“It’ll probably start on a Friday. What will seem like an attack on America by terrorists or Russia, driven by a well-oiled, well-armed and multi-national group of elites using alien technology that governments have been hiding for seventy years…” Art often reflects reality and this is an excerpt from the trailer for the latest series of The X-Files (my thoughts on this series here). Save for the bit about alien technology it’s a prescient observation of the rapidly escalating violence the world is witnessing right now. And, as ever, the news is bleak.
Terrorist attacks in Belgium, Yemen, Iraq and France. A war in the Middle East that has killed and displaced thousands. Pakistan’s entry into the nuclear arms race. China and Japan’s conflict over the southern islands. An economic cold war between the US and China, the former struggling to maintain its status as world emperor, the latter vying to take that title. The implosion of the EU with a worsening refugee crisis and the rise of the extreme right, including the Nazis. Russia and Ukraine. Islamic State. It almost seems as if the world has never been at peace.
Now, I’m not writing this blog to depress people (although the news is depressing) and nor am I saying we should stop striving for peace. Of course not, if anything, the violence we see in the world is yet another rallying call for the peace movement. However, perhaps what I’m saying is that this isn’t as simple as war and peace anymore – two seemingly time bound and delineated events. World War 2, for example, had a beginning and an end, whilst the Cold War was a far more uncertain series of events it has nevertheless ceased. Yet the legacies of both conflicts live on, so perhaps we could say neither have ended. Likewise, new forms of technology make different sorts of war possible – drones and terrorists navigate borders differently to ground troops and armies. Meanwhile, diplomatic and economic threat can also function as tools in campaigns of imperialism. Often war need not be declared for it to be happening. So maybe it’s not about war ending and peace beginning, maybe it’s about navigating the grey territory in between.
It is not that now more than ever do we need to call on the better angels of our nature because this has always been true – we have always needed the better angels of our nature. Our compassion, care, altruism, love and joy – possessed and enacted by all. Even these angels might not prove to be enough but I’d question the notion of enough anyway – is enough when all fighting ever has ended, is enough when climate change has been abated, or is enough just doing the best we can in the time we have? I’d love to see world peace enacted and global warming avoided but the reality I’m living through is very far from that. And yes, that makes me despair, but no I won’t stop blogging! And to conclude here’s The X-Files trailer in full. However, I’d like to categorically remind everyone that the world’s problems will not be solved by one FBI agent called Fox Mulder – instead we all need to channel our inner Fox Mulders to step up to the challenge. Or just avoid X-Files metaphors entirely as it’s a pretty ludicrous programme.