South Africa

OP-ED

Gimme shelter from the gathering #hashtag storm

Wake up and smell the coffee, the tension among the #s has reached a point of eruption – how and when is to be determined, but it will be global and, like a highveld storm, nobody will escape.(Illustration: Adobestock)

It has never been more simple to start a global movement – just think up a catchy #hashtag. That's what every Thabo, Dick and Sally does these days, and the outcome is looking apocalyptic.

Globally, the air is thick with tension and brewing in the cauldron are ideas, idealism, activism, angst and rage. It is as if we are in the, almost sacred, half-hour before a highveld storm breaks: it is hot, with the occasional gust while the pressure, as well as the humidity, gradually builds. And then! The release – powerful, even violent, thunder and lightning; impossible to escape – it drenches the pious, professional and pauper alike. 

Over millennia, societies have gone to war because of an insatiable lust for anyone or a combination of factors, most notably supremacy (power and control), stocks and stores (money and resources), sex, spiritual dominance (religion), the all-powerful S5. Together they are the great ageless idols. This has been done mostly from a king-kingdom or nation-state perspective. The motive for battle, and thus the S5-greed, has not changed in recent years, but the agents of battle have. It is no longer within the domain of a king or nation-state; no longer well-defined armies battling it out under unique identity-revealing banners. Within today’s multifarious ragtag world, the hashtags rule. 

#-societies, which are global societies (be it electronic or otherwise, implicit or explicitly defined) of assimilation by choice around a theme or ideal based on a variety of pretexts, are the agents of war – in battles where neither the rules of combat nor the battle lines are defined. These are societies where every Thabo, Dick and Sally are king – they operate in a different galaxy than that of political appointees and have surreal power over them. 

Their strategies include the use of a range of tactics to manipulate the state apparatus to their benefit – and to out-manoeuvre an opposing #. Chameleon-like fake news and false flags are, however, clearly part of the strategy to accomplish the #-objective. Concurrently, so is the discreditation and/or corruption of an opposing knight and the capture of state and truth while seemingly advancing disrespect and lawlessness to generate chaos and confusion in the attempt to achieve an advantageous Hegelian synthesis.

Allegiance is not limited to one #-party and neither is allegiance defined in terms of time, space, race or gender. Authority and leadership constructs as established and known over eons, in all spheres of life, have been deconstructed and replaced by a flavour of the moment erratic #-mutation. Welcome to nebulosity – a potpourri, or a cocktail, of a multiplicity of ideas waging war with potentially disastrous, even apocalyptic, consequences. The contrast cannot be greater – a global leadership crisis in a Chief-filled world with no Indians. The king is dead… long live the king.

The more disparate the #-connected global society becomes, fast-tracked by 5G & AI, the more the polarity is exposed. With polarity exposed and widening, the drive for S5 is more intense and a loftier source of conflict than ever before. 

With motive and agents of war established, how does this conflict manifest itself? What are the terrains of battle? 

Given the plurality of both the motive and agents of war, there can be no single terrain of battle either. These terrains of battle change as the agents morph from platform to platform seeking to advance their cause-driven by their motive palette. These terrains are, by definition, no longer defined by local or even national boundaries – they are global and cross-cutting, and they include issues such as the environment and climate change, race and gender, economic and financial power, nationalism, and messianic ideals. Put more formally these can be captured by paradigms (religious and otherwise), politics, economics and environment.

The environment and climate change

As important as the environment and the global climate is to the future existence of all life, so divergent are the views thereon. Not only is it a battle of ideas and the supremacy of the one over the other, it is also a battle of resources, money and religion. 

The ideas on this topic vary from, on the one hand, the complacent ignorant who contemplate that nature’s resources are ostensibly infinite and there to be (ab)used, to, on the other hand, those who consider humans to be parasites of nature. Between and among these a variety of options exist. Companies and multi-national corporations are exploiting all these views for maximum gain; be it petroleum or fast food, the marketplace is jam-packed catering for all.

Likewise, there are multiple proposed solutions. From those #s that argue for more cattle and fewer trees to those #s that seek more trees and fewer (ie no) animal protein as part of the human diet. Then there are those #s that consider nature to be squandered, and those that consider nature sacred and worthy of sacrifice, even billions – a sacrifice to Gaia in order to appease her and to atone for our environmental sins. Imagine the consternation a ban on the use of meat and the slaughter of animals will cause where sacrifice and bloodshed play a major role in most cultures and religions?

Irrespective of your position on the environment and climate change, it is a terrain of war and this war has an impact on you, me and our future – it is a pressure point of note among many.

Race, gender and nationalism

Within the #-world, association and dissociation is free, fast and for all based on preference, with no prejudice – the ultimate democracy. That, by definition, leads to an increase in plurality and polarity of views and camps, as indicated by, among others, the bulging number of possible gender orientations which, pending the source consulted, varies between 50 and 80. 

There are those #s that consider it their divine right to be superior and to dominate others based on race or gender or language, while there are those that could not care about that at all. Then there are those #s that focus on humanity or “the global ecosystem” in general. Ironically, some of the seemingly opposed #s are those that are strikingly similar, in terms of architecture and ideology, nationalistic, patriotic, ideals yet that are worlds apart in area of focus. 

For example, both the black and white far-right extremists/fascists in South Africa base their highly alike views in a rich historic, yet differently interpreted, past – using their #-societies to rekindle a Utopian El Dorado and romanticised past. They can be contrasted with those who simply exist just to exist in the empty post- and post-post-modernist “whatever” world. 

The proliferation of the number of multi-factional opposing #-societies is extraordinary, and so is the freedom and ease with which they are created, and/or morphed into something else, or hidden and concealed, or used in a way to confuse another group. The ability to organise uprisings, riots and the general disregard for the current norm or the rule of law is unrivalled, both now and in terms of years past. 

For example, on the one hand, there are the #-pan-Africanists whose ideals and drive are towards an integrated Africa, let alone those who strive for a passportless 1World. This is actively counterbalanced by #-tribe-based xenophobic violence and a global refugee crisis. Confusing, complex, morphing itself into an increasingly intricate web of ideals, ideas and reality where discerning between fact and fiction is difficult, if not downright impossible.

Irrespective of your view on race, gender and nationalism, it is a terrain of war and this war has an impact on you, me and our future – it is a pressure point of note among many.

Messianic ideals

Most religions have some or other messianic view. The view differs from believing that there is no external, set-apart, messiah and I’m the creator of my own destiny, to that of an ancestor as the leading light, to that of a returning Messiah. Examples of the latter include Saoshyant (in Zoroastrianism), the Mashiach (in Judaism), Maitreya (in Buddhism), Kalki (in Hinduism), Li Hong (in Taoism), He whom God shall make manifest (in Bábism), Jesus (in Christianity) and the Mahdi (in Islam). These different religions have very different eschatologies, different pathways and explanations of the unfolding of future events, and a plethora of subdivisions and perspectives, or #s, even within them – and so are the devotees. 

The devotees do share, however, zeal and an urgency combined with a strong eschatological, messianic anticipation. The varied views make matters more dangerous, more diverse, more conflict-bearing, not less. Ironically, Israel and Jerusalem specifically, plays an important but differentiated part in these Messianic views – and so there is a clear link between some Messianic views, and views on race, gender, nationalism and even the environment – leading to a cocktail of note.

Irrespective of your Messianic view, it is a terrain of war and this war has an impact on you, me and our future – it is a pressure point of note among many.

Who will win this battle of the #s? Perhaps that is the wrong question since, by definition, it is not about determining a single winner; there can be no winner in this nebulous ever-changing cauldron of #s. It is a winnerless war. A more valid question, however, is at what emotional, intellectual, social and moral/ethical cost is this war raging while sweeping aside the sleeping ignorant masses in multi-layered currents of ideologies serving the S5

Wake up and smell the coffee, the tension among the #s has reached a point of eruption – how and when is to be determined, but it will be global and, like a highveld storm, nobody will escape. Where, and how, will you and I seek shelter? Which #-group will provide the protection needed and the operating space you and I feel comfortable in? DM

James Blignaut is professor extraordinaire attached to the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University and honorary research associate attached to the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any of the institutions he might be associated with.

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