Sleepwalking into darkness
The appellations of racist, terrorist, and anti-Semite are three of the most highly charged labels invoked by culture warriors on the contemporary global, social, and ideological battlefields.
Anyone saddled with these labels runs the risk of being cancelled, which could mean being fired, isolated, whitelisted (formerly called blacklisted), or suffering a grave case of rigor mortis. Cognizance of this sad and sometimes brutal reality has forced many to toe the line of political correctness.
People of African ancestry have been accused by critics of using the race card to deflect legitimate criticisms of negative trends in black communities. The extent to which this claim is true in the face of real negativity in black communities is a tragedy for people of African ancestry who cannot afford to ignore legitimate criticisms of black malfeasance. The same is true for people of Jewish ancestry who are also critiqued for having their own get-out-of-jail-free card known as the anti-Semitic card. Jews do a disservice to their own community when they try to squash legitimate criticism of the State of Israel by calling critics of Israel anti-Semites.
The term terrorist was weaponised to the nth degree after the events of September 11, 2001 when the US suffered its worst attack on home soil since the British invasion of 1812. In retaliation for the attack of September 11, then US President George W Bush announced a war on terror and also told the nations of the world that they were either with America as it pursued its war against terrorists or they were with the terrorists. It mattered little to President Bush and his allies that one man’s terrorist was another man’s freedom fighter.
The practice of using negative labels in the modern context is a throwback to a more ancient trend popularised during the period known as the Dark Ages. For most of that historical era, which stretched from the fifth to the 14th century, the appellation of heretic was a sure-fire way of getting cancelled with great fire and fury. Heretics, much like today’s terrorists, were to be universally reviled. Sanctions were imposed on them and all who gave them succor. Towns and villages harbouring heretics were placed under an interdict and could go the route of Amalek of Bible fame.
Another highly charged label utilised with devastating consequences was the label of witchcraft. To be accused of witchcraft during the Dark Ages was another certain route to experiencing cancelled culture. People accused of witchcraft found themselves with little or no protection from the State. Proving one’s innocence was also a very tenuous enterprise once the formal process of inquisition commenced.
It should be noted that the cancel culture of the Dark Ages was extremely faith-based. The Church provided the philosophical and theological basis that determined who got cancelled during the Dark Ages.
It may or may not be significant that religion seems to be injecting itself into many of the modern hot potatoes of the culture war. LGBTQIA+ rights, abortion, and support for Israel are all religiously charged topics that, in addition to pitting husbands against wives and fathers against sons, are also creating warring ideological camps dead set on cancelling out each other.
It cannot be denied that the human family has come a long way since the Dark Ages. The creation of new categories of public enemies that are supposed to be hated by all and the prevalence of cancel culture, however, suggest that we still have a long way to go to fully exit the barbarous world of the Dark Ages. When a head of State can reference a genocidal passage from the Bible as possible motivation for national martial policy, sirens should be blaring internationally, indicating that a red line has been crossed and we are drifting back into the fog and miasma of the Dark Ages.
When the supposed democratic, human-rights loving, justice-affirming nations of the West continue to be unwavering in their support for a nation that is clearly committing ethnic cleansing and collective punishment against a people within its borders, it becomes all to evident that we are drifting back into the darkness.
The tragedy of all this lies in the reality that under the cover of the new prevailing darkness unscrupulous actors can open Pandora’s box and unleash forces that will alter life as we know it.
Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of The Rebirth of Black Civilization: Making African and the Caribbean Great Again. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.