I don’t live all that far from Syria- a little over 1200 miles or slightly more than 200o kilometres. I have no plans to drive there in the near future, but a few years ago I would have. Syria was a well known tourist destination in this part of the world, renowned for its relative harmony amongst the various ethnic and religious groups, as well a place of historical interest too-its goes back to antiquity -circa 10,000BC saw the beginnings of the first sedentary cultures and lifestyles of humanity. Today it is a terrible tragedy unfolding before our eyes. More than 60,000 men, woman and children have been killed in a violent, bloody uprising against its current leader Bashar Al Assad. A disparate group of disaffected Syrians, based in other countries, some in England, the United States, Europe and the Middle East have laid claim to the throne and the right to govern the country-helped along by various armed militia, who receive money and illicit arms from many countries including the West. In fact several key western governments have recognised the armed militias and insurgents in the country as the legitimate leaders, even though the current President is still in power, albeit only by a hair’s breadth and a whistling bullet. The suffering of ordinary men, women and children in Syria, the mass exodus of refugees to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, and the lack of will power in the United Nations to stop this madness, resonates with the National Socialists in Germany from the 1930s when they started killing and sterilising the less fortunate in their society, and herding Jews off too concentration camps-the world looked on aghast, but seemed impotent to intervene, before it was too late.
The United Nations is incapable of stopping this madness. The Syrian people are being held captive not only to the madness of its current President and his British born and educated wife, who appear to be mirroring a Macbethean tragedy upon the world stage, but also to a group of men in the UN security council who cannot agree on a way forward. The Russian Federation and the bare-chested, horse riding ,macho-madness of Vladimir Putin in particular are the stumbling block. How little he and his retinue appear to value life over political power and outdated geo political interests.
But Putin is not alone in his governance through fear, oppression and unchecked power. There’s the spectacle of the ‘Dear Leader” in North Korea, Kim Jong Un, whose people starve while he and his madmen spend billions of Aid money building missiles and shooting them into space while producing nuclear bombs and blowing them up underground.
There’s the failed state of Pakistan, with its fractured political and social structure, and corrupt Government and Military establishment which is losing ground to the madmen within various fundamentalist Islamic groups, who hate women and young girls and shoot the latter if they attempt to be educated. So caught up are the political elite in their own political tele-dramas that they cannot provide basic security, health, education, welfare and housing to millions of their citizens, and today survivors of the devastating 2005 earthquake still have no home, little health care or basic amenities to manage their lives independently.
The Misogynist governance of India has been in the spotlight recently too. Its treatment of women and children especially female children is a crime against humanity. Recently, the mad mysogynistic men of the Salumber municipality in the state of Rajasthan have banned single women from using mobile phones, wearing jeans, singing and dancing. These joyless, sexually dysfunctional and suppressed men have proclaimed themselves the keepers of the moral virtues of all women, but in particular single women. Their bizarre and oppressive control of women is akin to the Vatican’s compulsory moral doctrine for men, women and children throughout the world and we all know where that led to if recent history is any indicator of the ongoing suffering of young women and vulnerable children. India’s outdated, colonialistic religious and social class structure is the cause of suffering for millions of its citizens, and the elite desensitized to the suffering they are exposed to day-to -day , pretend it doesn’t exist and live a life of historical and social denial.
The impoverished State of Bangladesh has a desperately bewildered population held captive by the corrupt and powerful government of Sheikha Hasina Wajed, who was elected by the people to actually fight corruption. Its governmental leaders are so trapped within their own self-perpetuating cycle of deceit, betrayal and corruption they cannot break themselves free.
Then there’s the vain and obtuse President Hamid Karzi, installed by the United States of America after 9/11. He is trying to build a war ravished country which hasn’t been able to claim its own sovereignty for over half a century. He’s struggling to hold onto political power in the face of a violent, cruel and misogynistic rabble like the Haqqani and Hezbi Islami groups who also hate women and young girls and kill them for attempting to claim any basic human right. But beyond this tale of terror is a dark history fought out by the madmen and women of the cold war and beyond, who set up a proxy war in Afghanistan from the late 1940s. This resulted in well over a million Afghan men, women and children losing their lives. The sane madness of world leaders who contributed to this bloodletting included at the time, and not in any particular order, Truman, Eisenhower, Khrushchev, Churchill, Kennedy, Brezhnev, Attlee, Johnson, Eden, Nixon, Macmillan, Andropov, Ford, Chernenko, Wilson, Carter, Thatcher, Gorbachev,and Reagan to name a few. Not to forget the imprudent bolshie alcoholic, Boris Yeltsin who was in there somewhere, but is mainly remembered during a State visit to the United States for standing outside the Whitehouse, drunk, in his underwear, trying to hail a cab to buy a pizza, while overseeing the disintegration of the USSR from 1991-to 1996-perhaps this drove him to the drink?
Israel and Iran too are ruled by a bunch of mad henchmen. The only difference between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, some of the Ayatollahs, and Israel’s ruling parties are the clothes they wear. Each echoes to the other a dangerous sectarian and racist rhetoric which could in the short term prove catstrophic for the region. Israel’s treament of the Palestinians, especially its blockade of Gaza, its separation Wall and the occupation of the West Bank resonate with images of ghettos from another time and place, and through this behavior the country continues to loose its moral standing and general global support and is becoming more isolated. The madmen of Hezbollah and Hamas too, with their poisonous and peverse childhood indoctrination programs of racist stereotypes and insidious sectarianism resonate with the once hatefilled rhetoric of the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, Ian Paisely, and is harming any chance of peaceful co-existence between Jews and Muslims for generations to come.
The leaders of one of the Russian Federation’s nearest neighbors are worth a mention too. China is held up today as a future global political and economic powerhouse. What that means in reality is that a group of old men who dye their hair black, wear the same colored suits and ties and hold up an outdated and unworkable socialist political creed, imbued with the immorality of advanced capitalism masquerading as a quasi rule of law, and who govern with ruthless, often times violent, unbounded and unchecked supremacy, will one day in the not too distant future rule the world as the new imperialist power, out stripping the once powerful United States of America. China’s new order began with one of the most ruthless killers of the 20th century. History scholars now believe that up to 80 million people may have died during the rule of Mao tse Tung because of his policies and personals behaviors, making him responsible for more deaths that the most infamous of the 20th century’s henchmen, Stalin and Hitler. Today, China’s madmen continue to occupy the once peaceful and serene Buddhist country of Tibet, where they continue a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide under the watchful yet impotent gaze of the United Nations and the rest of the world.
As I write the African Cup of Nations football tournament is being played out in South Africa. It’s been noted by a BBC sports commentator (an African) that because travel throughout Africa is so expensive, thousands of supporters from the sixteen participating countries are not able to attend.
Why is travel so expensive on one of the world’s richest continents? Africa could have one of the best and cheapest road, rail, air and sea links in the world. Unfortunately this isn’t possible because for the most part Africa is still being pillaged by its own leaders in cahoots with ravenous Western , Eastern and Asian powers desperate for a share of its riches, especially its mineral, oil and gas reserves. Its people suffer unspeakable hardships, while from Egypt in the North to Capetown in the south millions struggle under unjust and oppressive ruling dynastic political parties. There’s the brutal, deluded and cruel ruler of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who soon turns 90 years old and has been in power since 1987. He’s taken one of the once richest and most developed of Africa’s post independence countries, robbed and pillaged it until hyperinflation destroyed its currency. Nowadays it is dependent on foreign currency from the very countries Mugabe vilifies daily. Recently, it was reported that Zimbabwe had only $217 left in its public accounts. Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s largest oil producer’s along with Nigeria, yet both countries rank as the most corrupt and unjust on the whole continent. Each has appalling human rights records where trafficking of women and children is rife, while Nigeria as a whole is being held captive to an internal revolution of sorts in its northern states. Equatorial Guinea has a population of only 700,000 and is the richest country per capita on the African continent. Yet 20% of it children die before they reach 5 years of age because the current President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, spends all the money on himself, and his family and designs and builds obscene projects like a new city in the equatorial jungle of the country while his people starve.
But it’s not only the developing world which is governed by mad men. Recently the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom announced that he would support the UK leaving the European Union-a loose federation of European States who have avoided war for over 60 years, thanks for the most part to Germany and France who have worked through centuries of historical differences since the ending of World War II, resulting in the EU being awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2012. Cameron sounds like Shakespeare’s Cassius, trying to convince Brutus that Caesar needs to be taken down: “Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves”. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi’s scandal ridden political career and the ongoing criminal cases against him for engaging in sex with a minor at his now infamous ‘bunga bunga’ parties suggest that Italian political culture hasn’t changed a great deal since the time of the Caesars. It won’t be long before “Et tu Brute” is heard echoing through the halls of the bicameral legislature of the Italian parliament.
War, political crisis and the suffering of humanity by its own hand are welcomed by the corporate world too, where a Machiavellian approach to business is self evident. For example, Lockheed Martin is considered one of the most powerful defacto rulers of the United States of America. It runs a formidable information technology conglomerate that reaches into the very heart of global family life, while at the same time building and supplying weapons of mass destruction for the US, UK, Europe and Israel; the latter spending over $1.8 billion annually on killing machines. In the world of health care, the madmen and women of the pharmaceutical corporations also contribute to the daily misery of the human condition. They lobby the Medical Schools of top Universities to promote and flood the market with drugs for obscure and highly questionable conditions like “social anxiety disorder” “attention deficit disorder” and promote their drugs through misleading pseudo-scientific articles which are promoted by the uncritical and misleading world of corporate advertising.
For the most part the world is governed by madmen, who subscribe to the treacherous political philosophy of the Italian intellectual Niccolo Machiavelli. He claimed that love and compassion got in the way of political status and eminence. If a leader, he wrote, must choose between being feared and being loved he should choose being feared. Love and compassion he claimed are very overrated, and ruling by fear will always prove more resilient. As I reflect on the world we live in today I regretfully think he was right.