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It will surprise nobody who reads this journal to realize that I keep up a lot on current events, mostly those involving conflict.

In the aftermath of 9/11 one of the first questions America asked itself was "Why do they hate us?" A lot of answers came fast and furious, because of past events, because of religion, because of fundamentalism, but they were mostly wrong because this is the wrong question. As people became aware that the entire world was involved in a great clash that transcended a religious divide, a political divide, and even geographic divides. The world was, in its entirety, in struggle.

It is human nature to draw narrative out of a great panorama. A number of narratives have been drawn out of this one. One of my personal favorites is the idea that what you see throughout the world is a grand reaction to global inter-connection. On one side is a world where people communicate across the world at the drop of a hat via Skype and SMS and Twitter, where you can order something from a shop in China for delivery in Uganda; a place with a huge culture made up of common threads that pokes its sharp, pointy elbows into every available spot. On the other side lies a world of our fathers and grandfathers, or traditionalists and ancient cultures and a cycle of years that passes back centuries (nostalgic centuries of course, history is rarely so kind as to be comfortingly static).



To put this as a fight between Progress and Reaction, as some have tried to, is disingenuous. The global world is one of inter-connectedness, of understanding and communication that crosses social and ethnic boundaries, and a promise of both opportunity and freedom. It is also a world of big corporations, of Wal-Mart and Amazon and sweatshops deep in hot, foreign countries, and of children covered in muck, waist deep in the diamond mines. Neither is the reactionary side a group of tragic figures bemoaning the loss of rich cultural traditions. Western activists might oppose the operation of a factory in a third world country because of the squalid living conditions it provides. Locals might oppose the same factory because it pays money directly to unmarried women. Does that make the activists wrong? Does it make the locals right? Does it make the factory right? Who knows? This isn't a question that can be solved in the abstract - the sins committed in the name of progress are not easily weighed against what they replace.

But there are parts of the world where people had, quite carefully, made themselves a smaller world within a dome of their own devising. Sure, many of them were part of the wider world, but that was something that intruded on their lives rarely, and in the same way. It came up roads, plodding along on slow steady legs, and a few hostilities could usually convince it to go back home.

Now though they wake up and find the world has changed. Their children are drinking Coke, watching movies by Disney, listening to Hip-Hop or K-pop, watching Korean and Brazilian soaps on television, and doing God only knows what on their smartphones. Stores are suddenly full of products from distant factories - familiar places disappear to be replaced by international chains. Work changes, suddenly there are people from poorer places brought in to do the manual labor, and from richer brought in to take charge of everything and take the rewards. Somehow the world has changed. They were unaware of the dome they had built around themselves until someone opened the door, but now it seems too late to shut it and the torrent is racing in.

A lot of people realize that the rising tide is irreversible, the world has changed and that change is coming. They try to preserve pieces of the old culture, moving it carefully to the remote peaks of museums and archives where the floodwaters will never reach. They record old customs that children (in the way of children everywhere) disdain. They preserve records of old neighborhoods, even as developers plan to turn them into new high-rises. They win victories, weaving items, customs, places, even entire cultural icons into the tapestry that the world is becoming. They change the flow, they change the future and make it a place with more room for them and their family and their future.

That's a fight that I find worthy of respect. Sometimes I don't agree with cases of it, but my judgment isn't perfect, and I can't find too much fault with many of their motives.

Others try and turn back the tide. This is unwise. The world, once changed, dislikes being unchanged, and once inside the walls is difficult to turn back. The ascetic saints knew this and suffered in isolation for their rejection of the ways of the world. People today dislike such suffering, and such suffering alone where nobody knows. They like to suffer in public to garner sympathy.

Where you stand on the issue is different for every person, but there is something magnificently futile in the behavior of those who try to turn back the hands of time. Sometimes we admire them, as long as a certain line is not crossed. We may admire an African tribal doctor as he adheres to ancient practices in the face of abandonment by the younger members of his own family. We admire him less when he tells an Ebola patient that their disease is the result of witchcraft. There are lines that you should not cross; to struggle against the inevitable may be noble, but to damage other lives in that pursuit is despicable.

In this narrative those people are everywhere. They are not just Muslims, or Middle Easterners, or people from disenfranchised countries, they are everyone who has woken up to find foreign tongues and foreign thoughts intruding on their world. They are everyone who finds the control that they once had, that they did not even recognize until it was already a memory, slipping through their fingers. They become desperate to change it back, desperate enough to strike back against this new wave of change however they can. They are the righteous warriors who will batter back this unnatural darkness that has crept up on them, purified in their struggle for a status quo that they cannot clearly remember, as it never existed, and which is all the more glorious for being a lie. Sometimes that means taking up a gun and going to clean out the next village, or strapping on a suicide vest. Sometimes it means firebombing an abortion clinic, or using your influence to set the police on those who now threaten your image.

There is nothing to give these people except our wrath and our pity, because they are piteous figures. Adults learn early on that the past belongs to nostalgia, and nostalgia belongs to the past. Trying to bring nostalgia into the present returns unto it the warts that distant memory smooths away. To those who are eternally trying to rebuild the world of the past, even using the tools of the future to do it, only pity can be given to their neverending task. And for those who are so terrified of losing control that they would do anything to keep the stranger, the different person, the Other from becoming empowered in an arena where once they and their kind alone held that right, the world is a terrifying place. And those sorts of people will be found everywhere and only grow more common as the last bastions of their isolated worlds are breached and overrun by the rest of humanity they have tried to shut out, and they will lash out at anyone they can.

This is why GamerGate makes me sad. That's enough said.

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danalwyn

November 2016

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