germans were the Chosen Folk, blond-haired, blue-eyed Supermen, better than everybody else.
Over in the East, Stalin eyed the goings-on and decided to sign a treaty with Hitler, thereby giving him a chance to expand into Poland and Finland. Mussolini was anxious to emulate the Roman Empire and was happy to solicit help from the Germans. The US stood aloof. None of it was their business. China was something you bought for your dinner service – but Japan was rattling its swords, looking to expand its Empire.
And the West – particularly France and the UK – did nothing, hoping Hitler would cease his demands. As we all ought to know, he didn’t. Thus started a war that ended in a shattered, exhausted Europe divided between the Soviets and the West, and a flattened Asia – especially Japan. The world was shocked by death camps in Europe and across Asia. The UN was formed so that it wouldn’t happen again.
Now? The UN has outlived its usefulness. The security council is impotent because the five permanent members (Russia, the USA, UK, France, China) have the power of veto. We’ve seen veto exercised in resolutions regarding the situation in Syria. That fight goes on. The UN has become a pasture for retired politicians to keep living in the manner to which they have become accustomed.
We have a resurgent China making territorial demands in the South Pacific, which reminds me so much of Hitler’s demands for return of ‘German’ lands in Austria and Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s. The latter was the catalyst for the 1938 crisis where Europe teetered on the brink of war. I’m quite sure Xi Jingping is enjoying watching Kim Jong Un’s taunts at America. I can’t see him doing anything to stop that conflict any time soon.
We have a resurgent Russia with a leader who appears to be aspiring to the glory days of the USSR. Putin has already annexed Crimea, virtually annexed Georgia, and half of Ukraine. It seems Belarus is next on the agenda, and Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are watching with concern. And all this is happening while North Korea provides covering fire.
Around the world disaffected young (mainly) men are finding themselves marginalised, jobless, and hopeless. So they turn to extremism. Islam has its fundamental Daesh cult, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda. Several of these groups are alive and well in the Muslim communities in Europe, and they have adherents in Australia. On the other side, Nazism and other white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan have risen from the ashes. The Islamist cults promise death to everybody who isn’t them. And the white supremacists promise death to anybody who (er) isn’t them. That’s blacks, Jews, gays, transgender people, Gypsies. For both groups women are chattels, nothing more than baby factories. Fuelled by hatred, they kill people they don’t know, and often themselves as well. I wonder if any of them really know why they’re doing this, what they hope to achieve? I ask myself that question every time I hear of a new atrocity. Why? Even more to the point, why do we try to find excuses for these people? Nazis running people down is every bit as much an act of terrorism as Islamists doing so. Man Monis declared his siege at the Lindt cafe to be for Islam. Why should we argue with him?
I’m one of the Baby Boomer generation, born in the good times after WW2. Because of the devastation of that war, we had jobs and opportunities. And as I grew up, a lot of the old prejudices of the past were slowly dismantled. Women were allowed to keep their jobs if they married. The contraceptive pill was a huge advance for women, allowing them to avoid unwanted pregnancy. In Australia, aboriginal people were given the right to vote (in a referendum where 90% of eligible voters said ‘yes’). In America, black people won freedoms even in the South. In Africa, apartheid ended. Now, the factions of the right are clawing back power. The Republicans in America have frighteningly conservative Christian policies which marginalise LGBTI people and erode the rights of women. Their policies in health care favour the people who don’t need it (rich) and make it beyond the reach of people who do. I wouldn’t want to be sick in America. Closer to home, owning a house in Australia is becoming beyond the reach of most young people. Indonesia and Malaysia, our closest neighbours, are turning increasingly to conservative Islam and Sharia law.
I’m watching what’s happening around the world with dismay. It’s like the interregnum between WW1 and WW2 all over again. The world’s divided into armed camps, while down on the ground disaffected extremist groups scuttle around, killing everybody else. We used to be able to turn up at the airport and walk into the plane just before the gates closed. Now we turn up two to three hours before to endure a security check. I don’t begrudge the process. Once you have nutters prepared to bring down several hundred innocent people simply living their lives for the sake of a belief, this sort of thing is essential. In so many respects the terrorists have already won.
Still and all, the world remains a beautiful place.