Curtain Raiser

The World Comes Undone, Colltalers

People protested for weeks. Then they invaded Sri Lanka’s presidential palace and chased off the president. The Jan. 6 riot in DC has set a disturbing trend but the similarities end there. As Russia pounds Ukraine, NATO approves Finland and Sweden’s memberships. That’ll likely add years to the war.
The assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shocked the world. But in the jaded U.S., where dozens of people are shot every day, this crime won’t offer pause. Another PM is no longer: U.K.’s Boris Johnson capped a scandal-ridden term at 10 Downing St with his resignation.
Let’s begin in Israel’s Occupied Territories where Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by Israeli troops last May 11. A U.S. Dept of State official investigation has concluded that, although gunfire may have been initiated by the soldiers, it “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed” her. But to human rights, press, and Palestinian groups, the conclusion was but a “whitewash.”
In Iraq, efforts are underway to rebuild Mosul, the first city to fall to Daesh, which occupied it between 2014 and 2017 and turned it into rubble. To help the reconstruction of what the “caliphate” considered its political center, the U.N. Development Programme allocated $372 million. Work’s been slow but steady. For Iraqis, there’s jubilation and also sadness: the battle to retake the city killed thousands and turned entire neighborhoods into ashes.
In Indonesia, finance ministers of the G20, a group of median-income nations, have ended a convoluted summit in Bali. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov abruptly walked out and robbed the meeting of its main discussion, Russia’s role in triggering a worldwide food crisis with its invasion of Ukraine. Since its 1999 inception, the G20 has been an economic forum for 60% of the world’s population; it represents 80% of the global GDP.
In France, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the murders of journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira last month in Brazil’s Amazon. Citing President Bolsonaro by name, the text denounces the increasing violence against indigenous and environmental activists, minorities, and journalists, “in serious violation of their human rights and dignity.” The resolution however does not provide for punishment.
In Chile, the Constitutional Assembly presented President Gabriel Boric with the proposal for a new constitution, which will be debated in the next months and should be voted for in September. Among others, it proposes a new approach to social and ecological factors, enshrines indigenous rights, and envisions a new national healthcare system. “Democracy isn’t easy,” the president said. But “Chileans have opted for more democracy, not less.”
In Washington, the Customs and Border Protection’s Office has released a more than 500-page report about Sept. 19, 2021, when about 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants had gathered in squalid conditions underneath a bridge in Del Rio after crossing into the country from Mexico. Alleging a lack of instructions from superiors, agents followed the Texas state police and “used force or the threat of force” to drive migrants back into the Rio Grande.
Images from that day showing Black migrants being corraling by agents on horseback in and around the river drew international condemnation. It was a cruel and unusual punishment to Haitians reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse a year ago July 7 and the turmoil that followed it. Earthquakes and deadly storms also raged since the murder, which remains unsolved; many suspect government members of having planned the hit.
The surprisingly non-violent taking of the presidential palace in Colombo, Sri Lanka, after several weeks of protests against sky-rocket prices for oil, food, and other essentials, was in no way a surprise. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose whereabouts are unknown, and P.M. Ranil Wickremesinghe have stepped down and now the focus of the South Asian island of 22 million will be on the succession and restoring economic and political stability.
Here’s what so puzzling about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: if the idea was to weaken NATO’s presence outside its borders, it produced the opposite effect. Neighbors Sweden and Finland are about to join the alliance and that means Putin’s woes have just metastasized. Many war hawks now agree that the adventure was poorly thought-out, bloodier, and more complex and expensive than Russian generals may have sold it once to the Kremlin.
So Putin will collect grief out of his stubbornness; Ukrainians and Russians will die in troves; and militarism, fossil fuels, and nuclear threats will all be interconnected for as long as the roar of the guns lasts. On this side of the trenches, Biden won’t profit enough politically to get reelected, even if he stops making nice with Republicans; and Americans are angry. It’s hard to find anyone but weapon makers happy with this war. But they won’t stop it.
The most immediate consequence of the Abe assassination is that his ruling Liberal Democracy Party won 63 seats in Sunday’s election, more than half of the 125 seats up for contention. That the longest Japanese P.M. still enjoyed a security detail, which proved useless, and that the weapon was a crudely put-together homemade gun are two bizarre elements of this crime. And of course, the fact that Abe fought really hard to re-militarize Japan.
As for Johnson, it was a foretold dismissal that, many say, should’ve happened a long time ago, before he even ran for office. But apart from the lies, scandals, and blatant disregard for the sacrifices his fellow Brits had to make during his tenure – a rap sheet similar to that of another elected liar across the pond – his biggest “legacy” will be Brexit, a watershed moment when the U.K. got downgraded while being lied to by a clique of self-serving duds.
As usual, history catches up with incompetent and immoral leaders but they get to go home with their pockets lined with power and guilt-free pride. In time, homages and tributes will come, and maybe a street or two named after them. Their constituencies, however, will endure years of unbounded ego trips that have turned public service into careers of deceit, while undermining trust in the British institutions.
History won’t remember him with grace.
Ancient Greek philosophers had quibbles with one another as expected, and Plato is said to have hated Democritus to the point of wishing his books to be burned. The causes for the diatribe are forgotten and he may have dismissed it as a fib. Instead, he proposed an atomic model for the universe still studied to this day. “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is just opinion.” And opinions, everybody has one. Fast forward! WC


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