We are in a moment which some of us want to suspend in time. Think about it as a photographic moment, a photo snapped in a moment just before change will most likely happen. Some would like to take that photo of this moment in time, superimpose it on the world and make the world conform to this photo in perpetuity. This has set up the battle between the nationalists and the globalists, between the right and the left.
That stop-action photo would show, some say, a Eurocentric world dominated by the new kid on the block, a shiny America full of certainty and trim, well-built up-standing men, young and old with very straight teeth. The photo moment would show a world that is Christian, white, and speaks English. Those who wish to suspend time argue that everything of value has come from Europeans,white people, and mostly from white people who speak English.
However, it is unrealistic to expect the world to hold still. It never does. Civilizations rise and fall although they may make permanent contributions that continue to live on in our minds and our lives. So perhaps Europeans have fears that their moment is over, that the future will not be “white”, or we will no longer speak English, or be Christians. Perhaps America has these same fears. People believe that by sending everyone back to their country of origin the demise of Eurocentrism can be staved off. We tempt fate by mixing Muslims and Christians, by allowing people to speak foreign languages in English-speaking spaces. We hasten the end of the familiar when we mix cultures and open the door to the undefined, to chance, to an evolution that we can’t pinpoint the end result of.
In Europe it is Arabic immigrants and asylum seekers who threaten to change the face and language of Europe. The romance languages will no longer reign supreme. Latin and Greek roots could be replaced with languages imported from lands that have languished in the backwaters of history either by chance or design, although they were once the centers of thriving human empires. In America the situation is similar, except that the people of South America are Christian and many are white, but most do not speak English and they come from nations that have also lagged behind in terms of economics and what we call progress, although these cultures also had their moments in the sun.
Holding the world still is not easy, nor is it comfortable. In order to make change seem to stop, all kinds of irrational behaviors must become acceptable, all the lessons of centuries must be overturned. Immigration must be prevented. Centuries of mingling cultures and sharing ideas and designs that have enriched life must end. Humanitarian cooperation becomes treason. Fear must be stoked, differences must be emphasized, horrible consequences must be described as imminent realities.
Do I want Sharia law to be the law of the land? Not really. As a woman the thought is quite frightening. But if we are kind to displaced Muslims does that mean our democracy will be forced to adopt Sharia law? Or is that what will happen if we lose the imaginary war against Muslim nations? I know we are at war with terrorists with extreme views, but I did not know that we were at war with all Muslims. If we take them in as a humane gesture will they eventually turn on us and conquer, or will their customs gradually replace ours? We imagine the worst because some bad things have happened. But clearly not all Muslims are terrorists. We know this.
How do we end up in America with Sharia law through our southern border as certain fringe voices contend? Weirdos are certainly having their moment as we attempt to stop the world. On Fox “News” they warn about the imminent dangers of Sharia law as if Americans are being hustled into Islamic courts and stoned and beheaded every day, straight from seemingly normal American neighborhoods.
Why are people like Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro the voices Americans listen to? We never used to listen to these voices. We recognized them as haters. Today I heard Steve Bannon opine that Trump’s election was delivered to us by God. This was not hidden away online in Breitbart News; it was on TV news (and not Fox). Suddenly we love to listen to extreme views. They are being normalized, made more mainstream. The Divine Right of Donald Trump. Really?
The death of our humanitarian viewpoints, the fears, the desire to retreat into our comfortable shells, this all has to do with wanting to stop progress, to hold the world steady. We all know the world does not work this way. It rotates, it revolves, it circles the universe in an arm of the Milky Way. It sits on tectonic plates riding on molten lava which means that the surface of our world is never still. Musical tastes change, clothing styles and hair styles change, theories change, and climate is changing. None of it will stay steady until the earth dies, and maybe not even then.
Will trying to stop trends we see occurring change outcomes? Won’t the very act of trying to stop the world from changing bring change? Maybe. Since we can’t experience alternative paths we will never really know if we were able to prevent a negative future, or even a more positive future by trying to engineer the future we want.
Can humans engineer the future or is the future immutably organic? Is there really a cabal of wealthy white men (and perhaps a token woman) who are keeping the world moving on a track of their own design? Can we engineer a halt to the evolution of human culture, to nations and governments, create something like the damage to a vinyl record that made it repeat and repeat, never move on without a nudge? To most of us it seems as if the earth will turn and human history will change whether we will it or not.
And yet we argue that humans have changed climate on our planet. But it also seems clear that we didn’t have to change it very much to have fairly profound effects on our comfort levels. So we can possibly stop human history for a while but the effects of such an attempt are unknowable. Is it possible to send everybody back to the Middle East and put it back together as it once was? Is it possible to make South American countries function better than they are? We’ve tried regime change and it was a disaster. We tried aid and sometimes that helps but not if bad people steal the aid and profit from it. If climate change is indeed changing the ability to farm in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) what can be done about that?
The world will always change whether we like it or not. Engineering the change to keep it peaceful and slow and profitable for all might be possible if we could work together, but stopping change seems like a futile project and just trying to keep the present in place makes it more likely that when change eventually overwhelms our puny attempts to stall it, change may come in a dramatic uncontrollable leap. This argues that nationalism is a futile movement and globalism will most likely prevail despite the fears some express about it.
Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Art and Design Gallery, Odyssey, new.harvard.edu, Cagle.com, You Tube, fineartamerica.com, Quote Master