Even if American president Donald Trump had not opened up his country’s giant conservation estate to exploitation, stuffed migrants and their children into open-air jails and shamelessly fostered racial tensions, he would have lost me – deeply and seriously – when he refused to respond to one recent moral dilemma on the world stage.
He would not jeopardise a massive US arms sale to an oil-rich country waging war on the essentially unarmed citizens in a neighbouring state, he said, even having the gall to overstate the figure for the purchase, as if such a rich commercial opportunity would exonerate his reluctance.
Modern arms pumped out by the most powerful nations on earth (which have also stuffed themselves with the fruits of the earth for centuries) are behind every village overrun by armed bandits in Africa and Arabia, every aid convoy highjacked by men toting guns, every civil war that’s making life on the planet intolerable for the 65.6 million individuals who have been forcibly displaced because of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations.
According to the 2017 figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, this includes 5.4 million Palestinian refugees, 2,739,000 people in the Middle East and North Africa, 4,413,000 in Africa, 4,391,000 in Europe and 3,830 million in Asia and the Pacific. I had to re-write these figures – reducing such misery and decimation of ancient civilisations, heroic history and the planet’s diversity of genes and habitats to decimal points was too horrible.
For every woman and child of them, home – that most primal of human experience and participation – is gone, the planet’s gene-pool and diversity diminished, an ethos of unbridled barbarity more entrenched.
There is a straight-line progression from the globalised arms trade to sectarian violence, including in the unfortunate Yemen. It has not gone unnoticed by commentators, particularly cartoonists, who are often the most astute of them all.
On Anzac Day in previous years, the classic semi-automatic weapons of 20th century warriorhood were hung high on the walls of the Returned Services Association rooms, above the somber participants. This year they were in the hands of a police cordon.
Those of us who have renewed gun licences for specific and farm-based purposes in recent years have had their nearest and dearest grilled (rightly) by a local policeman about their suitability and the mental stability to carry on owning a modest firearm. The real-life laxness of our gun laws in the face of successful gun industry lobbying over a decade and the grim realities of semi-automatic weapons and ammunition to tear and mutilate soft human tissue have come as a series of chilling shocks.
Five-year-old Alen Alsati, in Starship since the Christchurch attacks, had woken from her long and probably merciful coma when Prince William flew around the world to visit the hospital. News coverage was a moment to vividly remember his mother’s compassion for children in war-torn countries who had been maimed by landmines in their own home villages. If Diana had lived, she may have subtly altered the course of history over the past 22 years.
Instead, the five ‘permanent’ members of the United Nations– China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States – each hold the power of veto over the world’s largest intergovernmental organisation’s responses to world issues. The US initially refused to sign up in 1945 unless it had the veto power, and the USSR/Russian Federation has since vetoed the highest number of substantive resolutions put to the world body.
No wonder those of us who are members of the UN’s other 188 sovereign states are paralysed as civilian deaths and military actions in illiberal states have taken hold.
One of those useful statistics of modern psychology says when 3.5 percent of any population is converted to a more moral and previously unthinkable world view, a tipping point for social change is enabled. The repugnance for slavery in the 19th century is most often quoted, and the Boston Globe has noted that more than a century later, municipalities where slavery thrived are most likely to still lack social mobility.
This means that if at least 260 million of us (in a world of 7.4 billion) become actively committed to seeing our fellow beings as equals and with compassion, generosity and inclusiveness, we could reasonably expect fairness and a better outcome for everyone and everything on the planet, with nothing and no-one left behind.
It could be surprisingly doable. • Liz Waters