Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Cruelest Month Of All. On Recent News.

The foreign and domestic news I came back to (from my selfish post-vacation angle) are so horrible that my customary post-travel migraine hurts less, even before drugs, than the thought of tackling them, assuming that I somehow should have wise words on anything.

Which isn't the case.  But neither is this August the cruelest month of all.  It just seems so, because of the access to global news which have not been good.  That access gives bystanders the feeling of participating, the diffuse feeling of needing to do something, yet knowing that there isn't much one can do.

Against that background the events in Ferguson, Missouri are not as horrible as the events in Iraq /Syria or Israel /Palestine or Ukraine or the Ebola epidemic in Africa.  Ferguson offers hope, of people responding to the police ineptness and brutality with protests, of black people responding to a poorly representative local government in terms of race by setting up voter registration tables, of all people waking up to the needs for racial justice in policing. Whatever the horrors of Ferguson, there are also these spots of light.

It's harder to see a lot of immediate hope in how the Ebola epidemic is developing.  Jina Moore writes touchingly of the special dangers women in Liberia face, because they are the majority of the caretakers of patients.  There is no known effective treatment for Ebola, with a current death rate of 54%, and that makes quarantine imperative, despite its cruelty.

Then there is the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, with its extreme radical ideology, its desire for genocides of those whose religious beliefs differ from the radical doctrine by even one iota, its brutality and inflexibility.  The most recent news about the beheading of one US journalist and the threat to behead another journalist are disgusting. 

They might also be intended to elicit a certain response from the US, because recruiting new soldiers is easier if the enemy can be seen as the great white Satan raining drones on innocents in Iraq and Syria rather than local almost-coreligionists.  And the news about the slaughter of journalists are intended to terrorize the rest of us.

Right now the Islamic State is slaughtering to glorify the god they imagine to exist, and that slaughtering applies to anyone who opposes them but especially to adult men.  Women and children are usually not killed because they are seen as resources, not as equal opponents.  Young boys can be brought up to be soldiers, young girls can be married off soonish, and young adult women (and teenage boys) can provide immediate sexual services which do not seem to differ from the idea of rape or sexual slavery for the non-Muslim women and youth in the area.   But the longer-term goals of this particular regime are surely going to be terrible for the Muslim women.

Assuming there is a longer term for the regime.  My impression is that the fighters have a sizable contingency of outside fanatics:  men, who have gathered there to turn their dream of a medieval caliphate into reality.  I doubt that those dreams can be turned into anything but a nightmare, even for them.  Still, any possible response to the current nightmare will not be without further violence or cruelty, because that is what wars mean.

How does one end a post like this on a positive note?  By remembering that most people on this planet are not suffering the types of cruelty I describe above, and by believing that education, a just distribution of resources and the belief in the humanity of all members of homo sapiens can make some difference.  We are never going to have utopia, but we could have a  milder type of dystopian future where people complain about taxes and what their neighbors do to their yards and the way the youth behaves.