Monday 7 July 2008

New World + Old Ways = Danger

As we stumble towards the gradual realisation what climate change has in store for us, as energy resources become more and more expensive, as political violence on any scale has us in thrall, the calls emerge for radical solutions. In tandem commentators judge the state of the world according to their predilections, pressure groups add their shouts, and the media grab the chance to sell their wares through juicy headlines.

So how about an objective assessment based on how the mind works. Let’s skip the technical details for once and list the features how they present themselves. Feel free to interpret the order any way you like.

During the past few decades the West underwent a considerable shift. From a state of assertion and confidence the emphasis is on a navel-gazing self-recrimination regardless of the actual content. In a reverse of the original phrase, the splinter in one’s own eye is wailed about as the beam in someone other’s is disregarded.

Our so-called materialism is seen as one cause of the world’s ills. We, materialists? If you want to see real materialism in action go to Mumbai, to Shanghai, to Dubai. Which other demographic has as many libraries per head of population, as many museums, as many opera houses, as many art galleries? Who has the most philanthropists?

Slavery is used as an example of our belligerent arrogance. True, in geographical terms Europe brought slavery to the Americas. But from the very beginning the Portuguese availed themselves of the services offered at the time by Arab traders as they visited the western coasts of Africa. And who abolished it in the end? It started as early as the 12th century in London and by the 19th century it was in full swing throughout Europe and its dominions. Can anyone else claim the same?

The inward-looking contraction results in artistic expertise chased down as graffiti in our cities while standing in awe before primitive flecks of mud on some bark.

It results in youngsters lauded for their ability to swear (no doubt derived from their adults’ genuflection before violent music made untouchable due to their ethnic origin) while society bemoans their increasing inability to string together a few words in a comprehensible manner.

The ideological side of feminism forced our entire society to embrace the fundamental attitude of the female in changing one’s environment in favour of the vulnerable infant. Can’t negotiate a curve in the road? Blame the council. Can’t handle your alcohol? Impose a blanket restriction on the industry.

Oh yes, those drugs. So what if a few individuals end up burying themselves in their own haze; does this mean we spend hundreds of millions on police, the courts, feed black markets world-wide and fight the latest weapons of militias which they bought with the proceeds of our matron-state idealism?

That well-worn phrase “If only one child ... then ... has been worthwhile” has led to a downward-spiral towards ineptitude. A child falls of a swing and that swing is made safer. After a while another falls off and it’s made safer still. The ongoing education - if that’s the right word - into more and more cosseted scenarios produces a population of dysfunctional simpletons.

The same goes for the human eros. Out goes the cry “sexualisation of children!” and up rise the psychotics who superimpose their own fear and loathing upon the rest of us. Naturally the media follow suit because they know what sells. Human beings are sexualised in the uterus as soon as genitals form and the rest of the body is built around them. Later on the psychosis manifests when bloated bodies, shot-up people, and torture pose no problem on the evening news but a naked body brings on the hysteria.

Any state of affairs poses its own problems. Today’s high-level complexity disenfranchises many because they can’t keep up. Yet it is those left behind who are often allowed to call the tune. Rather than gathering our will and confront the challenge with our face to the wind the answer is sought in defeatist retreat.

Sure there are issues, dangers even. Want to know about a real problem? Revisit, if you can, the time of the Hundred Years War in Europe, the sweeps of the plague, the potato famine. Those generations may have had no more than a hammer and a hoe, but they made it.

Humans can be dirty and wild, sometimes downright stupid. But they also have a will.

In these times of pressures yet again, let’s not forget that.

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