Is the whole world going mad?
It seems that the world has gone manic-depressive, or, as they prefer to say nowadays, bipolar.
I’m reminded of an old Cold War song by Jeremy Taylor:
Well one fine day I’ll make my way
to 10 Downing Street
“Good day,” I’ll say, I’ve come a long way
Excuse my naked feet.
But I lack, you see, the energy
to buy a pair of shoes
I lose the zest to look my best
When I read the daily news
’cause it appears you’ve got an atom bomb
That’ll blow us all to hell and gone
if I’ve got to die then why should I
give a damn if my boots aren’t on?”
Three cheers for the army and all the boys in blue
Three cheers for the scientists and politicians too
Three cheers for the future years, when we shall surely reap
all the joys of living on a nuclear rubbish heap.
So what to I see when I read the daily news?
- The West escalates with Russia: Make no mistake, a second Cold War is now official NATO policy – Salon.com
- Nice attack: Man loses six members of his family in Bastille Day lorry massacre | World | News | London Evening Standard
- Data on drone civilian deaths shows problems | Opinion | wiscnews.com
- Brutal backlash against Turkey coup as mobs behead rebel soldiers in the streets – Mirror Online
- Baghdad bombing: Death toll rises to nearly 300 in Isis car bombing | Middle East | News | The Independent
- Hundreds arrested as anger boils over police violence in US | Africanews
- Hawks probing whether senior ANC members behind Tshwane violence | National | BDlive
- The next Boko Haram? Nigerian attacks raise fears of new ‘terror’ threat | World news | The Guardian
- Nigerian refugee who fled Boko Haram beaten to death in alleged racist attack in Italy
Does reading that kind of news bother you?
Don’t worry, you can always restore your equanimity with thoughts like these:
Thanks to the Internet, we have seen how polarised people in the USA have been on political issues, when presidents from the two main parties with equally rebarbative policies are vilified by people opposed to them in an over-the-top way. In the 1990s it was KKKlinton, followed by the Shrub, followed by Obomber — war criminals all, of course, but why should the people who elect them be so partisan about which war criminal they choose?
The UK never displayed quite such partisanship until the referendum on leaving the UK. That really seems to have divided the nation, to judge from the rants I see from both sides on the Internet. And it seems to have divided the political parties as well.
The media in both those countries have consistently beaten the war drums, and encouraged the election of warmongers, and vilified those who are less than enthusiastic about war, like Charles Kennedy, Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. And the media are still doing it, if this article is anything to go by:
The media seem hell-bent on starting the Third World War, and if it goes nuclear, then no lives will matter. As another 1960s song put it, We will all go together when we go.
So the US and the UK are bipolar, and becoming more polarised. In the US it seems to be becoming a shooting war, as more citizens are gunned down by police, or by others with a grudge against someone or something. And in the UK one MP was gunned down during the referendum — a sign of things to come?
Closer to home in South Africa, we have similar party in-fighting, with ANC members murdering each other about nominations for election. Political back-stabbing, both literal and figurative, seems to be on the increase all over.
I lived through the Cold War. When I was in Standard 2 (Grade 4) at a school in the Magaliesberg we would point at the ridge across the valley and say to each other “What would you do if a thousand North Koreans came over that hill?” We saw the illustrated articles in Popular Mechanics which explained how napalm bombs worked, and how they would be dropped at each end of a railway tunnel when a train was passing through, thus incinerating everyone on board. But those things were happening in one country 10000 miles away. Now people are being massacred every week, in different countries on different continents. What is it? Over-population, like rats in a cage? When rats are crowded together in confined quarters, it seems they go mad and kill each other, and now human beings seem to be behaving in the same way.
We read about how those whose motto is “To serve and protect” behave as if it were “To bully and beat up”, and whether it happens in Baton Rouge or Marikana, it still looks like the behaviour of the rats in Universe 25.
We look at the Disunited Kingdom, disintegrating after the Brexit referendum, or the Disunited States, offered a choice between a warmonger and a racist, both tearing themselves apart, and these are the self-proclaimed leaders of the “free” world. Perhaps there is a tiny glimmer of hope in Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister.
There is at least a recognition that two of the four countries that comprise the UK voted to leave the EU and two of them didn’t. The ones that didn’t vote to leave the EU now realise that they can no longer belong to both the EU and the UK, and Theresa May at least realises that a solution to that problem needs to be negotiated. It can only be hoped that she will approach other problems with a desire for negotiation rather than belligerent rhetoric spilling over into armed force.
Who’d have thought that she’d be the person to call for a Britain that works “for everyone, not just the privileged few” or that she’d be calling for German- style worker representation on company boards? (She did also mention the gender pay gap but only after talking about class and race as impediments to social mobility.) Her views on hostile takeovers of British companies are way more radical than David Cameron’s but because they’re delivered in an understated fashion, their radicalism doesn’t really register.
That may be the real genius of Mrs May — not as a feminist but as a vicar’s daughter whose social agenda is unnoticed because it’s delivered in that unthreatening, not to say, dull C of E fashion. But it does it for me.
This was the formative world of the new prime minister – unflashy service, community, warts and all, and personal sacrifice. The Christian faith “is part of me. It is part of who I am and therefore how I approach things”, she said. And, unlike the patchy public school religion of her predecessor, her faith feels entirely convincing to me.
If the world is in a mess, can the church help? If the world is divided, can the Christian communities show a more excellent way?
Unfortunately, it seem that the Church is as divided as the world.
The recent Pan-Orthodox Council held in Crete was meant to at least get Orthodox Christians talking to each other, and if they couldn’t agree, at least identify areas of disagreement and begin to deal with them. Instead, it produced this:
- Athonite Fathers call for Rejection of Cretan Council and Cessation of Commemoration of the Patriarch of Constantinople / OrthoChristian.Com
If the governing body of the Holy Mountain accedes to that, the world would be quite justified in saying to the Church, “Physician, heal thyself.” The Church, far from being a hospital for sinners, would be a bunch of lunatics with no asylum.
So is there any hope?
I was feeling pretty pessimistic when I started writing this post. I thought the world was going to hell, not in a handbasket but in a Formula I racing car.
And then I saw this. It’s not from an Orthodox source. Perhaps it’s not even from a Christian source, but I found it encouraging and you might too.
My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
If that speaks to you, go ahead and follow the link and read it all.
And in the mean time I shall continue to pray the Morning Prayer of the Last Elders of Optina.