From Baltimore to Joburg

From Baltimore to Joburg

balt2joburgCivil violence in Baltimore, Beijing, Nairobi, Cairo and Johannesburg reflects societies coming apart.

One thing is certain: “We will bring order. We will bring calm. We will bring peace,” the (black) Baltimore mayor vowed last night as national guard troops entered her city.

Then, one of two things happens afterwards: a more democratic Tunisia, South Africa and Kenya; or a more autocratic China and Egypt.

Civil violence is quite distinct from war. It happens from within. Brothers are pitted against brothers. In the beginning new ideas link across disparate social communities. That’s the case today when we find Baltimore mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, saying things that her opponents consider collaborative with the protestors.

It’s the reason that the World Court indicted the current President of Kenya for fomenting crimes against humanity. It’s the reason Hosni Mubarak lingers in a jail guarded by the men he brought to power.

Civil violence reveals fissures and inconsistencies in social systems that are difficult to reconcile .. even by its leaders. It’s about human rights violations, not border disputes. Groups like ISIS will use civil violence to then start geopolitical warfare, but in the beginning it’s an internal conflict not an external one.

It often devolves into whether “the end justifies the means.” But it’s rarely so clear, much murkier: Is it fair that Uhuru Kenyatta paid youth under-the-table to fight a rival tribe in order to preserve his beneficence that now seems to be very positive in Kenya?

Peace at all costs?

Yes, so far anyway, eventually that’s human history. For the champions of human rights who fight in the streets, it’s a battle against the clock. They have limited time to bend society to their ideas until they’re crushed.

Civil violence is growing around the world, just as it did many times previously in human history. The hours on the clock are growing longer.

We’re entering a period of enlightened conflict, perhaps because of videos transmitted in nanoseconds by watches.

“Thank God for cell phone videos because the truth will come out,” the lawyer for the Freddie Gray family said last night.

Unlike in the past, more of us see and hear the same thing. The media can’t distort it as easily as in the past.

In this new and more volatile world, those of us in privileged situations should take stock:

“The infidels have so much to lose, they can be afraid of even losing their happiness! We,” he said, lifting his eyes to the sky as his mind’s eyes pulsated with a black sun, “We have nothing, so we fear no loss.”

That short excerpt is from my book, Chasm Gorge. It’s the world’s greatest terrorist explaining why he fights to the death.

The difference between those who have less and those who have more will not last in the new world. How much must be given away by us privileged is being determined by the battles being fought right now, from Baltimore to Johannesburg.

There’s no question a redistribution will occur. The question is how will it occur? Democratically or ruthlessly?