Politics

Why You And I Are Not Civilised (Yet)

WE have vanquished slavery, sexism and racism or, at the very least, reached a near universal consensus on how bad they are and why they have no place in a civilised society.

The next great frontier isn’t space; it’s class. As long as the vast majority of humanity can be denied the opportunity to realise their untapped potential — reduced to mere shells of men, vying for scraps dished out by fickle gods — we cannot call ourselves civilised.

We are the same savages of old; forced to sell every second of every minute of our brutish, short, insignificant lives; forced to fight in the gigantic coliseum called society for the chance to extend our suffering by another day.

And all the while, we are watched —indifferently — by those who make the laws; pay the wages; and own the land, factories and faceless corporations.

Labour produces marvels, palaces, beauty, technology and skill, but only for the select few. The worker is left with the world of animal function — personal adornment, eating, drinking and sex — to give meaning to his pitiful existence.

What can one say about a society where profits are privatised and losses socialised?

What does one say about a world where the three richest individuals possess more financial assets than the lowest 48 nations combined? A world where some countries throw excess wheat into the sea while others struggle to feed masses of malnourished men.

Perhaps one day, many thousands of years hence, when everyone reading this will have long since turned to dust, and our words and thoughts and emotions will be as ancient as the sun: people will look back at us and denounce the homo sapiens of the 21st century as thugs, little better than the slave owners, racists and misogynists of ages past for they failed to see that — though man can be reduced to a savage, competitive, selfish brute — he has the potential to be so much more, if only given the chance to express himself creatively.

Inequality is the last great battle before we can embark on the next stage of our evolution as a species.

Civilisation has yet to arrive.

But we’ll get there.

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Politics

The Dark Side

OSLO was once a far away city, synonymous with the welfare state, aurora borealis and fjords. And then Anders Breivik went on a murderous rampage, and Oslo became as real as the violent, tempestuous Karachi outside my window.

It’s tragic enough that over sixty human beings were massacred, but the reality really hits home when you see them as the idealistic young men and women they were, the same age as you, with similar political convictions, united by a burning desire to serve their nation. And their dreams were shattered by a madman, who fed off of conspiracy theories and an Islamophobic discourse constructed by disgruntled, fringe elements of the right.

But the real reason this was so shockingly personal was that I knew Breivik. We all do. We’ve all come across people in our lives who hate entire communities for no rational reason, who write off entire nations on the basis of the actions of a single person. Many such individuals live in my country. The India-hating uncle, the Jew-hating cousin, and the colleague who is adamant that America is behind every bomb blast in Pakistan. They generalise that all people belonging to certain sects or races must all behave in the same way. But mankind isn’t like that. Time and time again, painstaking research has proven that there is more diversity in intelligence, behaviour and personality between people of the same community than people living on different continents. The idea of ‘race’, —that people with the same physical characteristics all behave the same way— has long been proven to be throughly unscientific nonsense.

Then why do enmities, grudges and stereotypes continue to exist? Because people are afraid of change, of anyone who is different. Xenophobia persists precisely because it is the easy way out. You’ve never been to a country, never roamed it’s streets, or spoken to it’s people. It’s safe to assume that all must be terrorists, who hate you and your way of life.

But if humanity is to embark on the next stage in it’s evolution as a species, we must be willing to put aside the superficial differences between us and embrace each other as fellow human beings. Only by letting go of prejudice can we open our eyes to the rich, diverse world around us. Every man is a story, a piece of that great jigsaw puzzle that is our history. It is precisely in these Manichean times that we must defeat the Breivik in us all and learn to truly see our vibrant, diverse world as a source of strength, not weakness. It is our differences, once we get around them that lead us to discover that people really aren’t so different after all. They may, at first, be scared, or wary of anyone who doesn’t look like them, but deep down all they want is to be accepted, and loved for who they are.

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