Things We Should Have Been More Scared of in 2015
In case international terrorism and Donald Trump weren't enough.
2015 was a great year for fear. It's the year that ISIS, the world's designated global baddies, went truly international, leaving most of us so terrified of imminent slaughter by gun-wielding fanatics that we frequently step out into traffic in our paranoid daze. Meanwhile outright personality-cult fascism returned triumphantly to western politics in the gaudy, bewigged form of Donald Trump, and the seas continued grow higher and hotter and more acidic, swirling into a toxic sludge swelling to surge over all dry land. Be afraid: The world is ruled by monsters and idiots, and it's slowly falling into the sun.
Reactionary politics have always run on fear: fear of the foreigner, fear of the neighbor, and sometimes even fear of the state. The usual reaction is to encourage us to be less afraid. But as the nights grow long and the year coughs along, defeated, to its death, we might be right to be fearful. The real question is whether we're afraid of the right stuff. The last year has seen all number of plots and horrors: Some of them were screamed from the headlines; others, for any number of reasons, didn't. Here are some of the others.
A GENETICALLY ENGINEERED COW MIGHT LEAD TO THE END OF THE WORLD
It's no secret that some of the more spittle-flecked sectors of Israeli society have some interesting architectural plans for the al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem: They want to tear down Islam's third-holiest site and replace it with a rebuilt Jewish temple, thereby sparking riots, wars, and/or nuclear Armageddon.
The recent escalation of violence in Palestine was in part sparked by the increasing numbers of religious Jews visiting the complex to pray—this despite the fact that doing so has been expressly forbidden by a number of rabbis, as visitors may end up accidentally desecrating the former site of the kodesh hakodashim, or the Holy of Holies.
According to Biblical law, one can only enter this place after being ritually cleansed with the ashes of a pure red cow, without any spots or blemishes, or a single hair of any other color. For 2,000 years, this animal—a necessary prerequisite for any rebuilt Temple—has not been found. This might be God trying to avert a catastrophe, but some Jewish extremists are trying to force things along if the Almighty is unwilling: They've set up a crowdfunding project to selectively breed the Cow of the Apocalypse. With the Middle East more blood-soaked and furious than ever, the thing that could finally finish the whole planet off might right now be contentedly mooing in a farm somewhere in the Negev. Fear the cow.
BRITAIN IS SLOWLY TURNING INTO A CARTOON DICTATORSHIP
Photo via Wikipedia
The UK has always looked like a banana kingdom, a caricature of incompetent tyranny—it's some combination of the constant piss-drizzle, the sheer squinty-eyed joylessness of the people, the ant-bitten decay of the institutions, and the occasionally armed ethnic squabble in the peripheral territories. No matter what they claim, the British were never really made for democracy. This might be why the imminent overthrow of its barest formal remnants has attracted so little attention.
2015 was the year that the military started to really put some pressure on British political life. In September, a "senior serving general" told the Sunday Times (anonymously, of course—in the end these walking beefsteaks with thousands of guns at their disposal are just as cowardly as your average Twitter egg) that should Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister, the "general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardize the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that." In other words, a military coup.
It's not just the opposition that's in the generals' sights: this was shortly followed by a public revelation of the army's distaste for PM David Cameron and their unhappiness at his defense cuts (now rolled back, of course)—armed forces openly briefing against elected governments. Unlike the contemporaneous pig-fucking allegations, the background and motives for this story never became an object of much general discussion. Consciously or not, this is probably because we want it to happen: We'll pretend not to notice, right up until the tanks are lined up firing shells into the Palace of Westminster, and after that we'll just get back to our lives, safe under the strong hand of the junta. It's what we always wanted.
COPS ARE TAKING OVER CLASSROOMS
Of course, we think we know what a dictatorship looks like: thought police lurking behind every corner, people snitching on their neighbors, words we're forbidden to even speak. And all of this is happening too: in particular, it's happening in the schools. This month, a 12-year-old boy in Oxfordshire was taken out from a classroom and interrogated by uniformed police after posting plans to picket David Cameron's constituency office on Facebook. This young security threat had been radicalized by plans to close down his local youth center.
For kids of Muslim background, this kind of thing is particularly pervasive: Earlier in the year, a 14-year-old was snatched from his lesson for merely saying the word "terrorism" in a classroom. (Actually, it was a French lesson, and he was talking about environmental groups, so the term he used was "l'ecoterrorisme.") Under the government's Prevent strategy for combating domestic extremism, teachers, and community leaders are encouraged to report on any signs of radicalization among young people, including wearing different clothes, losing touch with friends, and expressing opposition to UK foreign policy. They're being drafted in as part-time cops in an all-out war against angsty teens. Never mind your flashy young-adult films: the grim futuristic dystopia is already here. We're living in it. You just didn't notice.
Follow Sam Kriss on Twitter.