Playing with fire
The nature of the news hitting world headlines in the past few days reveals many things about the state of our planet.
The US government shut down all operations deemed non-essential on Tuesday, when the previous budget expired. Reports are that national parks and Washington’s Smithsonian museums are closed, pension and veterans’ benefit cheques will be delayed, and visa and passport applications will go unprocessed.
North Korea marked its founding day last month with an elaborate display of troops and weaponry. South Korea marked its Armed Forces Day this week with its biggest ceremony in a decade, and has now signed a defence agreement with the US to deter North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons.
Disarmament experts have gone into Syria to begin dismantling that country’s stockpile of chemical weapons. Syria is reported to have indicated its willingness to cooperate with the mission, set up after a US-Russia deal endorsed by the UN. This came after a horrific chemical attack that killed and maimed hundreds.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, described Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and said Israel would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, even if it had to stand alone on the issue. Iran’s representative said it had no intention of developing nuclear weapons, and called Mr Netanyahu’s remarks “extremely inflammatory”.
In Nairobi, Kenya, at least 67 people died in the four-day attack on the mall that took the life of a Trinidadian son, Ravindra Ramrattan. The group claiming responsibility, Al Shabaab, threatened to carry out more attacks on Kenya after the government refused to pull its troops out of Somalia.
An NBC News report, by Henry Austin, begins this way, “The wave of civil wars, revolutionary demonstrations, protests and riots dubbed the “Arab Spring” that spread across North Africa and into the Middle East in 2011 may well be heading south into Sudan, experts and activists say.” He recaps how the past few weeks have seen the most widespread public demonstrations since “President Omar al-Bashir seized power in a bloodless military coup 24 years ago”.
Closer to home, three Venezuelan diplomats have been expelled from the US after Caracas expelled three American officials, according to the US State Department.
The diplomats, who include charge d’affaires Calixto Ortega Rios, were given 48 hours to leave, according to the report which said that on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the US diplomats of plotting to sabotage the economy, saying he had evidence they took part in a power-grid sabotage in September and had bribed firms to cut production.
What can we discern from this concatenation? It is altogether too much to individually explore in such a space, but what was most striking is the sense of implosions. Nations are crumbling inwards; folding over on themselves—as if the planet is experiencing a massive earthquake shaking it to its core. A close scrutiny would probably find the roots located in power struggles and the hubris that almost always accompany them.
What are the lessons from this? In our own homespun quests for grandeur and the illusory trappings of power, we appear like cockroach in fowl party. Too many people have sashayed forward, blithely propelled to grab fruit wherever they can pluck it, without thinking of the consequences of their larceny. I know I am mixing a lot of metaphors here, but the greediness that now seems to be our overriding culture has not just blinded us to the wasteland we are creating, but has opened us up to the same kind of implosion that will come when people reach the end of their ropes. Do we really feel that there can never be a spring-time here in the Caribbean?
People have lost faith in our public institutions. They can’t get good service; instead it is runarounds, rudeness, inefficiency, and worse, all reek of corruption. In truth, the society is so overrun by its seedy fingers that it has now become the normal state of affairs. Those who bear the marks of integrity and decency are deemed enemies of the state. Look at how quickly they are ostracised and vilified.
Wilful malfeasance is rewarded with even higher offices. It is not even a misdemeanour to doctor CVs; it is okay to grant contracts to friends and relatives without passing through proper processes; cunning and craftiness merit applause, so go ahead and conceal your financial worth. Nowhere is there evidence that laws will be upheld when breaches are discovered.
We can’t even trust in the integrity of whistle blowers, because for the most part, what we are to believe is that it is a brilliant strategy to keep dirty secrets until it is expedient to release them. Everything said on a public platform has to be taken with a grain of salt because even if it rings true, you have to wonder about the agenda of the teller. Who does the right thing because it is the right thing to do?
People are really fed up and that’s why it doesn’t take much for them to trip off over little things. We’re playing with matches and when big fires start we will not know how to put them out.