Standing on the edge of the abyss: Comments about recent eventsPosted: November 14, 2015
Events in Paris last night were more than shocking. Coming as they do in a week where we remembered those who died during the wars of the twentieth century and of this century, they were a brutal reminder that we are presently in a state of war, a war against terror, a war against people who regard their own death – and the death of others – as steps towards their idea of how the world should be.
I lived through the Cold War. Our ‘enemy’ was easy to identify and – to a certain extent – predictable. I can remember taking part in Civil Defence exercises to see how well London’s transport system could cope with evacuating the capital’s population in the event of a possible nuclear attack. I can also remember the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we seemed to stand on the very edge of the abyss of nuclear war, only to pull back at the last minute when calmer heads realised that once such a war started, no one would emerge as a winner. The world was a dangerous place, but not an angry one.
I can never remember the world as being such an angry place. Everyone seems to be angry about something and – what is most worrying – is willing to express that anger in the most violent ways available to them. We seem to have forgotten our humanity. We seem to have forgotten that the people we are angry with – and upon whom we visit our anger – are just like us. They are not mindless avatars in some great 3D video game; they are flesh and blood, with lives, families, loves, aspirations, doubts, concerns.
Is there a way in which the world’s anger can be dispelled and tensions reduced so that we can make the world a safer place? I would like to think that there is … but I cannot for the life of me see how it can be done. Politicians of all political viewpoints pontificate about how good their policies would at making life better for everyone if only we all did what they proposed … but since the beginning of recorded time no political creed has managed that. One would hope that religion or a shared moral philosophy might point a way forward … but as long as people argue about whose belief system is right and whose is wrong, then it is more likely to evoke anger than to assuage it.
What I find amazing is that last Saturday I watched a TV programme where the situation the world seems to be in – and the solution that we will have to face – was summed up very well indeed. One does not expect that to happen, but I would like to share it with those who might not have seen or heard it.
The following was part of a speech made by the eponymous hero of DOCTOR WHO towards the end of the episode transmitted on the BBC on Saturday 7th November, 2015:
‘So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one? … This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they’re always going to have to do from the very beginning – sit down and talk! … You’re all the same, you screaming kids, you know that? ‘Look at me, I’m unforgivable.’ Well here’s the unforeseeable, I forgive you. After all you’ve done. I forgive you.’
Do we have to stand on the edge of the abyss again to make us realise that we must all step back and stop before we destroy ourselves? If only it was possible for people to forgive each other, and to learn to live with and appreciate their differences rather than to use them as an excuse to exercise the anger they feel …
If only …