Monday, September 23, 2019

Hope Arrives in Country 51

Like many of you, I still feel caught in a morass of confusion and disgust since the 2016 election. I saw the storm coming and left the United States from April 2016 to September 2016, returning to vote for a third party candidate. I had put my hope--too much of it, it turned out--on a third party candidate securing at least 5% of the vote, allowing greater political diversity. 

Billionaires are not new in American politics--Texas's Ross Perot provided a worthy and effective challenge to the Establishment in 1996, and New York's Michael Bloomberg has been a steady presence--but the level and clarity of discourse have changed. One could sense increasing media crassness when cheaper-to-produce reality television like MTV's Real World became popular, replacing coherent plot lines with selectively edited footage, but politics remained mostly above the fray. 

I cannot tell you exactly when politics became yet another reality television show, but the techniques are the same: selective editing, lack of context, and 24/7 coverage. With its vast arsenal of manipulative techniques, "reality" television makes a mockery of everything real, reminding me of Chris Hedges' sobering quote: 

We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy. 

It appears all modern permutations of ancestral inventions have become unmoored from their original intent, sending truth into an abyss. And still, the more I travel, the more I experience hope, because I've realized humanity has yet to break free from post-WWII systems, and the debt the existing system requires is unsustainable. Call it the Law of Sustainability: something new will appear on the horizon because something new must arrive, or we shall perish. 

After visiting 51 countries, losing at least 100,000 USD on the stock market in one year, and trying to find a new homeland, I've finally gained enough context to see the past, present, and future in a single continuum. I continue to write because I feel compelled to do so, and yet, with every letter I type, I want to stop, to divorce myself from the struggle for greater understanding and to "let be be finale of seem." In reality, "seem" never has a finale, it being impossible to gain full context because historical records are incomplete or biased and one's own research time finite, not to mention the need to live life forward. Furthermore, the very act of living forward contains danger. Cultures that lack the ability to reach backwards and touch the past soon find themselves struggling with escalating suicide rates and declining birthrates. In a sense, everything we do is so we can live life forward, and if we are successful, we move forward without forgetting the past, for if we forget the past, we lose the answer to the most important question of all: "Why?" 

Why have we failed in increasing justice when all of us want more of it? Why are we less understanding of each other despite more opportunities to interact together? Why have politicians become unwitting participants in a reality show that threatens to destroy the truth as well as our ability to reach into the past and achieve a continuum containing context? Why have we not chosen our leaders more carefully when leaders can destroy a path to understanding that may never appear again? In the end, Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry was right: the trial never ends, though perhaps some countries are convicted from time to time, freeing space for new frontiers and fresh ideas. 

© Matthew Mehdi Rafat (2019)

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