Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Failed nations all around

Scott Peterson's excellent Me Against My Brother is one the very few first hand accounts that I have come across of the bloody and tragic events in Somalia in the early 1990's - a place and time that have for a long time interested me. Not a very comfortable view of humanity emerges: when order collapses we seem to turn invariably into beasts, and prey. And certainly not a very comfortable view of the developed countries - as much as the responsibility (as far as there is such a thing) lies in deep seated local cultural conflicts: a nomad society encountering modernity, and modern weaponry. But if there is one thing certain, it is that we are no innocent bystanders in this tragedy. There is no question that the Western audiences are frivolous and decadent, and kept frivolous and decadent by solely profit seeking, ad and subscription centred corporate media.

Peterson's style of journalism is probably a dying art, and even if not, very few will care. There is a Burkean defence for this state of affairs: we don't have the capability to do the right thing, a mere attempt would end in tragedy and blood path. But that defence is wearing rather thin. We can't do what we should do - but we can be more intelligent, more responsible, more aware. That is not too much to ask. Should the civilization progress (at the moment a somewhat daring proposition) the posterity will surely only see failed nations in this era of opulence, starvation and blood.

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