The Chinese quotation, “May you live in interesting times,” has been the subject of debate for years as to whether it is a curse or a blessing. Well, let’s end that bit of esoteric speculation right now. It is a curse of the highest magnitude. Consider this – every life is fraught with trials and tribulations even in the best of times, and even non-interesting times have their inherent dangers and disappointments. That’s just the nature of life and its ever-present twin, death. Even in the best of times, life is a continual struggle culminating in death sooner or later. In Interesting Times, death is visited on too many of us sooner than need be. Here are some obvious signs that you are indeed inhabiting Interesting Times:
DISCUSSIONS OF “BATTLES OF IDEAS” OR “CLASH OF CULTURES”: Cringe when you hear those phrases and make sure you know where to take cover, maybe have an escape route planned. Think of all the previous clashes of cultures and battles of ideas and how little they resembled their polite titles. World Wars 1 and 2 spring to mind, as do The Crusades, the Jihad that spread Islam by the sword, and the Inquisition. Those were not intellectual debates of ideas between cultures but bloody massacres of millions and millions of human beings by other human beings.
When anybody’s idea of debating tools is vast armies wielding deadly weapons, whatever “ideas” and “cultures” are being attacked or defended come in a distant second to how much wealth and territory can be won by the wealthy and powerful elite on either side of these “debates.” The average foot soldier and civilian gets nothing but grief, never sharing in “the spoils of war.” They usually are the spoils of war, expendable pawns on a chessboard, fed into the meat grinder of war so some rich old fat guys can get fatter and richer. Then when the war is over and one idea or culture wins, their labor is now performed in the service of a new set of fat old guys, same as before but only with a lot people dead and maimed, and their houses wrecked, to boot. Interesting times, indeed.
WORLD LEADERS STANDING ON “PRINCIPAL”: See above, and run.
BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT IN PARTNERSHIP: From the Dutch and British East India companies to today’s interchangeable corporate leaders and elected and appointed representatives, when business interests infest the government, either some hapless nation is about to get overrun or the average Joe and Jane are advised to “tighten their belts.” Rest assured that the wealth of nations will be redistributed in a “trickle up” effect where the rich get obscenely rich and the majority of humanity gets poorer. And when you hear “TAX REFORM,” hide the family silver.
THE RISE OF PROPHETS: Spare us from prophets both religious and political, or both rolled into one. These people are consumed with the notion that they know what is best for everybody, whether or not those everybodies agree. They rant and rave about their pristine vision, usually some extremely convoluted and hate-based ideology, often picking a common petty social gripe and elevating its importance to that of eating and breathing. They find fertile ground in the feeble-minded and the disgruntled and before you know it we’ve got a “movement” on our hands, one that condemns all that we do, all that we stand for and all that we think about, a movement that almost always declares “you’re either for us or against us.”
They invariably leave out the option of being completely indifferent to to ravings of maladjusted lunatics. One thing a prophet can’t stand is to be ignored, even though that is what most of them deserve. They say and do outrageous things to avoid being ignored and force their way into being famous and “important,” when they are in fact about as important as a pair of roller skates is to a snake. To condemn them is to legitimize them. Better to dismiss them from your mind and go about your business doing what makes you happy and don’t worry about who is pleased or displeased.
THE POPULARITY OF GENOCIDE, SLAVERY AND STARVATION: Is there anything worse than genocide? These days it seems to be the political tool of choice, while the ignoring of genocide seems to be an equally popular trend. The United Nations specializes in commissioning long studies and belated condemnations of genocide while hundreds of thousands of innocents are slaughtered. Major nations also chip in by wringing their hands and tut-tutting a lot, all the while quietly selling munitions to combatants on both sides. And the evil twin of genocide, human trafficking, is once again gaining popularity more than a hundred years after every nation on earth banned slavery. This time around it is the most helpless of victims being enslaved, women and children, often for the purposes of sexual and domestic exploitation.
And then there’s the quiet sort of genocide, the plague of starvation that claims 36,000 lives every single day of every single year and is a priority for exactly no major nation on earth. Instead of focusing on that, a pandemic is announced for a swine flu that will kill no more than one day’s worth of starvation victims in an entire year, if that many. So far, more humans have died of bee stings than swine flu. Giant pharmaceutical firms are enjoying immense profits for providing swine flu shots, while there is no profit to be earned by feeding the hungry, at least not in immediate monetary terms.
THE BOTTOM LINE MENTALITY: There are certain human endeavors that are not motivated by immediate profit, such as space exploration, combatting disease and feeding the starving. These things are out of fashion today, and the profit motive has infested every human undertaking (even warfare, with the rise of corporate mercenary private armies). Humanitarian efforts are restricted to digging people out of earthquakes, not preventing disease or feeding starving people, even though there is enough food and medicine available on this earth to ensure that no one dies for lack of food or medical treatment.
The efforts of wealthy nations are feeble in comparison to their potential capabilities in these areas, but they insist upon fielding military forces instead of armies of teachers, technicians and doctors to help the starving feed themselves and the sick to recover. There’s just no angle in it for the corporate-minded world governments, and no profit. The moral and spiritual profit to mankind is never a consideration to Bottom Line advocates, nor is the long-term prosperity to be gained by helping to create a peaceful, healthy world. They will sell guns and tanks to fuel genocidal wars, but lift no finger to counter the universal effects of these wars. Very interesting times indeed to be alive, and a time to count one’s lucky stars for remaining that way.