Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sri Lanka, the Spiral of Violence, and Global Turn to Strongmen Messianic Solutions: The Temptation of This Moment

I grieve — so very much — the carnage we've just seen enacted in Sri Lanka, on the day many Christians consider the holiest day of the liturgical calendar. I grieve above all the enormous loss of life, the manifestation of gross religious hatred we see on full display in this event, and the way in which it's very clear that this latest act of religious hatred is immediately rooted in the atrocious act of religious (and white supremacist) hatred we saw recently in New Zealand. As Dom Hélder Câmara reminded us over and over, violence spawns more violence in an endless chain of reaction until someone finally has the courage and compassion to break that chain.

The world in which we live is growing increasingly dangerous because of the dangerous, volatile interplay of ethnonationalist and religious fundamentalist movements throughout the world. The Trump presidency is founded in an alliance between white supremacist ethnonationalism and fundamentalist Christianity. Though we don't yet have the full picture, all indicators suggest that the carnage that just unfolded in Sri Lanka was planned and executed by a religious extremist group with strong ties to a network of other such extremists spanning national boundaries.

As the world moves in this violent, fragmented direction, the strong temptation everywhere is to look for strong men to save us. We need to resist this temptation in every way possible. The men promising to be saviors now, in one society after another, are deceptive little messiahs. They cannot save anyone. Their prescription of autocratic control, subjection of women to men, violence directed against sexual minorities, hatred of those stigmatized as the other, and religious warfare will only increase the hatred and violence now fragmenting the world.

Hate begets hate. Oppression begets oppression. And it needs to be seen clearly, particularly in North America where our religion-saturated culture (well, religion of a carefully tailored sort) does not yet want to see this point clearly enough: very much of the animus underlying the turn to autocratic strong men and religious fundamentalism throughout the world today is rooted in the fear of female autonomy by men intent on controlling women. Though it wears many disguises and appears also as religious and ethnonationalist violence, the violence we see ginned up by religious extremists everywhere in the world today is ultimately aimed at women in a very particular way. This is one of its common threads no matter where this religious-ethnonationalist violence is manifesting itself in the world today.

What we are seeing globally at this point in history is a last-ditch effort of men who once ruled the roost to turn back the clock on women's rights and women's autonomy, and to use a particular kind of fundamentalist religion to accomplish this goal. The attacking and oppressing of queer people is a sub-set of a larger movement of men to attack the rights of women.

If we permit this to continue, if we keep playing into the hands of those scripting the violence by fatuously expecting strongmen, whether their name is Putin, Trump, Salvini, Orbán, Bolsonaro, Bannon or Miller or whatever else, to handle and “cure” the violence for us, we are going to see the world enter a new era of carnage and instability. And we're going to see women and sexual minorities targeted by strongmen everywhere in the world, ushering in a new age of global darkness from which we may not find any exit.

This fascist project is now far advanced globally, and my great fear is that we will see another period like the 1930s happen before people will have enough of gorging on hatred and violence once again, and will try to set the world on a different path after their lust for blood has been slaked — if that even proves possible after we've permitted violence and hatred to get out of hand in a spectacular way, having refused to learn the lesson of the 1930s.

The photo is from the Goodreads page for Hélder Câmara's The Spiral of Violence.

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