Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Bending Arc of History

“Arcof History” is a natural stone structure designed by artist Tom Holmes at theintersection of Highways 550 and 160 in Durango.

The arc of history bends towards those who are more determined and more organized irrespective of their worldview, tactics or values. The moral progress, or rather the expansion of our ethical worldview that has been achieved over the last few millennia, did not come as a haphazard or natural development, but as a result of obsessive determination to achieve it, even as our vision of what it means remains in constant flux.

Now, with the preceding paragraph serving as a necessary preamble, let me jot down this note addressed to the amoral bastards of the world, those loathsome individuals and groups who think that they could afford to have nothing to do with the Syrian “mess,” and whatever other messes currently unfolding in that underdeveloped, uncivilized and seemingly accursed part of the world, the part from which I hail and to which I still, one way or another, belong:

When you stop getting much of your oil, natural gas, diamond and gold  from our part of the world; when you no longer need to transport yourselves and your goods back and forth through it; when your companies stop selling arms to our corrupt and autocratic regimes and suspend all manner of business with them; when our cheap labor is no longer needed to produce your goods; when our elite are no longer allowed to hide their monies in your banks, or spend it in your markets and resorts; and when you can, in fact, build a dome over us so that we stop breathing the same air, then, and only then, can you speak of our concerns and suffering as being irrelevant to you. Until then, I’m afraid, you just have to put up with us and our seemingly endless supply of “messes,” just as we put up with you, your arrogance, and your willful blindness as to your part in “our” messes. When you learn to do this with a greater sense of humility and humanity, we, that is, the peoples of the world, will all be better off.

But I am not trying to suggest here that “we,” that is, the uncivilized brutes of the world if you like, are completely blameless when it comes to our lot in this world, and that we are nothing more than hapless and prefect victims to your perfect and willful villainy. Far from it. I am still quite convinced that we remain the major obstacle in our own way to a better life, especially that so many of us have perfected a Shirk ‘N’ Shift routine that allow them to keeping resisting change even as the reasons for it keep piling up.

So, and while we go about trying to figure out a way out of this morass, there is a moral imperative that needs to be addressed by those in the world who have more knowledge and more power to have a far greater impact in charting our collective becoming than we do at this stage, and it is as plain and simple as this: stop exploiting us, and start helping us. It is towards this imperative that the arc-bends of history are meant to point. In an era when the peoples of the world saw fit to sit together around one table and pen a document which they billed as the Universal Declaration of human Rights, we cannot afford to keep treating such an imperative as an expression of romantic idealism. No. It is, in fact, the quintessence of realism at this stage.

The Arabian dream: Colombians taking part in Yemen war. And it’s a tale that involves, Saudi Arabia, UAE and a former Blackwater chief. Mercenaries from Egypt, Mauritania, the Senegal and Sudan are also said to be involved fighting alongside Saudi, Bahraini and Emirati troops. Iranian advisers are likely to be involved on the side of the Houthis (despite official denials, which turned up to be quite false in case of Syria) and, of course, Al-Qaeda has members from far and sundry.

This development raises a couple of interesting question, the first: Are mercenaries really that much different from terrorists? For while the motivations might be different, more material in the first case and ideological in the latter, there are enough cases where the two sets of motives seem to be present, and enough commonality when it comes to the groups’ choice of tactics, and their demonstrable willingness to indulge in indiscriminate killing to make the distinction rather academic. Perhaps, legal experts should bear this in mind when investigating war crimes.

We heard the drought explanation; we heard the oil and natural gas explanation, now we have this:
Commodity Traders Helped Spark the War in Syria, Complex Systems Theorists Say. Yes, it’s the Commodities explanation. Here are my two cents on all these theories: That drought was a contributing factor to the rise of popular nonviolent protests phenomenon in Syria is something that has plenty of factual support; that energy politics might have been on the minds of so many regional and international players and might have, therefore, contributed to the policies and strategies they adopted vis-à-vis the issue of regime change in Syria is not something that we cannot dismiss because such considerations are always on the minds of global and regional powers; and that more complex phenomena like the price of commodities could have contributed to the crisis as well, no matter how indirectly, is also something that needs to be considered in this hyper-connected world.

But none of this should distract us from considering the more direct and visible causes at play here: the Assad regime is inherently corrupt and autocratic, it is guilty of economic mismanagement on the local and national levels, it failed to deal effectively with the massive demographic displacement caused by the 2008 drought, its attempt at economic liberalization backfired and served to enrich the chosen few while breaking down the middle class, it neglected rural development, was unconcerned with urban planning, backed Jihadi elements operating in Iraq, Lebanon and even Jordan, and its record on human rights was dismal as it silenced dissenters through imprisonment, exile, and in some cases outright murder, and its policies vis-à-vis the Kurds remained inherently racist. So, when people took to the streets to protest in early 2011, they had ample reasons and justifications for doing so, and their aspirations for democratic change were genuine. This should never be dismissed. People are not going to risk their lives for vague notions, and no amount of agents provocateurs can incite or manipulate into rebelling on a mass-scale if the conditions on the ground and in their minds were not conducive to that. Manipulations happen afterwards, and no one denies that this revolution was manipulated into a proxy war. Even here though, the role of the regime was of primary importance in steering us through.