No doubt the UK government is happy about that diversion. Getting scandalised and indignant about fundamentalism 'over there', takes people's minds off the corruption (e.g. 'disguised' donations to party funds), hypocrisy (e.g. carbon-lowering rhetoric combined with plans to expand airports) and pathetic impotence (dancing always to the corporate tune) of our own so-called leaders. It's easy to decry what happens 'over there'. When deplorable things are happening 'over here', that is harder to cope with because it means we need to DO something rather than merely grumble. We usually don't, though. The British have made grumbling an art form but we are not good at revolutions.
The Americans were good at revolutions once, but these days most of them seem too busy watching TV or trying to earn a living to notice that the hard-won 'freedoms' they have been taught to believe in since their first day at school are being rapidly taken away from them by a government that's becoming just as scarily repressive as the one that disallows certain names for teddy bears.
Since the tragic events of 9/11, there has been what one journalist described this week as "…a virtual avalanche of legislation and commissions designed to protect the country at the expense of the Bill of Rights." It's a one-two punch, and the final sock to the jaw is likely to come from the passage of a new bill that has the potential to turn any citizen or resident into a 'terrorist' just by jiggling a few words and definitions. (Like they jiggled the definition of 'torture'). Everyone who reads Ronni Bennett's blog, 'Time Goes By' already knows about this. (And if you haven't read what she has to say about it, please do, and forward the link to anyone you know in the USA.)
The problem with revolutions is that they don't usually work. Whatever group seizes power from dysfunctional leaders generally ends up being dysfunctional itself. We may belong to the family of primates but I often think that human beings are more like seagulls than they are like any of the primates I have ever seen. We seem to find it so much easier to fight and squabble – over territory, over belief systems, over just about anything you can name – than we do to co-operate. We talk about democracy but we have really never had it. Not really. Whether it was kings and dukes. governments or multinational corporations, there have always been the rulers and the ruled, the haves and the have-nots, the powerful and the powerless. It never changes. It merely changes form, from place to place and from era to era. Let us not kid ourselves.
I believe, along with many others, that there is only one path out of this morass and that is not north, south, east or westwards. It is upwards. We need to work on changing our own consciousness. To start with our own inner seagulls, watch how they operate, get them talking – and listening – to each other for a change. Next step: learning the skills of interpersonal communication and co-operation. Co-operation, after all, is as much a part of our evolutionary heritage as competition is. Darwin only saw half of the picture. The other half is finally being documented and understood.
This, I believe, is the only way we can avert catastrophe, either political or ecological – and ultimately, both are the same. We face a stark choice now. Evolve or perish.
The one-celled organisms who were our original ancestors faced this same choice three and a half billion years ago, when the planet's oxygen levels rose so high that those CO2-breathing prokaryotes could no longer survive. They learned to breathe oxygen instead. They survived. They learned to co-operate and become multi-celled organisms and all life on Earth is the result, including you and me. But they each had to start with themselves and their personal habits.
So do we.