Every day I wake up, something new has happened in the world. From the killing of black men in the United States to the Pokemon game craze, and the attempted coup in Turkey, I struggle to keep up with everything that is happening. Just as you begin to digest one piece of information, something else takes centre-stage. The news is mostly bad, but sometimes it is good news, which for a brief moment, temporarily restores our faith in humanity. In some cases, the news headlines are life-altering events, but in others, it’s simply a social media craze. Nonetheless, these occurrences have a profound effect on us all.
On 7 July, the world was shocked to learn of the senseless killing of Philando Castile in Minnesota, by US police. The man in question was shot as he attempted to reach for his driving license. His girlfriend who was seated in the passenger’s seat live-streamed the whole event via the popular social media site; facebook. It had garnered close to a million views before the site took it down. Philando’s shooting caused seething anger and sent shockwaves through the black community (and the world at large) because it followed (some days earlier) the killing of another black man- Alton Sterling in Louisiana. Sterling was shot dead for allegedly selling CDs from his car. The shootings sparked a massive Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas that culminated in the killings of five police officers and the injuring of nine others.The events in the US have felt many people feeling scared, bewildered and unsure of what the future holds; particularly for members of the Black population. Do black lives now count for so little that black hopes and dreams can simply be brought to an abrupt end by a trigger-happy cop? It almost seems like history has gone back 60 years to the era of state-sanctioned institutionalised racism and large scale black oppression. Was the civil rights movement of the 1960’s all for nothing? Did Martin Luther King and Malcolm X die in vain?
As the world reeled from the shootings and killings in the US, the (now famous) Pokemon game was launched on Thursday 14 July, which for a brief moment took our minds off what was happening in the US. The game, which for the life of me, don’t actually understand, but know that it relates to following and catching some elusive object, has everyone talking. It is now more popular than Twitter, Angry birds and Candy crush, and has had more than 10 million downloads since its launch just over a week ago. Everyone seems to be hooked, with ordinary people, politicians and celebrities falling hook, line and sinker for the “catch a Pokemon” craze. Players have ended up in all sorts of crazy places such as funeral homes, restaurants, hospitals and even neighbours’ dustbins, all in a bid to catch this elusive virtual object. Some people have expressed security concerns about playing the game, as people tend to walk into streets and oncoming traffic, completely oblivious to the world around them, and immersed in the world of Pokemon gaming. Others have expressed the need for a Pokemon etiquette (if there is such a thing). They argue that playing the game at work, the 9/11 Memorial or Holocaust Museum is a no-no and players need to establish boundaries and play the game in appropriate settings.
Later, in the evening of 14 July, the city of Nice in France was attacked, during the country’s Bastille Day celebrations. This immediately took my mind off Pokemon and to France, a country that experienced three attacks in the short space of 24 months. In the most recent attack in Nice, eighty-four people (including ten children) were killed when a lorry driver of North-African descent, drove through a crowd that had gathered for the celebrations. The purposeful actions of the driver, who was later shot and killed by French police, has caused many to label it a terrorist attack. This is the third terror-related event to occur in France in the space of 2 years (including Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan attacks). The French President has reacted to the attacks by saying that the battle against terrorism would be a long one because France faced “an enemy who will continue to hit countries who see liberty as their essential value”. While the French’s president speech was an attempt to comfort his people in their time of grief, no one wants to hear the words (paraphrased) “get used to living with terrorism because it’s going to be around for a long time”. No, we want to hear solutions to this great evil that continues to threaten humanity and our very existence. While we stand with France today and empathise with them, we don’t want to have the same thing happen in our countries, all because the terrorists know that we have resigned ourselves to our “fate”. And our governments have adopted a complacent attitude towards terrorism. Terrorism also spreads fear, anger and hate in communities. Reports show that with every Islamic related terrorist attack, members of the Muslim community experience an increase in racist attacks on their way of life.
Just as I was coming to terms with the terrorist attack in Nice, I woke up to news of an attempted coup in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was on holiday in the south of the country, took to FaceTime to address a divided country in the wake of a failed coup attempt. A political commentator called it a textbook 20th-century coup occurring in a 21st-century setting. Theoretically speaking, it had all the trappings of a successful coup (in terms of it being wide). However, it was not deep enough to make it successful. The events in Turkey may not mean much to many people, but to people living in Europe, it means a whole lot. Firstly, it means that Europe is prone to political instability from within. The geographic proximity of Turkey to the EU and the country’s potential for political instability could easily spread to other European countries and affect the whole region. Secondly, stability in the Eurozone could also be affected if Turkey is granted membership into the European Union. Furthermore, the failed coup attempt is a sign that democracy has not taken root in the country. It is evident that the relevant political actors in the country do not accept the authority of the current government, and are willing to use unconstitutional methods to change the government. And this is a disturbing trend for the consolidation of democracy in any region, let alone the beacon of global democracy- that is Europe.