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Brexit, Blasphemy and Yellow Vests - Living in a Troubled World

The term “news” was initially introduced as an acronym of North, East, West and South. Today, it seems that NEWS still is an acronym but now standing for “Nothing Ever Will Settle”. 

Tuning in to a news channel these days is inviting an attack of anxiety and distress to invade the rest of your day. Even more distressing is the fact that we have moved even further from the stage where these attacks were conditional with tuning in to television news channels; our mobile phones and tablets are pushing through notifications from news sources, punctuating our day (and night) with such attacks. Unrest, in all matters of life, is not only prevalent but also on a constant rise. 

Despite the hugely alarming and disturbing characteristic that news has developed in modern times, it has, however, successfully managed to uphold its initial acronymic value: it now brings disturbing and upsetting stories from north, east, west and south. But what else can these news bulletins and channels do? Their job is to report on facts, and the biggest fact of this age is that we live in a world full of turmoil, conflict, war, calamities and “new-found” diseases. They report what they see, and what they see, unfortunately, is reality, and it is this grim, gross and gruesome reality that they deliver to our living rooms and our hand-held electronic gadgets.

The current state of the world has left news outlets struggling to decide what to present as the main headline of their newspaper or bulletin. As they have only just decided to make the unplanned facet of Brexit their headline, they find out about a bomb blast in a European city-centre. The former replaced by the latter, they are told of a celebrity committing suicide, or an outbreak of an epidemic imported to some Western country from Africa, or of a casual tweet by a foolish head of state that can potentially bring world peace to shambles.

Starting from the north, we have glaciers melting and giving way to raised water levels in oceans and seas, which means more flooding and tsunamis on their way. Go eastwards and find the richest collection of disturbing stories: earthquakes, tsunamis and aeroplanes missing at the far end; a few coordinates down and find missiles warmed up to shoot off astray; population explosion in China and India leaving them impotent to challenge the economic monopoly of the US; Pakistanis, amidst the global turmoil, trying still to determine what accounts for blasphemy and what does not; and then we have the Middle-East where the fate of the world is supposedly being decided over oil, albeit in the name of “peace-making” and “war-on-terror”.

The past week, or actually past few weeks, have seen uncertainty around the Brexit deal clinging on to the headline slot. While Brexit is seen only as a political phenomenon by many, who would have thought that Brexit could be affecting the deepest recesses of European society? One is left wondering how animal-rights activists could find their way into the Brexit discussion by raising a concern that should Britain decide to leave the EU, it could mean Halal meat being supplied to most schools in the UK. Hitherto, British regulation in terms of animal slaughter has been aligned with the European law which asks for animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered. Activists are worried that this could potentially mean their children eating meat from animals slaughtered in the “Muslim” way.

Similarly, who could have thought that a rise of a few cents in oil prices in France would potentially lead to what has now developed into a nationwide uprising against the French President, Macron. Protestors in yellow-jackets (gilets jaunes) have made it to international news headlines with images of the Arc de “Triomphe” shying away behind the thick smoke of burning barricades. Gilets Jaunes is proof of the rising power of social media as it was through this medium that a protest gained the potential of turning into a movement that threatens a democratically elected government of a well-established nation.

The past week also saw a radical cleric of Pakistan arrested over charges of inciting unrest in the name of the love of the Holy Prophetsa. That the Pakistani government could finally muster up courage to do so sounds promising, but what is still in store is still a puzzle. Having Asia Bibi acquitted from charges of blasphemy and having booked a prominent extremist cleric are two brave steps that the newly formed government of Pakistan has taken in its days of infancy. We like to hope for the best.

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