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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Look Up in 2016

Disruption is all around us. Mobile is overtaking desktop, social is beating search, on-demand is undercutting TV, messaging apps are challenging email, and everything around us is becoming more connected.

But everything is also becoming more disconnected. The absence of unified global leadership will shape a tumultuous 2016. We have more global leaders who agree on less. Russia has paralysed Ukraine and is bombing unchecked in Syria: An Amnesty International report says at least 200 civilians were killed in Russian air strikes in Syria from 30 September to 29 November.

The human rights group accuses Russia of using cluster bombs in civilian areas, and says such attacks could constitute war crimes. And with its economy darkening the mood of the Russian people, it could send Putin in search of foreign scapegoats. Cue Turkey, the historical punching bag - a role it seems to enjoy.

Putin has built a web of influence from Greece to Syria, countries with historical grudges against Turkey, while Turkey is doing little except play the Hollywood bad guy exceptionally badly. Its downing of a Russian warplane has given Putin the exact excuse needed for his raucous rhetoric, describing Turkey's action as a "stab in the back" committed by "accomplices of terrorists".

Data on the flight recorder of the Russian war plane downed by Turkey last month has so far proved to be unreadable, Russia's military has claimed, further blurring what really happened. It reminded me of my history classes in school where we had read about the American U-2 spy plane shot down by the Soviets during the Cold War. Not because the Russians were spying in this instance, but because once again there is smouldering proof that the world is unsteady on its axis.

Turkish president Mr Erdogan and his allies may consider themselves heirs to their Ottoman past, when Istanbul - then Constantinople - ruled an empire that stretched from the Arab world and into Europe. But they also need to remember that the Ottomans never fared well against the Russians (even with their defeat of the Russians in the Crimean War), either in the distant or not-too-distant past - and never as a buffer zone between Russia and the West.

And it's also worth remembering that sometimes bad can come from good: Entering the fight against Islamic terrorists was always going to be a dangerous game for Turkey, but it has also had a converse effect. It also means less chance of people in the West using it as a gateway to join terrorists, leaving them to plan attacks from where they are.

Life is always a case of damned if you do or damned if you don't: With American-led (or bought) democracy there comes capitalism, and there is no chance to democratise the politics of economy, which has had a hand in the problems we face today. Power and wealth are - and will continue to be - more concentrated than ever, and we will burn more bridges than we are prepared to build.

The same goes for modern relationships. We seem to live in a generation of not being in love, and not being together. The societal struggle of a long series of bad dates and hookups means we are constantly swiping and messaging someone new. More connected, and yet more disconnected than ever: Instead of telling someone how we feel, we just don't text back. It leaves a bitter inner voice that whispers to us to be afraid, very afraid, of love.

This cynicism along with disconnection throws gasoline on the fire of our unhappiness. And why aren't we happy? Because we fail to ask the right questions of ourselves. Happiness is not a destination or thing, neither is it a substance or item, rather it is a mindset and an outlook which has become blurred in the current climate.

Being happy means being happy with your sadness, too. It means accepting the world is fucked up, and often there is very little to be done about it. It also means accepting that this doesn't detract from its beauty. In times it can add to it.

Often nature can pull us back from walking the brink. Due to my work in the real world, I'm face to face with real misery. But a look up at a dazzling night sky rejuvenates the spirit, and for me, like writing, being out in nature is the best therapy - when I can find the time.

So, my blog is sometimes my look up to the night sky. But for obvious reasons, public and private, I can't always share my point of view. Blogging doesn't sit too well with the nature of my real world profession, however balanced you try to be.

But there are things I can say. Things I have been saying for over ten years on this blog: That Truth is not your truth or mine, its a mixture of the two, or the many. Build bridges and believe in something greater than the self.

My point of view is always going to be just that, one point. But there are many others that need to be considered however inconvenient; the Truth doesn't belong to one person or race, it lies where all points converge. When you accept that you will look up to the night and see the lights in the sky, rather than curse the darkness it brings.

To do that you also have to believe in something greater than just self. In the twentieth century, elightenment in the way of the rights of self determination and human values found the mainstream, but we forgot that human beings need to believe there is something greater than self, too.

There is the story of a man who was displaced and persecuted, but instead of turning to hatred and vengeance, the essence of his story was that we should love one another - despite the difficulties that brings, and indeed, because of them. He could not have done that unless he had absolute faith in something greater than self.

The story may not be true, but the inspiration it has fostered is true enough. But it cannot be Truth unless it converges on all points of the world, where we need to understand that peace comes not through the capitulation of one view to another, but the collaboration of all views.

And as connected as technology makes us, we will continue to remain disconnected if we look through one lens, whether that be male, female, Turkish, Russian, East or West. The more one-sided a being becomes, the more narrow, the more prone to evil, and belief becomes nothing but a mouthpiece for those who have no real faith that there is something greater than themselves.

If only we took the time to look up at the sky, we would see a myriad of proofs of things greater than us. Yet, the potential of possibilities boxed within us may yet be greater still.

Disruption has always been a part of the world's cycle, and our destruction is probable, too. But there are infinite possibilities in our hands to make the most of what we have, and to waste them with the time we have left will be the real crime of our times.

As tumultuous as 2016 will be, I hope it will also bring opportunities to build as many bridges as we will inevitably burn. With one thing overtaking another, I truly hope our limited vision does not overtake our humanity.

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