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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
I met my old friend for some drinks last night and had a very enjoyable time. I'd not seen him in several months, it was good to catch up. While there will be no work with him anytime soon, we agreed to make an effort to stay in touch and he is up for taking some shrooms with me soon.
The real highlight of my evening was my mini-cab journey back to Casa del Hippy, which was spent in deep conversation with my driver. He was an Arab gentleman and unashamed supporter of one Osama Bin Laden and his merry band of cold-blooded killers, Al Qaeda. He doesn't view them as terrorists at all; he sees them as "freedom fighters". His opinions didn't shock me, but his willingness to share them so openly with me, left me more than surprised.
Now, hearing terrorists being referred to as "freedom fighters" is nothing new to me. As a journalist, I was taught early on that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. If memory serves, the style of both the Associated Press and Reuters is to not use the word "terrorist" unless it is in a direct quote from a source or interview subject.
I'll give you an example, if you lived in Britain in the late 1700s, you probably would have viewed George Washington and his fellow-fighters as terrorists hell-bent on ending the King's rule in the colonies. Suggest that to an American today and you would probably be smacked in the face, or reported to the office of Un-American activities for further interrogation. Bring on the rubber hoses.
I can think of a few current and recent world-leaders that started out committing terrorist acts. How about one I admire, Nelson Mandela,? He was involved in violence against the state. I won't argue that the state he attacked and its system of apartheid was evil, but do the ends always justify the means? Machiavelli certainly had a point, but if you subscribe to his philosophy, then you would have to extend it to people who's ideology you do not agree with - you would still have to respect their right to pursue their own goals by whatever means they choose.
My minicab driver, who quite confidently claimed his views were held by the majority of Arabs around the world, said that the victims of the Madrid bombings deserved to be killed, "because that is what happens in a war and this is a real war with Al Qaeda." He genuinely believed that all of those people, over 200 dead and more than a thousand injured, were legitimate targets. He said all this in a calm, gentle manner with a smile on his face, which made it all the more disconcerting.
I am not going to claim that all Muslims feel that way, just because one mouthy taxi driver says so, but I do think that his opinions are more widely held than you or I would care to believe. My travels whiling working have brought me into contact with extremists before, there's only one way to handle them. Listen politely and keep your own views private, disagreeing or arguing will not do you any favours.
I when got home, I relayed this tale to Mrs. Hippy. She thought I should have gotten his details and reported him. To whom and for what, I asked. He's entitled to his opinions, no matter how repulsive I may find them. And as far as I can remember, thought-crimes only exist in "1984". There’s was nothing I could or should do about it.
I've begun to think I was born at the wrong time. No, I don't mean too late, I don't believe all this "good old days" nonsense. The world is not that great a place now and it wasn't back then, although different reasons ruin different times.
I try to imagine what the world will be like in one thousand years. I know that is silly, because it is fairly unknowable. I don't subscribe to a Gene Roddenberry-Star Trek version of a future utopia, though I can appreciate his optimism. I think about a future where differences in race, nationality, religion are all gone and over a period of one hundred centuries, this level of change is certainly possible. Likely is another story.
We live in a world where every major city is one suitcase nuke away from being blown back into the stone age, where governments, especially the US are eroding our civil liberties daily. And what is at the root of all of this? No, not the threat of terrorism, that is a symptom of the greater problem, the divisions across the globe.
Everything that separates us today, all the things I've mentioned above, race, religion, nationality, plus poverty, are all behind the instability in the world today. They always have been, but thanks to globalisation and the media, these divides have never been more apparent. The key is the homogenization of the entire planet.
What the fuck does that mean? What it means that over time, the residents of this planet need to unite, how about under the catch-all banner of earthlings?
Think about it, if we all view the entire world as one place that we all reside upon, think about how it might change the way we treat each other. I read a report the other day that said by 2050, the white folks in America will be outnumbered by "people of colour". I think this is great! I'm by no means a racial purist, leave that to the eugenics nuts, but I dream of the day when there is just one race on the planet, the human race.
Think about it, if everyone was just a shade of brown, it would eliminate one of society's biggest dividers. It will happen, not in my lifetime, but one day this will be true and it will be a good thing.
Nationality and religion are a bit trickier, since they are ideological rather than physical. If you look at the "us vs. them" nature of the world today and extrapolate it a bit further, you see that there are two competing sides already, the west vs. the fundamentalist Arabs. In terms of resources, the US and its allies have the upper hand, but in turns of nationality and religion, Al Qaeda is winning.
What do I mean, that Al Qaeda are winning?
OK, for starters, Al Qaeda blurs the nationality issue, its loose collection of groups and members come from just about every country. They see themselves as Muslims first, their nationality is secondary or totally unimportant to them. In this regard, they are doing more to unite their cause than America. The US, on the other hand, has succeeded in damaging or destroying relationships with some of their oldest post-world-war-two allies. America is more isolated today than I can ever remember.
And how about religion? Again, Al Qaeda scores well because they are committed to their fundamentalist views and see it as a foundation for everything else they believe. The west, with its mixture of Judeo-Christian and moderate Muslim values has no middle ground, and they can't even manage to have a smooth co-existence amongst themselves. How can the west be an example to the rest of the world when they are not showing a unified front?
One side will be victorious over the other, that much is clear, its a question of which one. Of course, I want the west to win, but I have clear enough vision to see that this is not guaranteed. Complacency in the face of committed resistance could lose this fight. So could a fucking dunderhead like George W. Bush!
I don't have all the answers, I'm not even sure of all the questions. I do know that the world has always changed and will always continue to change. The shape of the future is unknown, but I like to think that in one-thousand years, we might manage to put an end to most of this shit. A boy can dream.
I'm starting to wonder if anyone's visited my blog yet. Only one person knows about this so far, my brother and he hasn't really bothered to read any of it yet. I haven't told Mrs Hippy, but I will, once I build up the archive a bit.
Email me if you've read any of my blog, I'd be interested in hearing from *you*
"Your ass is a space ship that I want to ride...."