Our society is markedly polarised by stereotypes that signpost our perception of the other. And because reason is effectively exiled we hardly see anything positive in each other; it is always a case of the other being subhuman and deserving of every misfortune. All their positives we expropriate, but every of our negatives we gladly transfer on to them. Even death does not evoke any sympathy for the assumed enemy.
We are victims of a powerfully packaged scam that sets us against each other; a cleverly disguised fraud that incenses us to charge often at the wrong targets. Phillip Zimbardo, the social psychology professor, notes in his book ‘The Lucifer Effect’ that we are compellingly retailed propaganda, which dupes us into mentally constructing a frame through which we view the other, a frame that transforms even an innocent child into ‘the enemy’.
“The image”, Zimbardo continues, “is a soldier’s most powerful motive, one that loads his rifle with ammunition of hate and fear. The image of a dreaded enemy threatening one’s personal well-being and society’s national security…”
And that is why even when villages or towns are overrun and scores of innocent babies, women and men are killed we count it as victory; we too often forget that death is inescapable for every living being and the next minute could be our turn. And that is why our leaders, who so much hate their own compatriots, sit back and watch as corpses pile up, some whose lives are taken by those charged with the responsibility of protecting them. What we also fail to remember is that power is transitory – kings today could be slaves tomorrow and the hunter could turn the hunted. We have seen it happen again and again.
The degree we have mutated is unimaginable. It is unbelievable that a few years back we communally lived, shared our happy times and empathized with one another at times of sorrow. Then we went to polls to elect only candidates who merited our mandate, not because we shared the same religion or ethnicity. Money, too, played a diminished role.
But in this season unabashed bigots and overpaid, pampered propagandists are in the forefront of shoring up candidates. Some, like the overgrown kid who recently said in 2015 it is between re-electing President Goodluck Jonathan and rivers of blood, are audaciously exhausting our inexhaustible patience. And we silently concur.
We concur when we see politicians decamp one night and reverse their decision the next morning. We cheer them even when we know full well that decisions on decamping or its reversion are taken only if their interest, not ours, are threatened. We are fooled, as always, but we accept and accept again. So, we live to be fooled tomorrow.
This is, indeed, a season of severe insanity; we are the insane and there’s an embarrassing shortage of voices of sanity. But some day, perhaps soon, the tide might change its course and the suppressed voices of reason might flourish again. Let’s pray it happens before the shipwreck.
Mess in the CAR
The ongoing carnage in the Central African Republic is appalling, sickening and unambiguously condemnable. But the world gazes almost indifferently as we are dragged back two decades to 1994, when one of the worst events in human history took place. In a space of 100 days 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were shot, chopped or clobbered to death by their countrymen under the supervision of their government and international allies. CAR’s case is not significantly different. In the last few weeks we heard stories of systematic ethnic cleansing.
The international community is unwilling to stop it, at least not now. The international media dismiss it revenge killings, only a fraction thinks it is not. In some pictures of the horrifying violence that went viral in the social media soldiers, including international peacekeepers, were seen unconcernedly looking on as mobs dragged corpses through littered streets – the remains of the innocent for whom even in death there’s no mercy. Is the world waiting to shed yet another crocodile tears as it did in 1994? French soldiers’ nonchalance is phenomenal. A BBC report quotes a local man saying that French troops patrol the main streets but do nothing even when killer gangs besiege helpless locals in nearby neighbourhoods. Once again the blood of the innocent will add to the countless scars on our collective conscience. But will it matter? After all they have no oil to oil our hearts towards acting to halt the genocide.