Not a year ender

Posted on January 2, 2017

It is customary to write a few words praising or appraising an outgoing year in its dying moments. To be honest it is also an impulse. For a long while I gave in to this impulse and wrote long pieces to evaluate the legacy an ending year leaves behind. But then I read Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead. Part of the Ender quintet, in it we are told that after wiping out an entire species Ender Wiggins, our young protagonist, is so possessed by remorse that he writes a book on behalf of the extinct species. This later evolves into emergence of a religious figure, speaker for the dead, whose job it is to speak on behalf of the recently deceased without judging his life in such a way that it brings closure to the grieving relatives. When I read this, I stopped. I am no speaker for the dead. All I can muster at best is: so long 2016 and never come back.

When the year in question has brought to you so many shocks and surprises, all you want to do is to run far away. But run where? We are prisoners of time. If you think 2016 was full of unforeseen shocks and surprises then meet 2017, a year in which rude awakening and unpleasantness is almost guaranteed. The rise of far right in Europe and elsewhere is now not just on the radar, it is incoming. Demagogy is also here to stay, as people of the world want their troubles to be somebody else’s problem soon and would rather make ridiculously bizarre choices than to wake up to the declining human condition and do something about it. War brings suffering to countless millions. But far more debilitating is the slow burn of the fear and the threat of war. Not enviable to stay stuck in this no-man’s land of uncertainty and insecurity. There will be plenty of this all and more in 2017 and on. Perhaps, it is prudent then not to talk of the new year either. But is it time then to take a long hard look at the state of human condition right now? Perhaps yes.

When I look at the life around the world, I see one beautiful race. Human race. But a race so adamant about dividing itself into sub-races that it does not want to see what is common among us all. One civilisation, the human civilisation, hell-bent on losing sight of the common bonds and dehumanise the immediate opponent. One human nation, with plenty of diversity, committed to keep dividing itself into tiny, bitter, irreconcilable tribes.

And let us talk of the protagonist of this great human tragedy: the nation-state. Before 9/11 it was told that its decline was inevitable and globalisation would make the world a global village. Then came Huntington’s bigoted shriek. There are more than one civilisation and they shall fight. America is changing and it should not. After 9/11, the nation-state reasserted itself. It soon found an ally in the shape of crony capitalism. The romance continued for 15 years. But it’s over. This is the last joint venture. Capitalism, in all its shapes including its corrupt version, has outgrown the scope of individual nations. Capitalism, even in its purest and benign forms, is outgrowing the human society. Since it is easy not to admit that your jobs are being stolen by machines, not the cultural or the political other, we blame one another, fight and do not adapt to new knowledge and technology. After far right will come the rise of far left. When capitalism finally abandons nation-states and they desperately cling to the unreal for dear life. But behold, our great tragic hero brought this day upon himself.

And about human race. It is beyond my comprehension why it is so beholden to the ideas of an end, the rapture, the beast, Dajjal. Why this death wish? And why wait for outside help when you are already bringing the house down? You could conquer stars, colonise space, break the cycle of anarchy, of natural selection, of survival of fittest. Only things needed were patience, empathy and thirst for knowledge. You decided to destroy own lot by being parochial instead. This dear reader, is triumph of what is easy over what is right. While you read these lines just remember I am not speaker for the dead. And this neither a year ender nor Ender’s note about a dying race.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2016.