Tuesday, April 26, 2016

World power: the intended and unintended consequences

We are most destructive generation.
Copyright Shafiq Morton.
WRITING a predictive and analytical piece about global events in this day and age is often predicated by the frustration, and the qualification, that things can change so quickly. 

The globalisation of information technology and economic systems has globalised the dynamics of politics and power.

However, it’s not a complete circle. He, who controls information and the money, might arrogantly think he can control everything – but as the Wiki leaks and the Panama Papers have shown, information is a double-edged sword.

Ultimately, there are no guarantees. Landscapes can shift fast, like sand-dunes in the Sahara, and no sooner have you pressed the send button, when something else happens to confound what you’ve just said. Then there’s the “pipeline theory” where, for instance, if you open a tap in New York, Alice Springs in Australia gets wet.

Oil, the black gold of the Apocalypse, is the obvious paragon here. The oil price, forced to drop via deliberately increased OPEC volumes, has been a war by any other name. Oil is tied to the dollar, and as the barrel price has plummeted to unprofitable production levels, it has caused the economies of Iran, Venezuela and Russia – all troublesome entities to the US and the Gulf – to tailspin. It’s just so easy.  

Or so it seems, because there are unintended consequences. Those who’ve turned on the oil taps have inflicted damage on their own economies too and sent other major oil producers – such as Nigeria, Angola and Malaysia – down the toilet. From one single action at the source, millions end up suffering.

Take Iraq and Libya, Iraq trying to rebuild from 2003 and Libya reeling from post-Gaddafi tribalism, extremism and chaos.  Is it significant that Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, both monstrous, but tolerated oligarchs in Washington and London, spoke about not playing the dollar game before their overthrows? It is cynical, yes, but the infamous “seven sisters” of the oil business have always preferred to deal with closed societies.

And now the people of Iraq, Libya – and even poor old Syria – have to pay the price of being a chessboard for macho Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, maybe China, the nervous Gulf states and a war weary US. Europe, in particular, has signed off on the most racist deal since Nazism to ensure that refugees – mostly Arab or Africans fleeing the developed world’s proxy conflicts – will be cleansed from the Euro-zone and sent to Turkey.

Further afield one faces the stultifying lack of moral consciousness of Aung Suung Kyi, once the darling of the human rights community, who refuses to condemn Buddhist extremists from ethnically cleansing the indigenous Rohinghyas of Burma. Human Rights Watch, and other agencies, rate the Rohinghyas as the most oppressed people on earth, and yet this Nobel Peace Prize winner is unable to utter a word.

If that’s not enough, there is the arms industry, undeniably the most corrupt industry on the planet. Claiming that it makes the world more secure, the real effect of the military-industrial complex since World War Two has been the opposite. The arms industry is a hugely hypocritical business. So much so, that you could find Hizballah and Israeli buyers bidding for the same equipment at an arms fair.

Again in the arms industry, which recycles weapons used in one conflict zone to another – thus compounding global bedlam – there are unintended consequences. It’s famously called “blowback”.  

Writing in his book, The Shadow World inside the Global Arms Trade, former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein says: “Perhaps the most obvious example is the US arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Armed and trained to drive the Soviet Union out of the country, the same trained fighters, with the same weapons, formed the core of the Taliban and the adumbral Al Qaeda network that today constitutes America’s greatest enemy.”

And that’s the truth, but let me stop for a moment. Reading all of this correctly is an instinct that as I’ve just said – often gets betrayed. There are no easy rides on the conspiracy shuttle. There are no comfortable walks on the actuality trail.

And this six month old year, battered and bruised by ISIS terror, wholesale corruption, human suffering and natural events such as floods and earthquakes, is already reeling from the tumultuous events that have shaken it.

Locally, we’ve had the curse too. Crippling drought and then Number One, and then Number One’s son and his adventures in Guptaland, and then Number One’s firing of a finance minister that almost sunk the economy, and then, Number One’s deserved bitch slap from Thuli Madonsela via the Concourt.  

We’ve had service delivery unrest (actually the young, the restless and the unemployed broaching vital issues) and university protest (the young and the restless asking the same questions but in a different way).

Reading what I’ve written so far a person might be tempted to think that the 21st century is a horrible place, or that I’m manic. Manic I’m not, but indeed, in many ways the world is horrible, but never in human history has man had the potential, and the means, to do so much good and to reduce the poverty gap so effectively.

We have the technology and the knowledge, but what is slowly killing us is rampant consumerism,  environmental rape, the venality of power and the masonic military industrial complex. Here, God-given technology is used for questionable means, unguided by any morality except naked expediency.

However, it is a sober thought that on the historical timeline we are probably mostly the most well-off, but most destructive generation of mankind. As I’ve said, we possess tools no other civilisations have had before. Look at Dresden in the second World War, the Niger Delta, Hiroshima after the bomb or the Vietnam jungle after Agent Orange.

But how do we deal with all of this as Muslims? Wet-blanket defeatism is not our ethos. As the late Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki said on his last visit to Cape Town: there may well be lots of fasad – or calumny – on the earth, but there is still goodness amongst us. And whilst it may well be our duty to speak – or act out responsibly – against injustice, it is equally our duty to focus and build on the khayr, the inherent goodness that appeals to us all.

Or as another Shaykh, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, told me after 9/11: we have to strive according to our capacity as Allah, the Highest, permits us. There will always be things beyond our control, and we have to leave them in the hands of the One who knows best, whilst we beseech Him for the best outcome.