Playing For Time

All public policy can do is buy the time necessary for the human magic — or poison — to run its course.
All public policy can do is buy the time necessary for the human magic — or poison — to run its course.

The attack on the mosques, like Anders Breivik’s murderous rampage in idyllic Norway, happened in New Zealand, ironically rated in 2017 the safest country in the world after Iceland.  It’s a sad reminder that no place is exempt from ethnic conflict. Et in Arcadia ego sum, whether Arcadia is Africa, Burma, or Western China. Wherever populations mix under pressure there’s the potential for volatility.  As a New York Times article reminded its readers in 2014, the Rwandan massacre had its roots in the population policies of European governments.

In 1884, 130 years ago, European powers gathered in Berlin for a conference under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck that historians depict as setting the rules for the scramble for Africa among outside powers that soon fractured it into a jigsaw of new nations.

… the impact of this colonial cartography lingers in profound sensitivities at the legacy of the outsiders’ incursions into a continent that did not invite them to define its frontiers or impose their definitions of nationhood.

If tribal patchworks were the legacy of 19th-century European imperialism, then multicultural populations are the consequence of the global world.  Economic advantage demands them but there are dangers lurking in those arrangements.

For example, the inclusion of the Muslim parts of Mindanao into the predominantly Christian Philippines under the Treaty of Paris caused mischief beginning with the U.S. vs Moro Wars that continues to this day.  After the Muslim insurrection in the early 1970s, the mayhem became chronic, with gangs shooting up mosques, rebels kidnapping school children, and warlords killing journalists en masse.  The latest chapter, the Battle of Marawi, had hardly ended before the NYT was warning that Mindanao may be the next stronghold of ISIS.  It’s now a conflict whose end no one knows.


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