Halloween has come and gone and what a relief. I’ve never quite got the point of dressing up and begging strangers for sweets, but my 8-year old daughter considers it one of the highlights of the year so last night I found myself reluctantly chaperoning a bunch of young witches, zombies and vampires in search of treats.
With Halloween thankfully out of the way, there will be no more scary nights until next October. Except, of course, there is plenty to be scared of in the real world.
Two days ago, the WWF released The Living Planet Report 2018, the reading of which ought to give you nightmares. For according to WWF, humans have managed to wipe out 60% of animal populations since 1970. That’s a staggering number, and unless we act now to stop further extinction, we are heading towards complete disaster, not just for wildlife, but for humanity. Nature isn’t just there to behold and enjoy; it’s out life-support system, without which, humanity too will be wiped out.
And who needs A Nightmare on Elm Street when the world is hostage to political leaders like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, the current incarnation of the British government – all soon to be joined by Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect of Brazil, a man who has defended dictatorship and torture, and has a history of denigrating women, gay people and minorities.
Are you still sleeping soundly at night?
Last Friday I attended synagogue with Jewish family members, a lovely evening of community, spirit and love. The following morning, a white American man barged into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and shot dead eleven people while reportedly shouting ‘all Jews must die.’ Antisemitism is on the rise again, Islamophobia too, and racism is still alive and well throughout the European continent. Earlier this year, an investigation by the UN special rapporteur on racism concluded that racism and religious intolerance had become more acceptable in Britain since the Brexit referendum.
And don’t get me started on the trouble with social media. Once lauded for its potential as a democracy-enhancing tool and as a vehicle for communication across national borders, social media outlets such as Twitter is now replete with self-righteous trolls and angry, resentful people unleashing their hatred onto others.
Misogyny, too, persists across the world, and though the #MeToo movement offered a brief momentum of hope, women are once again told to stop moaning and get on with life. Only the other day, a senior British police chief spoke against classifying misogyny as a hate crime, because police resources (stretched as they are thanks to government cuts) should focus on more traditional police work, such as catching thieves and violent criminals. Campaigners, however, argue that misogyny (defined as the hatred of, and prejudice against women) is itself a cause of some of the violence plaguing society. In a letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, members of the pressure group Citizens UK write:
“Categorising misogyny as a hate crime won’t end violence against women, but challenging the normalisation of these attitudes on our streets and in public life can help challenge violence against women and girls in wider society. Recording these incidents also provides a vital evidence base. When police forces treat these incidents seriously, women’s trust in the police increases.”
I could go on and on, and even so, someone reading this will surely blame me for failing to mention the plight of groups not included here. The point is, this ongoing nightmare of prejudice, discrimination, violence, and the destruction of the natural world is real. Closing our eyes to it, won’t make it go away. Turning away from it all, minding our own private business, won’t do, because all that I have mentioned here, is also our business.