Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mali and the War On Terrorism

Jihadists, Islamic extremists, Islamic fundamentalists, or whatever label you want to apply to them, are again headline news due to increased activity, this time in northern Mali where French troops, with the help of Malian troops, have been given the unenvious task of liberating towns from Al-Qaeda occupation. As each town falls to French forces we learn of the brutality handed out by these terrorists to the native populations, particularly the black residents, where torture and murder seems to have been used not just to keep order, but in a self-righteous sadistic manner synonymous with Al-Qaeda.

Whether or not you think European involvement is the correct course of action, there is little doubting the possible threat to peace these terrorists could cause, not just to the region but, the world as a whole. Having said that, as always happens, the only thought is how to eliminate the threat and there is no discussion on why this threat exists in the first place. Why is it that these Islamic extremist groups seem to have an endless pool of enthusiastic recruits that are frothing at the mouth at the thought of carrying out such despicable acts, particularly in regards to the West and their supporters? Why is there so much hate and resentment aimed at the West? The main stream media finds the answer to these questions too uncomfortable so chooses not to ask them.

Mali, like many other African and Middle Eastern countries, all have two relevant common characteristics: They are oil producers and they have mass poverty. Then there is a third factor that comes into play: Many of them have corrupt governments that allow Western multinationals to make ridiculously large profits from their oil reserves. How must this look to the native populations? Often living in dire poverty, lacking food, water, housing, employment, eduction, and probably most importantly – hope, it's enough to turn anyone bitter. They have practically nothing, yet through stealing their natural resources Western multinationals turn over huge profits. It's not hard to see the link between terrorism, poverty and the theft of resources.

If we want to reduce terrorism we have three options, along side the use of force. One, stop profiting from other countries resources, which I think we can all agree is unlikely to happen. Two, eradicate or reduce poverty in those countries. Three, continue to exploit their resources but use a fair amount of the profit to fight poverty in their respective countries by funding housing, education, infrastructure etc. If we ignore these options, and I'm sure we will, global terrorism will not go away.    

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The World: 50 Years Down the Line

I'm sure that even people with the most positive of dispositions find it hard to look beyond the near future with any real optimism. Maybe humans by nature tend not to think that far ahead anyway, preferring to focus on the here and now instead, which is understandable. Western governments and multinationals are certainly very limited in their long term planning, with the latter prioritising short term profit above everything else. Attitudes in the East, particularly China, seem to be much more adept at long term planning, sometimes thinking many generations ahead. But, it is this general lack of consideration for the future that further exacerbates the problems that the planet faces and will continue to face with increasing urgency.

It is problems that we are already confronted with which in my reckoning will, without urgent attention, cause untold suffering to the world, barely leaving any corners untouched. In fact, these particular problems are already having a devastating affect on some peoples lives. Over-population, diminishing natural resources, and climate change. These three issues are not unrelated to each other, they work in combination, one fuelling the other. Neither are these issues foreign or obscure, they are well known to everyone, certainly throughout the developed world, maybe to a lesser extent in the developing world where poverty reduction seems more relevant.

To many the world is already over-populated, with many of people's basic needs such as food and water not being met. Whether you think that this is a population problem or just bad management of the earth's resources, it's hard to deny that if the current population growth trends continue, we will certainly be unable to provide for massive parts of the world's population, with increased famine being just one of the awful consequences we will be confronted with. We have limited natural resources, whether that be oil, gas, minerals or fish stocks, we all know this. Yet we continue to largely ignore this fact, choosing to up our consumption of such resources, while limiting our investment in greener renewable alternatives. Through increased Co2 levels, animal agriculture, deforestation, as well as many other factors, we are affecting climate change which is upsetting the natural balance of the planet.

It is the combination of these three ever-growing problems, over-population, dwindling natural resources, and climate change, together with what seems to be mankind's short-sightedness and thirst for confrontation and conflict, that will bring about such terrifying consequences: major natural disasters and large scale war.

Extreme weather patterns due to a warming in the earth's temperature and a rise in sea levels, are something we are already familiar with, but these are likely to increase in volume and severity in the future. With droughts, hurricanes, and monsoons killing more and more people, as well as wildlife. There is also likely to be a rise in volcano eruptions and earthquakes. The world, simply put, will become much less hospitable, making survival an uphill battle.

Probably more worrying, at least in terms of the immediate destruction it can cause, is a world that turns to war in pursuit of the world's dwindling resources. This is not simply paranoia or an over-the-top prediction of an apocalyptic end to the world. The history of humankind is littered with war and violence, even our more recent history is no exception, with advanced modern countries showing the same disregard for human life and lust for destruction. The most striking of differences the technologically driven modern world has compared with the past is the array and destructiveness of its weapons, not least nuclear weapons which have now become prolific.

Some argue that nuclear weapons, which now several countries possess, have brought about a certain amount of stability. I believe there is some truth in this, after all, one country tends not to attack another country if they are able to respond with a nuclear threat. But given that the worlds growing population, who have a propensity for war, is running out of resources, it's doesn't take much of a leap to argue that nations may engage in war over these resources. I would like to be optimistic about our future here on earth, but the logical part of my brain tells me there will be wars, continuous, brutal and probably nuclear world wars. Unless we get are shit together, the world in 50 years time will be no picnic!  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Shattered Faith in the Liberal Democrats and UK Politics

Today was the final nail in the coffin, the Liberal Democrats will no longer get my support. It was looking more and more unlikely that they would receive my vote in the next election, but this most recent attack aimed at the poorer and more disadvantaged echelons of society in the form of benefit cuts, is the final straw. My hope that the Liberal Democrats would somehow restrain the Conservatives and their elitist policies did not pan out, showing no conviction in protecting what are supposed to be the party's core values. While the disadvantaged, who can not be held accountable for the financial mess we are in, are attacked and demonised, the Liberal Democrats seem to either actively support Conservative policies or fall into a state of inertia.

We can expect more of the same over the next couple of years, inequality and poverty will continue to increase, bringing with it all manner of social ills and unrest. The Coalition will continue to blame the economy and financial deficit for the crimes they commit against their own people. Labour will of course be loud in opposition, and maybe it's true that if they were in government the cuts would be less harsh, but what else can they offer? They have to take a fair chunk of the blame for this financial mess which has allowed the Conservatives to act which such cruelty. Labour's record on human rights and civil liberties are probably worse than that of the Conservatives, and their aggressive foreign policy is abhorrent, thus to me, they are no alternative.

So what voting alternatives have we got for the next election? I'm sure UKIP and the BNP will continue to pick up votes, these more extreme parties seem to do well when society as a whole is suffering, but lets hope not. Now that my faith in the Liberal Democrats has been shattered, it is only the Green Party that I see as a viable alternative. Their policies and values are very appealing, but it is their lack of experience and political savvy where I have doubts. Having said that, it's not as if they are going to find themselves in government by the next election. A gradual rise in popularity would seem more likely, allowing them to pick seats up here and there, gaining experience and influence as they go. My faith in British politics is at an all time low, it's hard to see any other than the three current mainstream parties dominating for the foreseeable future. No wonder pessimism is taking hold.