A quote for our times

23 07 2016

This morning there was news of another horrific terrorist attack, this time in the German city of Munich. Its just the latest in 2016’s string of apparently never-ending traumas. Earlier in the week a black man was shot by police in the United States, lying down on the ground, unarmed, with his hands up. Its another incendiary incident in a United States divided between Black and Blue Lives Matter, twinks for Trump and disaffected Democrats. The Republican National convention was a horror show. Elsewhere, an outspoken Pakistani social media star was murdered by her own brother in an “honor” killing while the Turkish government was almost overthrown and the US drone-bombed the Middle East again. In Australia, Anti-Muslim tensions have flared, leaving me confused by my own conflicted feelings towards Islam. Of course Muslim people should not be discriminated against, but then, when are the issues at the heart of Islam going to be addressed? In Asia, China and the Philippines are clashing over the South China Sea and Japanese actress Kiko Mizuhara was forced to serve up a humiliating video apology for liking a pro-Japanese nationalist picture on Weibo.

It feels as though the world is spinning out of control, on the brink of something. A momentum is gathering…but to what? It seems to me that social media is playing a role in much of this: netizens becoming more strident, more self-righteous, more intolerant, out looking for faults in others as a means of signalling their own virtue, leading to a hardening of positions and bringing matters to a head.

One of the people I follow on Facebook posted a quote, originally coined back in the early Twentieth century by Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci (although, it is often claimed that he was misquoted. ) Regardless of whether he said the words or not, I felt the line had a strange and eerie resonance for the world of 2016:

The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.

But in these words there is also a dim promise of hope, a new world on the way. One of my favourite commentators on recent events, Maajid Nawaz, has said that he believes the current bloodshed and intolerance in the Muslim world might actually be an opportunity, the painful and bloody birth of a movement for reform amongst grassroots Muslims who will rebel against the violence in their name.

But even so, that leaves a lot of monsters to slay.




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