“Mom, how are you?”
“Terrible news. Aren’t you following what’s happening?”
I’m alarmed. “Like what, mom?”
“The plane! The plane that crashed and killed so many of us.”
“The Ethiopian Airlines flight? I think two Israelis died on that flight, mom. Lots more from other countries.”
“Oh please. I was at the senior center earlier today and everyone either lost someone on that flight or knows someone who died there.”
“Mom, I don’t think—“
“Chavale, you don’t get the real news over there like we do here. Here we all know what’s going on. After all, “ she adds with a sigh, “we’re used to it.”
Used to what, exactly? To being perpetually blamed, perpetually scapegoated? My mother, living in Jerusalem, is convinced that thousands of folks died on that flight and they were all Jews. Sometimes I smile when I hear her theories.
Today, after the news from New Zealand, I was not smiling.
It’s easy to pin what happened on white supremacists and populists who will do anything to freeze time in some era when white Christians, mostly men, ruled. But whether its Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia or misogyny, blaming and scapegoating is a very human trait.
I’ve been known to blame and scapegoat; if not entire groups, individuals for sure. I lose power and control, my life isn’t turning out, I’m afraid of the future, so I disparage and attack.
Since the 2016 election in this country, much has been written about people who feel left behind. This group is only getting bigger and bigger.
Ladies and Gentlemen, AI is here. Artificial intelligence. We are warned by everyone from Steven Hawking to Bill Gates that we need to regulate the development of AI because very soon—much faster than we realize—people will not have jobs; worse, they’ll feel valueless and irrelevant.
Genome splicing, which can change a person’s DNA, was done a few days ago in China. Other scientists immediately condemned this, pointing out that the rich will be able to produce children not susceptible to illnesses like others, or with genes enhancing their intelligence and capacity beyond others’. They also worry about how this could affect the structure of the entire human species. But all they can do is issue memoranda and condemnations; they can’t turn the clock back. Worse, we don’t have the international tools and processes necessary to discuss, reach consensus, and implement basic regulations.
The other day an international convention that designed measures to minimize money laundering was defeated by the US, among other countries. In our global society, there are too many areas that can’t by governed or regulated by individual countries, it takes an international body, with enforcement capabilities, to regulate development of AI, gene and genome-splicing, not to mention protection against the financial shenanigans happening the world over. Not to mention global warming.
I don’t want my country back, I want my world back. My country can’t deal with these issues, only the world can. It’s no wonder that populist parties and leaders are against international bodies like the UN or the International Court of Justice, railing against them in the name of national sovereignty. We have to wake up. National sovereignty isn’t going to help with corporations around the globe, accountable to no one, inventing new technologies that will make most of us obsolete, or bio-engineering methods that trivialize that most basic question: What is it to be a human being?
Unless we put international, enforceable rules and processes in place, I think we’ll see a lot more of what happened in New Zealand. Not just towards Muslims but towards people of color, indigenous populations, Jews, people with different gender/sexual orientation, all the usual suspects. It’s human to blame and scapegoat, and I feel there’s more of that coming right around the corner.