When Leaders Play With Matches, Colltalers
Daily acts of courage, altruism, and compassion by common people have been overwhelming on the Internet. But none has come from Trump, Xi, Putin, Bolsonaro, or others alike. Would it be fair to expect that the three billion-plus under their rule are ready to kick them out of office? Hardly.
The toll of having the coronavirus on the hunt; a continuous flow of lies and false promises; and the staggering pace of deaths of people of color, the elderly, and indigenous natives has caused yet another dark side of the crisis: depression. By the way, Antarctica’s biggest iceberg just broke off. Again.
There have been devastating times in our history before. But none had a combination of too many nuclear bombs, a terminal climate emergency, and the resurgence of lethal viruses to haunt us. As democratic institutions are attacked by many, even those benefitting from them, manipulated by leaders with a book of matches at hand, there comes to mind the acuity of a popular line in a comic book hero: ‘some men just want to watch the world burn.’
But whereas in fiction heroes catch the bad guys to exact revenge, in real life, flesh-and-bone heroes run to tend to the victims left behind from the explosion. They can’t wear capes; in fact, they chronically lack protective gear but still they go, for life wouldn’t be acceptable to them if they wouldn’t. While we’re busy mourning loved
ones who died or are in the throes of the pandemic, the world’s stockpile of nukes is slated to increase dramatically.
That’s an assumption based on credible information: the U.S. has withdrawn from treaties with Russia and Iran; China’s just said it’s reinforcing its arsenal; and Saudi Arabia is investing billions to add some to its own. They all speak the same language to justify these dangerous policies: to ‘protect’ ‘us’ from aggression as if there’s no absurdity in trusting a weapon that can destroy the planet to save us. Or polluted it to death, whichever comes first.
The breakoff of A-68, a behemoth of an iceberg seven times the size of New York City, is fully credited to a rise in Antarctica’s temperatures. Its not-too-slow meltdown will help increase sea levels, especially combined with the melting of the Andes ice cap and ancient glaciers near the Arctic Circle. There’s a solution to stop that, widely demonstrated by the global lockdown: stop greenhouse-effect-causing emissions. Retool the economy. Survive.
Yet, the order is to reopen economic activity now now, damned the dead, and let’s resume our suicidal policies of deregulation and subsidizing oil, gas, and coal industries. That is, most current heads of state are not interested in doing any of lifestyle changes required. The tragedy of climate emergency is not lacking effective solutions to deal with the implications of throwing away the old book; it’s that we lack the power and political will to do so.
The instability of climate and weather patterns, as well as overpopulation, are triggers for new virus outbreaks. They’ll become more frequent as living settlements advance over wildlife areas and disrupt ecological balance. Predator and prey, natural foes, and all the elements evolution put in place do not take into consideration humans; there’s only so much our immune system can handle before becoming prey to new organisms eager to spread out.
Amidst the cultural turmoil of the 1960s, there was a brief discussion about the role of leaders in a revolution, a still-raging discussion in times of political turnaround, or a leader’s assassination. It’s an argument that became a losing proposition, for counting on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, or Malcon X, who’d be 95 tomorrow, to still lead from beyond the grave and keep the movement alive.
Time proved it all pointless. For although both still inspire us, they no longer can do what they did best: point the way, keep the powerful in check. They both helped usher the civil rights and anti-war movements and pushed for social justice, but in the end, their clout has sadly faded away.
At the same time, we’re living extraordinary times which are known to produce new leaderships. We already recognize some of them, speaking to elders with the authority of someone who’ll inherit the planet, which they will. But they still lack the democratic power that gives idealists legitimacy.
We grieve over our losses and for the mortal threat poised against democracy, as rulers of today use this crisis to turn institutions into their personal advocacy clearinghouses. For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court should announce soon its decision on whether the president must disclose his income tax filings, or that he’s above the law, and there’s no thrill to expect that they’ll make the wrong ruling. After all, that’s why his nominees are there for.
We worry over the firing of watchdogs and whistleblowers, those courageous enough to step forward and declare, ‘the emperor has no clothes.’ Their heroism, however, will mean little to biased judges, picked for their loyalty and not for their sense of justice. That we see simple demands like these from a lifetime judge as shifty is indeed deeply troubling. To whom will we appellate in case the president loses the election but tries to stay on longer?
We’re concerned about disputes among Canadian native tribes over how to handle invasions of their land, this time under the excuse to cure, not kill. Some are adamantly against it while others want to be pragmatic about this real threat. We’re heartbroken by the carnage the COVID-19 has inflicted on worldwide indigenous communities. No wonder everybody has been so depressed. But we desperately need their leadership and wisdom right now.
The coronavirus exposed the sheer ambition and psychopathic lack of empathy of Don, Wlad, Xi, Jair, Kim, Recep Erdogan, Viktor Orbán and so many authoritarian rulers, but now people are focused on surviving. What a gift to the powers that be: an obedient and disenfranchised constituency. But we’re not quite there yet, and they’re far from crushing our spirits. Before they’ve got a chance, we’ll crush them. Be prepared, wounded scouts. WC