We are living in a unique period. Never before in the history of the human race have we had such unfettered access to current events, news, and tragedies from around the world. We can see, in real time, what is befalling our fellow humans, yet we still rely on the misrepresentations of a very biased news system. When I say that it is biased, it is not wholly the fault of the news systems; it is also due to how we have allowed our news broadcasting to be formatted. Our entire societal structure focuses on ratings, views, and the profits that come along with them.
When your entire system and pay structure designed around ratings, there is no other option than to begin sensationalizing and speculating wildly; anything you can do to generate viewership, to be the #1 newscast. The point remains that no matter which method you use to attain your news, you have unprecedented access to it, in most of the world. In addition to that, we also have never had as much ease in our history of research. We can go back and look at our past from many different angles, many different points of view. The adage of history is writ by the winners is not relevant anymore. Today both sides can put up their versions with considerable ease. This whole system is at once beautiful and terrifying.
It is beautiful in that it gives us the opportunity to see our past mistakes, our previous flawed thinking, and make sure that we do not make the follies of our ancestors. It is terrifying because we are either not paying attention or perverting it to our use. When we come to a pivotal point in our history today, we can look back and see how it was handled before, right the wrongs and move forward; so why don’t we?
We still allow ourselves to be led astray by the same old arguments which we know to be false. We have been led to criminalize our sick, shun our criminals, and distrust our neighbour. When did a human living on the street become acceptable? When did we, how did we come to the point of not helping a fellow human in need because they are crazy, alcoholics, drug addicts, or they must have done something to end up there? When did we, as a society, decide it is easier and more profitable to jail the sick than to take care of them? When did our fellow human stop being our problem? When did money and prestige become king? We forget that everybody wants to be king, but few can bear the weight of the crown, and power can corrupt.
We can look at our past and see the horrific consequences of xenophobia, of protectionist ideas. Each time there is economic or world unrest some politicians will attempt to use the confusion to their advantage. They will try to blame the country’s problems on immigrants, a race of people, or a class of people, in an attempt to gain power. When they can shift the attention of the populace to outside (or inside) forces, a common bond forms within the people. They now have a face to their woes, deserved or not. The political leaders can then use this straw man to incite fear and attack the most primal insecurities of the mass. This strategy makes it very easy to ensure the populace is distracted, and the politician rides into power on a wave of emotion.
A prevailing thought of an example of this is post-WW1 Germany. The country was in a time of financial distress, and it was embarrassed on the world stage, which is why a man capable of reading a crowd was able to place all of the German problems on to the shoulders of the Jewish population, with unimaginable consequences. This cycle has been repeated numerous times throughout history with varying degrees of brutality. Another example is that of the Jim Crow era in the U.S.A. Politicians in America ran on the promise of being tough on crime and then criminalized an already very distressed and marginalized faction of American society, the African-Americans. The African-Americans were the new face of all of America’s problems; doling out stiffer punishments, stricter laws, and mass incarcerations allowed the American people to have a face to their issues and see them resolved. This practice still goes on today.
This system of divide and conquer is still being used on a grand scale, while we sit back and watch it happen. Britain has left the EU and are ushering in sweeping changes to the way the country deals with the world, effectively shutting their borders. These actions have caused an uptick in xenophobia and hate crimes in the country. The politicians used immigrants as the straw man, the root of all the problems, and now they are being forced out. People, Polish residents for example, in some English towns and cities are seeing a rise in violent hate attacks, as well as threats. These acts are very unbecoming of what is usually such a civilized nation, yet shows how fear and hysteria can sway a country.
These tactics can once again be seen clearly in the 2016 American Presidential Elections. Where we once celebrated as a world over the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the words Global Community were on everyone’s lips, we are now once again standing in the face of division. There is a candidate whom would like to see a wall constructed, who has openly stated that Globalism does not work and that their focus is on Americanism. This candidate is dividing the people like a rake through the sand and is once again using the two very familiar, and dusty straw men crime and immigration to do so.
The candidate is swinging these straw men around with such vigour, the American populace is too busy ducking to focus on what is happening, once again using fear and threats to divide and conquer the people. This behaviour is hazardous and has a very high probability of ending poorly, as has been seen time and time again in our very easily accessed histories.
If we can look back and see that heartache and despair are the only things that will be waiting for us at the end of the tunnel, why do we keep leading ourselves here? Why do we allow ourselves to be made to look upon our fellow humans with distrust? Why do we let ourselves to be divided? Why do we allow ourselves to be led astray by our ingrained morals and good nature?
The interesting thing about major historical events is how ordinary they feel when they are happening. We then look at them retrospectively and gnash our teeth and tear our clothes over how such horrible deeds could have been committed. We question how people could idly sit back and allow these awful things to happen. Surely someone must have stepped forward, surely more could have been done! Why wasn’t more done? Surely if this should happen again, we will do better!
We don’t, we never do, and we aren’t now. Is it because money and power have corrupted us or is it because we just stopped caring? Have all the loud voices effectively been silenced or suitably devalued? What do we need to do to have the views of the just and good heard over the raucous noise of fear mongers and power chasers? Look around you, and you will see history being repeated again and again like some hellish hall of mirrors, each one more cracked and distorted than the one before.
We are currently living in a critical time in the history of the world. This time is one that will be looked back upon by future generations with shock and dismay. The war crimes and humanitarian crises that are happening all over the Middle East, the violence in the streets of America, the closing of borders by countries, and the inexorable march of the war machine threatening global security, are all things that future generations will look back to us and ask why didn’t you do more? Why didn’t you stop this? Why didn’t you save more lives? Why did the world wake up and step in too late, again?
When we ask past generations, they, to a certain degree, can claim ignorance. It was much tougher for them to access world news and do their research, not only do we not have that excuse, we have the ability to learn from our well-documented past; we have no reason. As I lay awake at night trying to find sleep, I often wonder how we will be able to explain ourselves. When will we start to treat our fellow humans around the world the way they deserve to be addressed, with dignity and respect?
When will we stop allowing our differences to divide us and start using them to help each other? We are all one species and need to start acting like it.
The Calm Scribe lives in Canada with his wife and two dogs.