Vanity thought #1240. Thankfully, not alone

For a while now I have been pessimistic about future of our world. Intractable problems pop up everywhere and there seems to be no way out of it. Some have been predicting the end of the world for years now but if it’s a train wreck in motion, it’s a very slow one.

2008 economic crisis didn’t kill us and unconventional post-crisis actions also didn’t have as devastating effect as predicted. Dollar didn’t crush, the US didn’t lose her crown, Chinese are slowing down, Islam didn’t take over the world, the West didn’t die, the status quo is practically the same. People all around me do not see things going to dogs at all, life is hard but still full of hope. Things will work out, sanity will prevail, and world peace is just around the corner.

So I suspected that I gave in to old age, or got enclosed in my own bubble, hearing only echoes of my own thoughts, or that I invested myself too much into these views and won’t let them go against all evidence. In any case, it’s bad. Not just because it makes me look foolish and repetitive but because my intelligence seems to be affected, and we can’t get anywhere with weak intelligence in our spiritual lives.

Some have good, reliable hearts, I’m not one of them. Some have tons of determination, that’s not me either. Some have good association and full support of the community, not me really. It so happens that I have to rely on my own intelligence to stay afloat in my spiritual attempts. I have to personally discriminate between what is favorable and what is unfavorable for my service, I have to discriminate between various sources of inspiration, too. I need my wits around me, they are my only tool to stay connected to Lord Caitanya’s mercy. One foolish move, one careless offense, and I’ll be buried in illusion forever, I have not time to get lost and climb back, life is too short to make mistakes.

So I naturally worry that my intelligence might be failing me. If it fails in one area, it can fail anywhere else, too, I need a validation to go on. Luckily, I found it, in another geopolitical analysis of the recent Charlie Hebdo‘s massacre by George Friedman.

He makes a lot of interesting points and connections between history and modern day but details are not important. What I liked about his piece is that he admitted he doesn’t see a way out. There are choices to be made but none of them is good, it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. Islam and Christianity, or rather its spiritual successor – secularism, are coming head to head and it seems nothing can stop the inevitable collision.

He starts by saying that Charlie Hebdo galvanized the world and galvanized public is dangerous. Last Sunday French held massive demonstrations in support of free speech and free thinking. I wouldn’t dare to say anything against that crowd, their slogans not-withstanding. The examples of danger of disagreeing with proponents of free thinking came right away.

French comedian of Muslim extraction has been detained for a post on his Facebook page. Long live freedom of speech! Poor dude said something about one of the terrorists that went against the prevailing mood and was immediately sanctioned for it. Some said something in his defense but the Prime Minister and Le Monde immediately got on his case and said that freedom of speech should not be confused with anti-Semitism, racism and Holocaust denial, that it was limited by French law, and did not extend to incitement to hatred or racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.

Muslims are okay, though, by French standards they are like Ubermensch for Nazis, insulting them is a noble thing to do.

It was the same thing with that movie The Interview about assassination of North Korean Kin Jong Un. Presidents and world leaders get killed in the movies all the time but they are always fictional characters, not actual people. There was only one movie where G.W.Bush was assassinated and this is what Hillary Clinton had to say about it: “I think it’s despicable. I think it’s absolutely outrageous. That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick.” (Source) That chubby Asian dictator is a fair game, though, it’s perfectly okay to profit from him, he is not really human, right? Right?

Anyway, the new issue of Charlie Hebdo is out and they sure put Muhammad on the cover again. French might be clear about it but the rest of the world is not. In Europe the cover cartoon was widely reprinted but that was not he case anywhere else. Danish newspaper who started the whole affair with anti-Muhammad cartoons in 2006 didn’t print it. In the UK only one major daily printed it, BBC didn’t show it, others either cropped Muhammad out or put a big disclaimer. Same story was in the US with NYTimes, for example, providing only a link to the site where people could view the original, not the cartoon itself.

Muslim leaders in Europe came forward to ask for peace, understanding and tolerance. I don’t know what effect it would have, perhaps some would call them sellouts, perhaps some would understand their message as a call to a long-term struggle against the infidels. Time will tell.

ATM, no one knows what to do with Muslims in Europe. There are millions of them, should they all be held responsible, as Rupert Murdoch said in his widely discussed tweets? Murdock owns a media empire controlling much of the public discussion in both the US and the UK, in case you don’t know. Lots of people mocked him for that statement but polls showed that supporters of this idea and its opponents are split almost equally.

What will happen to Muslims now? One choice is to leave things as they are and simply tolerate occasional sparks of terrorist violence, another choice is to go hard after them. Neither is acceptable. So far people demand moderate Muslims to speak up against terrorism, and many oblige, but what would be the practical effect of this? There already are voices saying that they are apologizing for things they have nothing to do with. They won’t continue in this vein for much longer.

Trying to separate bad Muslims from good ones is also impossible. They are calling for war on radical Islam but no one knows what exactly it looks like. They are not wearing uniforms, you know. Policemen walking the streets and making judgment calls will most certainly get it wrong and real terrorists will strike randomly and without anyone stopping them, so the society will likely to be forced to deal with violence after the fact.

Muslims themselves, of course, should be able to tell who in their ranks is likely to resort to violence and there are calls for Muslims to police themselves, but what if they don’t? They most likely won’t, except, perhaps, paying the idea a lip service.

Another problem is European multiculturalism which in this case means that Muslims stay together and refuse to share traditional French values, and French themselves do not see them as “Europeans”, too. Muslims came to France for money, not to become French, and national identity in Europe is closely connected to one’s birthplace, one’s ethnicity, one’s people’s history, and therefore Muslims will never become part of French identity, they will always be different. It’s easier in the US because of the ethnically agnostic “American Dream”. EU was supposed to be an equivalent of that but Muslims are not buying it so far.

Now it’s too late to do anything about it, public’s insistence on ridiculing their faith is not going to endear French to Muslim hearts, and the same thing repeats itself across Europe.

And so bit by bit, step by step, the world is heading for an imminent disaster. Russians and the new Cold War, Iran and its nukes, ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and now Muslim extremism in Europe, Palestinian problem going nowhere – people are increasingly drawn into incompatible and very combative camps. World peace is not an option.

I might still be wrong about this but at least I have a company now, so my mind isn’t really failing me yet, which is a good news. Now, knowing that the world is heading for a confrontation between two equally bad sides, it should be easier to chart my own course. A short talk with practically anybody can reveal which way that persons leans to and the beauty of this situation is that all views and values behind them are to be rejected. It should be easier to stop myself from sympathizing and keep my nose clean.

It’s actually a very practical advice – just recently I heard a devotee deliver a long anti-American diatribe, which is not uncommon in ISKCON at all. Now I know where these people are coming from and I know to stay clear, it should help, otherwise I just wasted 1500 words on nothing, which isn’t unusual but still unwelcome.


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