Most of us look back on things that have happened in the past as distant memories, some with fondness, and most with gratitude that those times have gone forever: but have they really? The reaction on the street to Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, St Louis reminds us of an earlier time when civil unrest was the name of the game. (This was written in August 2014.)
The Past: it’s dead and gone
No, it’s not. If you are on the losing side of any situation, you know how bad it feels. Revenge becomes the only true purpose to your life, and until that thirst for justice is quenched, you will activity seek to ‘right the wrongs’.
Of all the conflicts that are currently in the news, none has more immediate effect than the one between the two sides of the police line in Ferguson, St Louis, Missouri. For white Americans, the race riots of the 1960’s are a thing of the past. For African-Americans, the problem of discrimination has never gone away. There is an anger that has been kept on the back burner in some households for so long that it is now seeking expression by boiling over into the street. Back in 1961, John Howard Griffin did the unthinkable: he decided to see what it was like to be African-American, and the result was an eye-opener. He then wrote Black Like Me to share his insights with the rest of his fellow whites.
First Nations People: suppressed and ignored
In Canada, we have a similar situation, but one that is more insidious because it is not openly acknowledged as being a problem. The Native people were meant to be permanently marginalized by being kept on the reservations. After all, ‘their’ land was stolen from them by the Europeans, even though they didn’t believe in ‘ownership’ of land. It was the Europeans who didn’t want to share anything with them. The reservations were created to keep them out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
Add sexual inequality to the racial prejudice against Native Canadians, and you get headlines like this one in the Toronto Star:
But this is happening the world over, even as we drink our morning coffee.
The Near East: a cauldron of emnity
During The Great War (WWI), Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence) took a rag-tag group of Beduin and created a formidable Arab army which took on the Turks in Palestine and won! But then, true to form, the French and English governments sat back and waited until the Beduin got bored with trying to work out arrangements for governing from Damascus, and then took over control when they left.
In the ensuing years, this area of the world has become a much sought after parcel of land. When the state of Israel was created in 1948, the Palestinians were displaced, and they have been trying to get a country of their own ever since. But they are a forgotten people and the world turns its back on their suffering, even when an armed conflict is totally one-sided in effect. Of course, Hamas is to blame, but the innocent people of Gaza are the ones who lose.
Islamic State: a war waiting to happen
Lately, the news has shown that the next thing to come out of the Near East conflict is an extremist group calling themselves ISIS. They want to create an Islamic State out of Syria, Iraq, and anywhere else they can conquer. The West see them as the ‘new’ al Qaeda, only worse. There’s even talk of the West perhaps working with Bashir al-Assad to help rid the world of these ‘terrorists’. Well, on the other side of the same coin, there is word going round that ISIS was created by the West to finally give them a reason to invade Syria. The beheading of James Foley is just a tactic to make the United States pay a ransom for people who have been kidnapped. Everyone now knows that the result will be another beheading if the ransom isn’t paid.
The undercurrent is something which is unexpected: the most extreme terrorists are those from the West that have been radicalized by social media sites supporting the Islamic State. So, it isn’t a bunch of Muslims from some far-off country that is threatening the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom; it’s their own people turning against them.
Russia: humanitarian aid or arms?
The news yesterday was that the Russian ‘aid’ convoy waiting at the Ukraine border decided to cross into the Ukraine without permission. Today, they are supposedly leaving again after delivering their supplies to allies (read,dissidents) in Eastern Ukraine. Taken at face value, this was a very humanitarian act, but was it just an act, as the West is suggesting?
Vladimir Putin is getting a lot of bad press lately, especially since the annexing of the Crimean peninsula. What is totally absorbing is how the Russian reporting of that story takes what can only be viewed as a positive spin. Have we got it wrong?
Historically, this area of the world is important to Western interests. This land was taken away from Russia at the end of the Napoleanic Wars, and they’ve been using any means at their disposal to keep it ‘in the family’, initially as part of the USSR, and now as an area annexed directly by Russia. Can you blame them? To the Russians, this is just balancing the ledger.
Ebola: a new disease to scare us into action
Finally, there is a new and deadly disease waiting to break out of Africa and into our precious countries. But wait, you have an experimental drug that ‘might’ help those infected? Let’s get the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow its use in order to prevent us from being killed by it. What, there aren’t enough doses of the vaccine to go around? Let’s give it to those worthy of saving.
Could you decide who should or should not get the vaccine? That’s like playing God.
There is a Golden Rule. We all know it. All the religions of the world have their own versions of it.http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm But we don’t seem to pay any attention to it, chosing instead to see that ‘our’ side is the only right one; and the ‘rest’ are wrong.
May I sincerely suggest that we need to remind ourselves that ‘we are all in this together’? It’s time to stop using terms that separate us, instead of uniting us. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing everything we hold dear, life itself. That’s what history can teach us about the present…and the future.