Sunday January 19 2014

1914-2014: Astonishing technological progress, incredible human evil

By Timothy Kalyegira

The Holocaust during the World War II was a watershed event in the 20th Century. A shaken western world sought to banish forever the extreme nationalism and racism that they believed had caused such catastrophic human suffering.
The UN, a new body founded in 1945 as a successor to the weak League of Nations, put at the centre of its charter and policy a new Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Mankind was one and the UN believed in creating a world of dignity of all regardless of creed, colour, gender or race.
The only thing that separated us was the fortune or misfortune of social, economic and political circumstances.

These differences the UN and similar bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank would directly address through the pursuit of universal health (WHO), education (UNESCO), child welfare (UNICEF), intervention on behalf of refugees (UNHCR), arbitration of global disputes (International Court of Justice and since the 1990s, the ICC), supervision of the new, deadly power of the unleashed atom (International Atomic Energy Agency) and other bodies concerned with solving the practical challenges facing mankind under the belief (or illusion) that these problems, not inherent human nature, were the root cause of the Second World War.

When in 1948 the white government in South Africa introduced official segregation along racial lines, so soon after the Jewish Holocaust, the world’s reaction was predictable and efforts in the Third World and belatedly the West got underway to dismantle or undermine the apartheid system.

The argument of the Afrikaans, the descendants of the first Dutch settlers in the southern tip of Africa, was that black people were inherently less capable of creating advanced organisation and modern nation-states and so the superior race, the whites, was best left to run the more complex matters of state and economic activity in South Africa.

Once again, these apartheid policies were met by shrill indignation across the black world and the Marxist-Leninist Soviet Europe and Soviet Asia. Marxist idealists, drawing their beliefs from Karl Marx, had a dialectical-material view of the world that believed that we are essentially rational beings and the determining factors in human society are the means of economic production and the relationship between the owners of these means of production and the underpaid, exploited classes who toiled for the owners of capital.

Once this exploitative relationship was addressed, we would have an equal, harmonious, just, prosperous world.

As the Christian author Catherine Marshall put it in her 1961 book Beyond Ourselves, the optimistic philosophy of the early years of the 20th Century was that “The pain and evil of life – such as ignorance, poverty, selfishness, hatred, greed, and lust for power – are caused by factors in the external world.

Therefore, the cure lies in the reforming of human institutions and the bettering of environmental conditions….Then came World War I and its hideous aftermath. In Europe and the British Isles, the disillusionment was deep and real. Europeans were no longer convinced of the inherent goodness of man.

If World War I, started in 1914, was a major wake-up call about mankind’s beastly possibilities, there was to follow a second one in 1939 triggered off by Germany. Nazi Germany was one of the most economically, militarily and culturally advanced nations on earth.

The 1936 summer Olympic Games in Berlin had been the most meticulously organised in history until much later in 1964 [Tokyo, Japan] and 2008 in Beijing, China.
Much of Germany’s military technology was decades ahead of their time and German scientists who either migrated to the US or were co-opted by the US during the Cold War against the Soviet Union lent their expertise to America in missile design, space exploration vehicles, artillery and tank technology.

Hitler and his Nazi might have been evil men, but they were undeniable geniuses too. There evidently seemed to be something dark about human nature that transcended economic circumstances and education.

Over the next 100 years, blacks around the world were to prove the whites in South Africa right; Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, unleashing indescribable brutality on millions of people, were to prove the Marxist and progressive idealists wrong.

By early 2014, with technology now at its most advanced, billions connected via the Internet, many more people around the world voting in free and fair elections than ever before, the world was not exactly a paradise.

Africa suddenly found itself in the grip of the civil wars of the 80s and 90s, from the Central African Republic to Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Mozambique, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya and Egypt.

The 20-year Western narrative that an extremist Hutu Rwandan government turned on helpless Tutsi and “moderate” Hutu in 1994 in an appalling genocide is gradually being replaced by a new reality in which it seems prominent that Tutsi are more in danger of exile, arrest or murder at the hands of fellow Tutsi than Hutu, as recently witnessed in the assassination of Patrick Karegeya and the fleeing into exile of an increasing number of Tutsi intellectuals, journalists, politicians and businessmen.

By early 2014, with militants having taken control of the Shia-dominated Iraqi city of Fallujah, just 40km from the capital Baghdad and playing an active role in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Russia’s caucuses, Mali, Somalia, the Philippines, Turkey, Kenya, Nigeria, radical Islam and the amorphous Al-Qaeda group at its most powerful in more than a decade, the world looks set for more car and suicide bombs than ever.