I don’t like to make New Year’s resolutions. I heard on a radio programme yesterday that only 10% of resolutions made survive more than a few weeks or even days. However, going against my own advice, I’m making two this year: to learn French properly (I am, still no further on than I was when I took my A Levels back in the mists of time); and to write a more regular blog here. This second stands even less chance than the first but let’s see how it goes. Maybe I hope writing this will commit me to it, but as we all know, we don’t forgive anyone as quickly as we forgive ourselves.
Why do we put ourselves under such pressure? It’s about wild ambition and that adorable, honourable hope of humans to better themselves. I’ll give up chocolate, I’ll give up smoking, I’ll give up eating too much (or too little if you have a tendency to anorexia, I suppose), I’ll give up this or that perceived fault or bad habit. And so on. To make myself a better person.
Actually, I’m not sure that speaking better French or writing more of these little essays is going to make me a better person. Or you, reader, for that matter. What does make us better people? I’ve always said and hopefully passed on to my daughters (they certainly seem to have got the message) that all that really matters in life is love and work, the rest is mere circumstance. Love well and selflessly, and work hard at something that engages you. Most adults will spend something around half of their lives working, yet most treat work as a chore to pay for their free time. Do what you love, or love what you do, by which I mean, do it with dedication and all of your creative and intellectual ability. Insert platitudes here – life is short, this isn’t a rehearsal, no one gets a second chance, you only regret what you didn’t do, etcetera etcetera.
Which brings me back to the subject that occupied my last two posts, the ongoing struggle with terrorism, defined as a tiny minority pitting itself against the will and good of the rest and using whatever means it can to force a change no one but them wants.
What makes a terrorist? Or rather, what makes ordinary people decide to ally themselves with a terrorist movement, particularly nowadays, one that operates and is based far from them? What persuades them to turn on their unsuspecting neighbours and cause what eventually is considerably less damage than will be meted out in retaliation by the governments they oppose?
They will have come upon their propaganda on the internet, and anyway, we can all get some inkling of the motives of the major terrorist movements in the world, the so-called Islamists or Jihadists, who break every tenet of Islam and employ methods the Prophet himself specifically forbade, or the Aryan Brotherhood and other racist or separatist movements in the Christian world, who break all the laws their own Messiah Jesus also forbade.
And the real sadness is that it is all a futile campaign anyway. The Americans in particular but the generality of the Western or Capitalist states as well, are not going to give up on this easily, and they will not be driven from the earth because actually, they are mainly benign and they operate an economic system that is essentially the way the world has always worked, just better understood and more successfully exploited than at any time in the past. Truth is, most of us are happy with the world as it is, not looking for the kind of revolution these people claim to be instigating, any more than Communism worked in the end.
Of course, if I put this to a jihadist he’d tell me that one day the whole world will be an Islamic Caliphate, but all I can say is, point to one World Empire that actually controlled the whole world, and in any case, how long did it last? The Roman Empire hung in a little more than two millennia, but only extended across Europe and North Africa. The Egyptian Empire probably lasted twice that, but only occupied North Africa and Arabia. They were not worldwide by any stretch of the imagination (or definition of worldwide). In these later centuries the British Empire, which did actually come to a position where it might call itself worldwide, only lasted for a century (“The sun never sets on the British Empire” they used to say, till it set on it pretty much everywhere apart from Britain itself).
The Americans get all confused and embarrassed if you call their hegemony an empire, but whatever it is, it too is already waning, as the world economy moves away from manufacture and the exploitation of raw materials and difficulties of distribution, and wealth becomes more widely spread and shared. Oxfam and others predict the end of extreme poverty within twenty years or less. Nano-technologies and the internet and virtual communications will erode the structures that currently work to place the so-called developed nations over the rest of the world in terms of personal wealth and well-being. It will all be equally available so that only choice and taste will distinguish the various cultures. All nations will be developed, their will be no more Third World, or First World either.
The lesson of history is that all armed struggles end in negotiation and peace because, as said here before, the vast majority of human beings want only for today to be pleasant and tomorrow to be much the same. In these times of increasing (albeit slowly) well being for the great majority, these angry people, like our own dear armed Republican movement here in Ireland, will become more and more isolated from the communities they claim to be fighting for, and doomed to die out as the world the rest of us live in moves on and away from the days of horror and death. It’s just not the way we like things to be.
If they would care to make a new year’s resolution, I’d suggest they resolve to find arguments to replace their bombs and see if those work, and if they don’t, then forget it. Find someone to love and work to enjoy.
So Happy New Year Everybody, be it 2016 (Roman Calendar) or 1437 (Hijri Calendar).