Not so long ago, we believed that reason would triumph in the end. Instead, in many parts of the world intolerance, bigotry and religious obscurantism are on the rise.
Jaysus, what next? Right now it's mopping-up time in Turkey, after a failed military coup. They have form in this regard. Indeed, there is a strong strand in the Turkish military that regards the armed forces as the ultimate guardians of the Ataturk legacy, that is, the maintenance of Turkey as a secular republic and bulwark against Islamists. Coups are nothing new.
Its failure may well strengthen the hand of strongman Erdogan. He's made Turkey more overtly Islamic over the last decade and is weak on democracy too. But if we take a self-interested view, it may be as well that the coup failed, at least if it prevented a civil war. Given the chaos on its frontier with Syria and Europe's troubles in dealing with the refugee inflow, the last thing the world needs right now is for Turkey to collapse into anarchy.
Bear with me here, but that may also be the case with the UK. The election of Theresa May returns Britain to what so many Tory poshies want: a stern woman in command. She's already shown them what's what by chucking away Cameron's urban smarties and by giving Brexiteers responsibility for negotiating Brexit. That, one suspects, was done with no little relish.
All this pales inevitably against the latest terrorist horror in France. Everyone had begun to relax after the Euro finals. These had been seen as the obvious target for terrorists. But the atrocity came four days later and in a way that truly nobody could have foreseen, and on July 14th at that.
Bastille Day. For all the imperial violence France unleashed on Europe and Africa over the following century and a half, the anniversary of the storming of the infamous prison that marked the beginning of the revolution has a special resonance across the world.
That the outrage was perpetrated by a minor criminal with no known terrorist links is especially chilling. The new terror masters appear able to identify, groom and mobilise people with mental health issues, and to persuade them to sacrifice themselves to boot.
A generation ago the notion of a peaceful and collaborative world was widespread. It wasn't real for billions, I know that. Yet it was a hope, an aspiration. Not now. In 2016 people are more likely to fear for the future and the safety of their children. For all the pockets of peace, much of the world is in turmoil. And if it's not war, it's money that is wielding its malign influence.
Enter Boris Johnson, Britain's new foreign minister. Some think that his new boss Theresa May is making him clean up the Brexit mess he did so much to make - but if you look at the division of responsibilities, he's not involved.
Nope, he's their face to the world - so it looks like a brisk two-fingers to the lot of us. France's foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault commented that "During the referendum campaign...he told a lot of lies to the British people." Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, described Johnson's conduct in the campaign as deceitful and reckless.
As if that wasn't enough, across the Atlantic, we have the Republican Party's congress, at which Donald Trump is anointed as the party's presidential candidate. This is someone who seems to make it up on the hoof and regards facts as stones to be thrown rather than foundations for action.
Does it all signal the collapse of an old order, the revolt of outsiders and the dislocated against elites? Probably, in part - and that would explain the attraction of populists and fascists. But it doesn't explain ISIS any more than it does the wilful abuse of truth by insiders like Johnson.
No, what's most troubling in the long run is the degree to which political discourse has become detached from reasoned analysis and discourse. Anything goes.
We now live in what's being described as the post-factual world. Feelings and myths outgun facts and evidence (as scientists would understand the term). Hence Brexit. Hence too, the rise of Trump.
And it isn't just in politics that this is true. It appears universal. Everybody has their own truth. Anything that doesn't accord with their view is attacked and derided. "Facts" are carefully selected to bolster their position. Neither truth nor reality matter. What's important is what you can get your audience to believe. Force of personality beats force of argument.
In this, one can see the negative impact of the internet and social media. Of course, we have to acknowledge their very many positive effects. And, in many ways, they now define our world. They overarch and underpin it. They are its fabric and its tailoring, its bones and blood. But their workings also have really serious and potentially disastrous implications.
They herd users, and serve them what the algorithms suggest they want to hear. They may not feed them on their own prejudices but they write the menu. This isn't with the intention of perverting democracy or politics, it's just the way they function.
Other parallel developments are also significant, such as the notion of safe space. This is an important concept but carries major risks. Many people, but especially the young, don't want to hear what they don't like. Irish higher education colleges are at risk of becoming no-go areas for divergent opinions as has happened elsewhere, for example in the UK.
But if people only communicate with those with whom they agree or identify, then there is no discourse. And if there is no discourse there is no democracy. A country becomes a ragbag of differing and contending interest groups and in the end we're not so different from ISIS. They don't want to hear what they don't like either.
Much is made these days of the need to acknowledge, facilitate and celebrate diversity and we here in Hog House are in full accord, all the way. But for us, diversity doesn't stop at people of different colour and ethnicity and sexual orientation. It also includes diversity of thought: that is, those with whom we disagree are entitled to speak too, however distasteful what they have to say might be. After all, that's how peace came to Northern Ireland.
Liberté, egalité, fraternité et diversité!
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