Every generation feels that it’s living through the worst of times. As do the ones now that are occupying Earth for fleeting moments, as is the eternal law. In times like the present, obviously, there are more than only a couple reasons for conditions to look as dismal as they do. And those are mighty substantive reasons too. The ongoing deaths and destructions are way over the top to make reasonable people feel sick to the stomach, as the phrase states. And clearly the tragedy is colossal because the deaths and destructions continue unabated.
While thousands are being killed indiscriminately—on myriad supposed causes!—and while hundreds of thousands are rendered homeless, the world cannot but note with the profoundest regret the rise to power of all sorts of megalomaniacs and demagogues with tons of hubris, conceit and narcissism, not to mention disdain for their fellow humans. It’s little wonder then that people are being sacrificed with disturbingly zero compunction.
For a random instance take the case of the governing cabal in Israel. As it persistently continues to increase the acreage of its occupation of Palestinian property, farms and land, it demands to be allowed the total and unencumbered freedom to do this as well as other murderous acts and not be held accountable for its actions that not only are illegitimate but are also in many cases in direct violation of United Nations resolutions (for whatever they are worth).
A very recent example is a UN resolution that has condemned the disgraceful Netanyahu administration’s laissez faire approach to relentless land grab without the littlest concern about the people whose land is being grabbed for what’s been called building settlements for mostly belligerent groups of Israelis who, to begin with, have long ago decided to equate religion with land, as bizarre as it may sound.
While being deadly irresponsible Bibi (yeah, that’s how he’s known to many) has the ugly arrogance to display immense and insane rancor. The fact, however, is that he is, in actuality, supported by a large segment of the Israeli populace, proving yet again that the majority isn’t always right or moral or even rational. Nevertheless, the unfortunate reality is that, in perfect view of the entire world, they’re getting away with murder, literally.
Another abhorrent development is the rise and rise of a property developer in the United States ably voted to the highest office in the land (and possibly the most powerful oval room on the globe) mainly by a potent combination of the “rust belt” and the “rustic belt” defying the odds. Certainly their triumph was crucially assisted by a number of failings on the part of their adversaries, one of them being, as has been noted by many, liberal elitism—to say nothing of the FBI director! Perhaps so; but the ascendance of the vengeful and the hysteric in no way augurs well for people anywhere.
This once again brings to the fore the unsolved conundrum of whether the majority’s opinions are valid, correct, ethical. If facts are scrutinized they tend to demonstrate that in a large enough sampling this isn’t the case. Aside from Israel another instance that can be cited relates to Russia—and the case is clear as sparkling daylight. The people there plainly prefer what are known as “strongmen” maybe because of their history. And “strongmen” everywhere have a decided weakness to be intolerant of any whiff of dissent, even if we don’t mention criticism.
Hence the ease with which Mr. Putin has been so successful in cheering up another person who has a declared preference for “strongmen,” i.e. a president-elect who can’t wait to meddle in international matters even though there are some weeks to go before he can tuck himself in that lofty office in the White House. Unmistakably he is a master of Twitterverse with an unrestrained gusto to tweet anytime—day, night, morning or evening. But that’s an accomplishment that could just as well come to someone with a restricted glossary.
Given the universal nature of the world as it exists now in social, cultural, economic and political terms, it is to be expected that many other leaders would develop a penchant to not merely utilize social media but also become increasingly petulant and intolerant of opinions at variance to her or his own. To quote Indian activist lawyer Indira Jaising, “the defining characteristic of the present government [in India] is that it undermines the rule of law… The second attempt to undermine the rule of law was the refusal to make appointments of judges to the high courts on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of India… To disregard the constitution has now become a pattern with this government.”
While talking with The Wire about the Indian government’s actions against some of the NGOs active in human rights and legal issues Ms. Jaising added, “Look at Teesta [Setalvad], she has been at the receiving end of the present administration(‘s anger) for the last several years, but it has not stopped her from pursuing the cases of the 2002 riots. This government should understand that some of us do what we do not because we are hired to do it or because we get money to do it, it’s not the foreign funding which makes us speak up; it is because we believe in the work we do. In any case, we are taking legal recourse to fight for our constitutional rights.”
Rulers with inclinations toward total control may also look at Turkey’s President Erdogan for a better grasp of how to intimidate and snuff the daylights out of persons he, for reasons of his very own, cannot stand. He’s been doing a spectacular job on that front especially following an “attempted coup” that may or may not have been an attempted coup. But that apparently for now is irrelevant since hundreds are being targeted because of their purported involvement and/or support in that “incident.”
Noticeably, whatever the color of the times (and unhappily we’ve to confess the dominant color is a very dark gray, at best) the proclivity of those in control of the state machinery is more often than not to use it for the purpose of neutering opposition and dissent even if these are not against the law and even if they’re enshrined in a nation’s constitution and even if the UN with the backing of the largest number of countries adopts a resolution. The reason for these detestable transgressions is a simple one: when moral principles are abandoned, anything is possible, both in individual and collective instances.
The writer has been a media professional, in print and online newspapers as editor and commentator, and in public affairs, for over forty-five years.