I read the book "War of the world" by Niall Ferguson not to long ago. In the book he ask how it could be that the 20th century ended up being the most violent century in mankind's history on earth. It should have been different if knowledge, the spread of social welfare, equality and democratic society had any effect on our behavior, shouldn't it? But it has been turbulent times indeed, no one is arguing that. And it hasn't ended with the 20th century either. The 21st has started pretty grim.
Why is this? Ferguson offer a good and very long explanation, of course. I recommend the book. I'm not even going to try to explain the meta structures he so well describes. But keeping the holistic view of the underlying fundamental patterns that needs to be present for a conflict to arise on hold for a moment, there's a couple of things that worries me in 2011.
One is the religious decease that seems to be growing stronger and stronger in all corners of the world, and the other is the governmental structures that are being built by our bureaucrats and politicians to make the world a safer place. One could argue that they're connected, and I agree that they often are. But it's not necessary so. They're not dependent on each other. Why are they disturbing my peace? Well, to you readers, and to people that know me, the religion part is given, isn't it. Manheim is against organized religion, period. And yes. It is something within me that reacts every time someone brings religion onto the table. In this context it is not the faith I'm worried about, it is the effect religion has on establishing conflicts. It is often said that religion in it self is not a bad thing, and that it is the ?evil? extremists that are causing all the problems. But I argue different. In my opinion, what we see today in the world is very much caused by peoples religious beliefs. The extremists are of course doing the work when it comes to terrorist acts and other unintelligent behaviour, but they are being legitimized by the worlds religious population by offering them respect for their beliefs and an understanding for their rage.
An example is this stupid pastor in Florida. A christian extremist, who's beliefs and opinions doesn't vary much from the unbelievable Tea party movement, decides to show his disgust for Islam by burning the Koran. He's not doing anything wrong there, in my opinion ? it's just a book. But people in the middle east thinks different. So they riot. And they kill all westerners they can, because the Christians has done this against them..... what? Done what? Destroyed a book? What could possible explain this reaction from the people in Afghanistan apart from religion? They're not genetically less intelligent than the rest of the human population in the world down there, so if we're going to avoid such racist explanations we need to look for another reason. I say it is religion.
Religion is causing harm and conflict, and that's just the way it is. And one of the problems is, when people say they are offended or someone is blasphemous, the world is full of understanding and respect. There are even people today arguing that it is the stupid pastor in Florida's fault that people are being killed in the middle east right now. Like it is a fully understandable and acceptable behavior to kill if someone burns a book you really really liked. Oh.. correction .. a RELIGIOUS book, it must be of course.
It's scary, that's what it is. And until someone convince me otherwise, I stand by my opinion that religion is causing many of the conflicts that are terrorizing the world today. Religion is blindfolding people, and blocking their rational thought. It's delusional and dangerous, and is not showing any sign of being a bringer of good and mutual understanding in the world. It is doing the exact opposite, in my opinion. But the other thing that worries me is how all these conflicts are affecting the free and democratic parts of the world. Not the actual fear of being attacked by terrorists, but the means that politicians and bureaucrats are willing to, or even wanting to, go to to make us all safe. In their eager to make the world a safer place, and to catch criminals and terrorists, they've started to dismantle our freedoms and democratic building blocks.
They're doing this by limiting our freedoms and imposing laws that gives the authorities access to tools that we thought would never be used in a free society. The latest development here in Norway is the Parliament decision to implement an EU directive in our laws that enforce a surveillance of all citizens electronic communications and usage of Internet. In a year or so, the Norwegian authorities will log when I send an e-mail, to whom I send it to, and where I was when I did it. They will log all mobile activity, where I am, who I talk to, how long we talked, who I send messages to etc etc. They will also log all my internet activity, by saving all IP addresses I use and visit.
Why on earth would EU and Norway implement such a regime? We're not being run by fascists and dictators, are we? We're the most free and democratic part of the world! Well, if one is to believe the authorities here, they do it to ensure our safety. They do it so they can catch criminals, child molesters and terrorists. They're implementing citizen surveillance so that they can arrest us if we do something wrong. If we don't have anything to hide, we should not be worried, they say. To me this sounds like they are changing a principle in law where one is innocent until proven otherwise. Now we are all suspected criminals until our innocence is proven.
Sounds like science fiction, doesn't it? Or to be specific, isn't this exactly what Big brother in George Orwell's novel 1984 was described to do? Big Brother did it to protect everyone, from everything. The path to hell (pardon the metaphor) is paved with good intention, isn't it. And what we thought of as totally impossible to actually do in practice, when reading 1984, is now turning into reality in Europe. The state is turning things upside down. It no longer serves the people, now it's turning into something more like the people serving the state. On the road to security bureaucrats are sacrificing freedoms and human rights faster than we could believe possible just years ago. It's just too sad. This is exactly what the terrorists and the religious leaders want. They do not want personal freedom, they do not want freedom of speech and human rights. They want laws against blasphemous acts, they want the human population to live under their strict rules of behavior, they want their specific religion to rule the world.
On the bright side, there's a massive protest against this in Europe. And hopefully we will see that the bureaucrats loose and personal integrity and freedom win. In the fight against this development I personally hope that secularism gain land also. It is fundamental for a free society in my opinion. But for now the development is going in the wrong direction.