The last of 3 parts.
Closer to home, the western world also seems to be in a state of turmoil. Canada seems to be an island in the middle of a serious economic and cultural storm. While we may not get the brunt of the storm, we are likely to still get some fallout.
Looking at the U.S. one can’t help but wonder how long it will be before they spontaneously break into some kind of civil cultural or class warfare. The last year has demonstrated the extremity of the polarization and the stubbornness of the political parties which make up the government. Compromise is a lost art and extremist minorities within Congress feel justified in grandstanding the process to block progress and decision making. One can see in the current Republican leadership race that the Tea Party and the related right wing conservatives are under the deluded impression that they make up a majority of the voters in the U.S. Like the old idea of “manifest destiny”, they feel that they have God on their side, and they’re going to be pissed when they realize they’re not going to carry the day. I’ve said before that right wing extremists are in reality not the biggest supporters of democracy. They have a righteousness that waves the banners of freedom enthusiastically, as long as you agree with their ideology and religious social conservatism. Vary from that and they believe that they have a sanctimonious, God-given right to assert their beliefs any way they can. And they’ve got guns.
What is the difference between a religious extremist who is a Christian or who is Islamic (or for that matter even Jewish, as seen in the current extremist issues in Israel)? The differences are in matters of degree and opportunity. Many of their ideas and beliefs are similar. While an Islamic extremist may murder a daughter who disgraces the faith, the Christian extremist will just kidnap them in the middle of the night and send them to some hellish boot camp or home where they will be abused. The veneer of civilization and the outlet for expression in the Western countries prevent religious extremism from rearing the worst of its ugly head.
But what happens when they realize that they’ve lost the political power that they mistakenly thought that they had? What happens when they see their Tea Party candidates booed off stages for their social views and characterized by the media as the right wing nuts that they are? What happens when Romney the moderate sweeps the nomination and Obama eventually is re-elected. The Republicans have spent a lot of energy fuelling the idea that Obama is the devil incarnate. It is not hard to see their self righteous extremism rebelling against the majority in the name of God.
And on the other side, “Occupy Wall Street” challenges the establishment from the Left. Indignation about the Federal Reserve and the domination of government by elite money is growing. Even if the Occupy movement wasn’t as popular as it could have been, the core values of it have struck a note with many people, both Left and Right, who have come to question the government’s relationship to the economic elite of the country.
Ideological warfare in the U.S.? It’s not a new concept to Science Fiction fans. Quite a few recent novels have explored the idea, including books by Orson Scott Card and Robert Charles Wilson. Margaret Attwood has explored the idea of a theocracy in the States.
If you combine the current political polarization along with economic challenges, which are only likely to increase if the situation in Europe deteriorates, and add an atmosphere for rebellion fostered by the Arab Spring and other world events such as the riots in London, you end up with a recipe for conflict in the U.S. While Canadians would not be party to that conflict, we would experience collateral damage, considering the close economic ties we share with the U.S.
Many of my friends say that these things will never happen. Things would never become that extreme. I like to point out that the wars and revolutions of the past usually happened with equal denial coming from the status quo. Few would have predicted the events of the past year in the Arab countries, fuelled by one person setting himself on fire. Wars explode when a stray spark hits the tinder box. I believe that it is not unreasonable to see the current world situation as a tinderbox.
I’ve said before that, while I refuse to accept any Mayan prophesy of doom and gloom for the year 2012, it would be imprudent to ignore the extensive collection of issues which seem to be gathering and coming to a head. The current political situation, of which I’ve outlined only a few examples, points to a batch of serious issues that have a distinct potential to come undone.
Granted, they have the potential to work the other way as well. The current political mess in the U.S. may unravel itself and the country may emerge with a new ideological alignment and economic awareness. The Arab Spring may blossom. Kim Jong Un may turn out to be a good guy, biding his time until the right opportunity arises. A second Obama term may move the world towards a new peace and environmental responsibility. And pigs may learn how to fly.