What is this dystopia and how did we end up here? It is like a murder mystery. Too many suspects. As many clues. But still we are nowhere near an answer. And you can feel it. The hardening of societies around the world. Bad behaviour’s triumph. Decay of social and political order. Meltdown of common sense. Collapse of decency. And above everything else the slow and painful shutting down of hope.
Important to note. This is not an angry rant of a manically depressed individual. On the contrary. In your gut you can feel it too. One by one the symbols of hope that stood in the world are going out. Perhaps the wake-up call came with Donald Trump’s victory. But the process had begun much earlier. Before Modi became India’s premier.
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Before ethnocentrism abducted Europa again. Before the Arab Spring sprang up on us and tore the social fabric and countless lives in those long-repressed societies down. It began somewhere between the collapse of Twin Towers and the invasion of Iraq. If 9/11 was an end of innocence for an average everyday American, . But let us keep moving back in time in search of clues before we return to the present dystopia.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the pain it caused to its citizens. The world had not prepared for the great fall. Those of us who were alive and grown up enough remember the footages of long queues for one loaf of bread, one pint of brandy. At least the end of the World War II witnessed a Marshall Plan meant to rebuild life ruined by the war. The end of Cold War witnessed no such mercy for the vanquished. Pain is pain. It hurts your enemies just as much as it hurts you. But their pain was ignored and forgotten. Democracy had failed then too.
Keep going back. Meet the Tank Man of the Tiananmen Square. A brave man stood before the tanks blocking their path. Right or wrong, it was a unique display of valour. Who was he? What became of him? We do not know to this day. In the grainy footage secretly taped and smuggled out of the country all we see is a man blocking the path of three tanks. The tanks stop, attempt to manoeuver past him but to no avail. He climbs one up and tries to open its lid. Climbs down and eventually escorted away by other civilians. Democracy did not seriously try to find him. His anger, anguish, frustration, all forgotten. When democracy abandons it doesn’t look back.
Let us take a detour. A massive contemporary sideshow. The Afghan Jihad. With huge investment of time and resources the Soviet occupation is overturned. Now the liberated await the behind-the-scenes liberators. To rebuild lives, to build democracy. But our protagonist is no show. Only warlords, Pakistan and a few other actors left behind to sort the mess out. Another people abandoned by democracy.
Fast forward. Iraq invasion. Almost universally opposed but George W Bush, yeah, the man you now miss, cobbled together a so-called coalition of the willing and went inside. State structure demolished. Society pulverised. Lives destroyed. And then with the advent of Obama era Iraq too abandoned, albeit with good intentions. Only militiamen, a sketchy government structure, Iran and other regional players left behind. Democracy did not see what was to come even then.
Then came the Arab Spring. Demolished old structures. Didn’t introduce new ones. In Egypt one Generalissimo was eventually replaced by another. Saudi Arabia was so shaken that it had to redo the entire internal political order, intervene in Yemen and look for strange bedfellows. From Libya to Syria, other nations still struggle to survive. Had it not been for Benghazi and the emergence of the IS, democracy would have long forgotten this region too. But even today its attention doesn’t do these countries any service. They are caught in time warp and the blood keeps spilling. And don’t get me started on countries like Pakistan. Or places like Kashmir where terror never ends.
The purpose of recounting these failings of the democratic world should not lead you to conclude that it is by any means implied that the world deserves what is happening today. Far from it. The only purpose is to mentally prepare you for what comes next. That it has been done before. Don’t let the sheer scale of darkness intimidate you for man once knew how to live in the dark. It is not that difficult to bid adieu to democracy or hope. It has been done before.
So what is happening now? And what is to come? What we have witnessed so far can be summarised in two terms: hardening of states and rise of reactionary politics. Social media connected all troubled spots of the world and mainstreamed their pain, anger and paranoia. This connection, while debilitating on its own, was enough to scare the states of a possible decline. They hardened their positions and became only too rigid. Among reactionary politicians they have found willing allies. As a result, you may soon see purges of Rohingya proportion all over the world.Pakistan stresses on broad-based ties with US
And that was the story so far. If you find a way to gauge today there is almost metaphysical, unspoken, unrecognised sense of approaching doom. Three factors contribute immensely to this sense. 1) Exploding population, which gives rise to the fear of being run over by a horde of immigrants. 2) Of decaying climate, which despite best denials of some politicians will become too self-evident. 3) Fear of rising technology resulting in the shrinking share of the working class in the pie. And if you thought mankind can overcome these challenges take a look at the obvious popular choice. Not socialism. National Socialism (Nazism). Get rid of immigrants and then try building a socialist society. And don’t forget socialism isn’t a solution either. It is only better than Nazism.
This was happening on its own. With the active patronage of far-right reactionaries by the Netanyahus, the Cambridge Analyticas, the Mercers and the Bannons of the world, the situation will only worsen. Markets will crash. Economies will tank. Intolerance will increase. Dissent will be crushed. And the world will become far less governable.
You cannot rule out miracles of course. I have been taught to wait for one throughout my life. It did not come. But who knows one day it might. But until that’s all folks.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2018.
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