Monday, November 16, 2015

Unblurring

When you know very little about a group of people, things, or ideas, they all blur. It is impossible to tell things apart because they don't mean very much to you. There is far too much in the world for us to have been able to 'learn the language' of every category. The words of things are a string of unintelligible sound till you make the effort. The events of the weekend, and the ongoing tragedies around the world leaving me feeling rather overwhelmed at how little I know.

From the outside we may look the same. If a small group of the Western World - take your pick - (say UKIP, the Mormon church, the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, the Republican Party of the US, the Democratic Party of the US, the African National Congress of South Africa) claimed to represent everyone else, or the West's 'true belief', they would be laughed off the stage. 'The West' may be seen as a cohesive, disruptive force in parts of the world, in the same way that 'The West' views other parts of the world with a blanket.

Change also tends to come from within. When a leader in the West wants to make change, they have to be pragmatic. They need the support of 51% of the electorate (or a majority of constituencies). Barack Obama may be able to sign a handful of executive orders, but for the most part, he can't do whatever he likes. Leaders have to bring people along with them. We likely have to wait till people aren't running for anything, or working for anyone, till we hear what they really think. My grandfather is happy to tell me, or anybody, what he really thinks.

Even the World's most powerful man isn't so powerful

I don't think any amount of increased security will make terrorist attacks impossible. Increased security at airports has apparently cost lives because aeroplanes are safer than cars, and the increased time taken to fly to places has lead to more people driving. The fact is the politicians don't have an answer. No one bombing anyone is going to stop this. It is going to take time. It is going to take us admitting we don't know what to do. It is going to take us pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and learning about blurs until we can stop killing each other.

I spent a chunk of the weekend wiki-walking through Islam. I am visiting my father who has done much more reading than me on the subject. He handed me Karen Armstrong's 'Islam - a short history' which I have started. It seems the historic Muhammad was just such a pragmatist. He arrived at a difficult time in Arab society and acted as a bridge to the Christian and Jewish faiths. He wasn't trying to start a religion. Armstrong argues that had he known of the Hindu and Buddhist sages, he would have referred to them too. He took the context of the Arab people and tried to forge, within their worldview, a way forward.

I am not claiming expertise, but from my view, each country has its own crazies. Some are under control. Some aren't. Rather than convincing everybody that we are right or wrong, we have to figure out a way to adjust and accommodate. It would be awesome if we could start doing that by not killing each other.

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