The year 2010 completes the first decade of the 21st Century. For the last nine years we have been in the new century, but the hoped for new millennium eludes us. The mind set of hubris still plagues. We hope that we are seeing the last dying flare-up of ethnic and religious wars from the overhang of the 20th Century.
The demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s brought forth the hope of a new era of cooperation and international understanding. Unfortunately the new leaders of the US, the sole super power in the year 2000 interpreted it as unhindered hegemony.
The countries that had grievously suffered destruction as the battle-field of cold war were forgotten. Many new ethnic regional wars were allowed to flare up; such as in the balkanized former Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and the sub Saharan Africa. These wars were initially ignored by the world until they became wholesale genocides. The old conflicts were allowed to fester; particularly the Israel-Palestinian conflict; even though the conflict has well known obvious solutions, but the Palestinians had none, or very weak constituency in the west, and thus ignored.
The people chafing under the dictatorial Middle-Eastern potentates supported by the West for mutual economic and geopolitical interests had looked up to Soviet Union as a balancing force. Disillusioned by the Soviets and corrupt dictatorships some took refuge in the supremacist interpretation of Islam.
The rise of the supremacist religious doctrine found a symbiotic resonance in almost all religions. The Islamists in the Islamic countries, particularly in the Middle-East, the Christian right in the West, the Hindu supremacists (Hindutva) in India and even the Buddhist in Sri Lanka and Thailand found sustenance in suppressing others.
The Islamists ideology rooted in the pre-modern world, took shape in Osama Bin Ladin’s attack on the United States on 9/11, for some real, but mostly transferred grievances of inadequacy of their own societies.
Those were confusing times, but with the distance of nine years, in retrospect, it is clear that in this struggle, the 17th Century ideology was able to drag the late 20th Century Nation, to their level of thinking, albeit with the power of modern weapons. The religious right in the US took pride in the ignorance by painting the whole Islamic world in the same extreme colors as the Islamists painted the west.
The thoughtless wars aggression, torture and mindless bombings have left millions of innocent people dead and many millions homeless. It not only sustains the virus of hatred, but spreads it through the victims.
A calamitous corollary of unhindered wars, hubris and greed was the near collapse of the US and Western economies. By the end of 2008 the US and the Western economies were in free fall with the specter of the 1929 great depression. 2009 has been totally devoted to digging out of a deep hole with a terribly imperfect understanding. Though, not very successful, it was successful enough to avoid the looming depression, with a hope of an anemic recovery.
There is a lesson in it. The countries not completely integrated in the western economies have done much better. China has done very well and has emerged as an economic colossus. India’s economy has flourished. The economies of Brazil, Turkey and some other Latin American countries have markedly improved.
Many prone to reflection know that the array of political forces in the world has changed. Others cling to the hackneyed myopic frame of mind of religious wars of supremacy. The fog has significantly cleared to reveal that the real enemy is our willingly cultivated ignorance, lost in trivia and half-truths on the airwaves feeding on our gullibility.
The world is not as different as is painted by the propagandists in delusional colors. Contrived collision of “us and them” has happened many times before. To fodder the flames of hatred our designated enemies are presented as caricatures. It is time to erase that fake line between them and us; it is an opportunity to face the outside world with strength, yes; but more importantly with understanding. Strength without introspective understanding is always misdirected. The realignment of powers and the fall of empires should have taught us that lesson.
All sides have legitimate grievances that have solutions. The United Nations was created to provide such a forum. But it has been sidelined by strong nations claiming exclusivity. In the mean time the extremist ideologies flourish. Ideologies couched in religions shout down the voices of those who practice religion with humility and grace.
Though the first nine years of this century have been a continuation of the conflicts rooted in the mind set of the bloody 20th century, but the voices of reason and peace appear to be resurgent in all countries, especially in the United Sates. The internet has become an arena of struggle, where the progressive vices of peace are competing with the retrogressive voices of hate. For those who choose a better tomorrow, not only for themselves, but for all, this is the time for a momentous change. It is a time to raise our voice against the voices of hate within our own countries, societies and religions to usher the hoped for new millennium.