How often have you heard or read that expression? After each horrendous child killing, an enquiry takes place, witnesses are called from every aspect of child care – social services, paediatricians, police, lawyers and so on. Blame is very lightly apportioned but when the report is delivered, at some stage in the detail of involvement by the ‘joined up services’ of childcare, somebody always says, and I repeat, always says, lessons will be learned.
And yet they aren’t are they? Ever.
Is this because in human development man always seeks to lessen the burden of future history? Is it because man is really incapable of learning the lessons of horrendous acts and cannot face them? Is it because man is not a truly evolved species? Is it because man is so utterly self absorbed as to be unable to accept criticism of what he considers a perfect life? Is it because man is innately violent?
Throughout the course of history we have seen, witnessed or been part of, acts of violence from one man to another, one nation to another, one political position to another, one religion to another, one economy to another that never seem to cause us pause. Mao can murder 75 million of his own people, Stalin 25 million, Hitler over 6 million, Pol Pot I don’t even have the numbers. Isis can openly murder people on the streets by crucifixion, beheading, burning to death. Assad can murder or displace hundreds of thousands of his own people aided and abetted by a Russian despot who has casually annexed part of a sovereign country whilst the world stands by and wrings its hands or sits on its thumbs.
But lessons will be learned.
Now in mid December 2016 a once beautiful city in Syria, Aleppo, has been bombed to its knees. Innocent citizens have been brutally murdered by the brutal dictator Assad and what will the world do about it? Nothing.
But lessons will be learned.
2016 has seen the rise of extremism from both left and right to a level probably only seen in the first 50 or so years of the 20th century. Now in this early part of the 21st century we are seeing the same. Alt-right in the US and Europe, Front National in France, Isis in the Middle East but with tentacles spread to France, Belgium and even parts of the UK. An extreme right wing party only narrowly defeated recently in Austria and we have seen the growth of right wing nationalism in Austria before haven’t we with a funny little corporal who no one in the early 1930s took that seriously?
But lessons will be learned.
The political elites of the world have basked in a level of self aggrandised arrogance that has been called to book in 2016. In the U.K. with Brexit where people voted in their millions for either a change of the political status quo or a continuation of the status quo. The political establishment felt its position was inviolable and that the little people would do as they were told. By the early hours of June 24th 2016, they found out that the little people were not so little after all. Since that day, the political elites have tried to fight back crying foul or you silly little people, you don’t know what you have done but don’t worry, we’ll sort it out with the other despots in Brussels and get things back in order and continue to ride roughshod over your wishes. After all, it is we, the educated political elite that has learned the lessons of history so well that nothing untoward will happen if we progress towards a federal States of Europe and centralised control that would make all Orwell’s predictions in 1984 come true.
We have learned the lessons haven’t we?
In the United States the party of the blue collar, of the oppressed, of the have nots, so lost touch with its electorate having elected a black man for two terms to be President of the United States who roared into office on a wave of a change agenda, that they were smashed by a misogynistic multi billionaire businessman who barely knew the right street to go down to get to the White House. A man who derided blacks, Muslims, women, Latinos, Puerto Ricans and ran a campaign of such right wing vitriol that the ‘thinking’ world thought he was unelectable. Once again, the political elite got it wrong and have since tried to re-run the election, as we did in the UK referendum, recount the votes, blame the Russians for cyber attacking the Democrat campaign, wept in their study periods at colleges and universities across the land and still don’t understand why or how they lost.
But lessons will be learned.
What has become clear since America used the Atom bomb for the one and only time in history is that conventional warfare has lost its ability to intimidate and defeat an enemy. If you know that your enemy is a nuclear power you would think long and hard about attacking them. This has rendered the United Nations little more than an expensive talking-shop and allowed China and Russia to become its de facto leaders through the veto. What was also lost with the advent of the bomb is any kind of moral authority of politicians and even when that was recently invoked over Iraq, the moral authority of both the US and the UK was lost by the lies its leaders used to provoke the war. Waging war by so called civilised nations has become almost impossible because of the hand wringing about civilian casualties that our politicians and the UN in particular have to exercise. That the so called civilised nations calling such a war are fighting opponents who have no moral compass when it comes to civilian casualties, as witness Isis, Syria and the terrorist activities of such as Boko Haram and Al Qaeda only serves to make conventional warfare redundant. The Iraqi army could have taken Mosul weeks ago from Isis if she had not been hamstrung by fear of world opinion at the potential slaughter of innocent men, women and children. So instead of wading into Mosul all guns and tanks blazing, Iraq has had to use guerilla tactics fighting street by street. Assigning the expression ‘civilised’ to any nation pursuing a war is a total oxymoron but at least the lesson that conventional warfare is redundant compared to the obliterating option of nuclear warfare has been learnt. Unfortunately the zealots and extremists have not and to them, it would appear, life is so cheap and their existence so devoid of a recognisable purpose that they are prepared to engage in violence to such a suicidal extent that our politicians and generals have no answer based on any acceptable norm of reasonable social behaviour.
In these circumstances, some lessons have been learned but unfortunately those at the back of the class are clearly not paying attention.
What is so unnerving about 2016 is that it might just be another turning point in history in which the seismic movements throughout the political world will either give way to unalloyed humanitarian violence in 2017 and beyond which as previously discussed seems to be man’s common propensity when balance is disturbed or a coming together of politics for the common good. Brexit as voted for must happen and silly discussion of keeping a failed single market must cease. The euro needs to fail and the Eurozone countries need to reinstitute their previous currencies, devalue, trade more and be competitive. Italy might be the accidental progenitor of that having ousted yet another Prime Minister and elections in Italy in 2017 might usher in an anti euro and maybe even an anti EU Government. As with all of the Eurozone countries with the exception of Germany, Italy could never afford to join the euro in the first place so an expensive and painful withdrawal from it might just save Italy’s economy. The gradual dissolution of the EU needs to begin. Trump needs to deliver on his promises for the rust belt economies of the US. Putin needs to be put back in his box – he is literally getting away with murder on the world stage whilst the Russian economy is going to hell in a hand cart. Isis needs to be comprehensively defeated. The Syrian war must end and if the rest of the world is to help in rebuilding the country, Assad needs to be brought to book. The world’s religions must come together as the divisiveness between Sunni and Shia, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Jew cannot continue. The pursuit of religious spirituality by all of these religions is a complete oxymoron when you examine the propensity for violence exhibited by them all over the centuries.
How can I conclude this rather depressing narrative on anything like a positive note? With difficulty I have to say. I believe that only when a few serious leaders take up the reins of the moral, economic and social decline that has been allowed to develop in our world and agree that threat, counter threat, bullying, violence, lack of political accountability, economic understanding between nations and religious and racial intolerance between the diverse peoples of our world, can we remotely start to rebuild our world for the good of all. Religious leaders in Rome, Canterbury, Mecca, Jerusalem and a host of other locations to include Hindus and Sikhs owe it to their congregations to come together and put to one side the centuries of religious violence that have absolutely nothing to do with the bases for their religions from ancient Judaism and the Old Testament and Jesus and the New, from the holy Prophet Mohammed to the minds that created deities within Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. We can only live peaceful lives if we treat people peacefully. We can only be loved if we love others. We can only expect to be treated kindly if we ourselves are kind.
We will learn the lessons, won’t we? If we don’t, we condemn humanity to prolong its descent into hell .