What has stood out this year as 2017 draws to a close, is the “globalization of indifference,” a term coined by Pope Francis.
An indifference first of all to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people from their centuries old homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Some 650,000 have fled rape, killings and torture … their houses, villages and crops burned, their livestock stolen, leaving nothing for them to come home to. Meanwhile, the erstwhile Nobel “Peace” Laureate and self-annointed queen of indifference, Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto ruler of Myanmar, and the generals responsible have little to fear despite having committed appalling crimes against humanity. No one seems to have a tally of the total slaughtered but, according to Medicines Sans Frontieres, in just the first month after the violence erupted in August, at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed, including 730 children.
Another humanitarian catastrophe is Yemen. The blockading of ports and the greatly intensified bombing campaign hurt civilians most. Those who can, have left the country, and are figured at over 200,000; internally displaced persons number over 3 million, or greater than 1 in 10 of the population. Meanwhile, the blockade prevents the delivery of food and emergency humanitarian aid. Estimates vary but a million people have contracted cholera because necessary food, medicine and fuel is not reaching them. If there is an answer, it lies in negotiation and compromise. But outside powers are using the factions to increase their zones of influence, and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is its own wild card. For now the pain and suffering and killing are likely to continue.
Rising inequality in the U.S. was given another boost by the Trump/Republican tax bill (certainly not fought tooth and nail by the Democrats). For those with an interest in figures, the 2018 World Inequality Report will be an eye-opener: In 1980, the bottom 50 percent in the U.S. earned over 20 percent of national income while the top 1 percent cashed in 11 percent; By 2016, the amounts had almost reversed (13 percent for the bottom half and over 20 percent for the top 1 percent). All of this is not an accident but a direct result of policy: from the Reagan tax cuts to Bill Clinton’s NAFTA. The public reaches out for saviors but gets the pre-owned by, or belonging to, the self-same 1 percent. Just look at the makeup of the senate.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the worst on record: one of only six to feature three category 5 hurricanes. It was also by far the worst in dollar damage ($370 billion) caused mainly by Harvey, Irma and Maria the three major storms. Lest one forgets, there are people behind the dollar figures. While hurricanes may not be caused by global warming, warmer seas increase their intensity. And as Houston learned, they can dump more water.
Our president, of course, chose to pull out the U.S. from the Paris climate accord — now the only country outside it. The world does not march to the beat of an irrational out-of-step drummer. So it was with his acceptance of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital negating five decades of US policy. It led the UN General Assembly to declare the decision “null and void” by a vote of 128-9, despite crude and up front pressure by the Trump administration.
No matter the signs, let us hope for a better 2018.