By Willow (willowashmaple.xyz)
Oct. 16, 2023
Optimism is good, but time and time again, I find the world falls far short of it.
I am blessed to live in a country, despite all its shortcomings and chronic problems, that is relatively peaceful and enjoys political and economic stability. Even though the news cycles are dominated by ad-nauseam reports of "crime waves," for the most part, I do not have to fear for my life every day.
Such is not the case in Ukraine, Israel, or Gaza right now. Wars and instabilities turn humans into savage beasts ruled by the "laws" of jungles. As human history repeatedly shows, murdering, raping, looting, and pillaging become common occurrences in war zones, whether or not there is a supposed military discipline or a code of chivalry. Even for the United States, a supposed champion of the rule of law and so-called "law and order," its values seem to go out of the window as soon as its enforcers of "American Justice" reach a constitutional gray zone, such as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, border zones, countless immigrant detention centers, prisons, and county lockups.
It pains me to see Hamas terrorizing and massacring Israeli civilians on a Shabbat right after the High Holy Days. It pains me to see Hamas reportedly preventing Gazans from evacuating Gaza City and instead insisting on using its own citizens as human shields. It pains me to see the IDF bombing an entire city in what it claims to be targeted attacks on Hamas. It pains me to see Russian soldiers occupying Ukrainian towns and brutally assaulting, robbing, and raping local residents. It pains me to hear about yet another death in the U.S. prisons and at the hands of American cops whose long-time slogan is "to protect and serve."
As a long-time libertarian socialist, I in principle have opposed the institutions of state violence. Yet, in the absence of state violence, there seems to be even more violence. Vigilantes, many of whom are driven by racial hatred and ethnic prejudices, would often step into the power vacuum, in order to combat burglars, looters, highway robbers, and rapists. Globally, the weakening of Pax Americana (largely due to the policy choices by Barack Obama and Donald Trump) and the emergence of Chinese hegemony seem to be destabilizing the world through undermining the rule-based international order established post-World War II and resulting benefits of human rights standards, global trade, and increased exchange of culture and information.
Historically speaking, civilization, culture, and commerce flourished when there was widespread political stability -- often under imperialism. As far back as the first century CE, Christianity spread thanks to the very empire that persecuted it: the great Roman Empire that built Roman Roads and instituted Pax Romana, resulting in safer and easier travel for the apostles and evangelists of the nascent faith. And the presence of a cosmopolitan empire also made it possible to spread the Gospel using a common language that was understood by many ethnic groups: Greek, and later Latin.
More importantly, despite what many critics say otherwise (this is not to say I disagree with their assessment), law and order for the most part protects the weak and vulnerable. In the past, I interacted with many people in the anarchist organizing space as well as in the American libertarian (ancap) movement. They did not seem to understand that "government overreach" such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was indispensable in securing disability rights. Even among the left-anarchists, ableism was a chronic white elephant in the room.
Also: Those who claim that there is no such thing as sin and those who naively believe that every path to the Divine is valid and is therefore worthy of respect should look no further than the atrocities of the ongoing wars in Israel/Gaza and Ukraine. And there are toxic and harmful beliefs that can kill. It is a moral imperative to repudiate this misguided notion that every religion/spirituality/belief is equal -- or else, one must also turn a blind eye to violent religious extremism such as Islamic jihadism and Christian nationalism, as well as those toxic cults that destroy people's lives through exploitation, manipulation, abuse, and control.
Of course, we live in a complicated world populated by imperfect human beings whose behaviors are often driven by ignorance, trauma response, survival needs, destructive cultural conditioning, and ego. As much as it may be tempting, there is no simple, quick fix. Humanity wrestles with its own imperfection, as well as with the God of perfection. Likewise, even as a government must be instituted to contain evil, the same government often becomes an instrument of even greater evil -- after all, a government is a collection of fallible and imperfect humans and is almost always ruled by egotistical, power-hungry, and corrupt politicians who are backed by godlike powers of life and death over the populace. Western civilization has struggled with this dilemma for centuries and still does to this day.
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