Are we one people on the earth, or not?

Unfortunately there are still too many of us who would insist that we are not one but many, making up multiple tribes not cooperating with one another but most often at  war. By one people I mean what evolution, picking up the slack from centuries of mistaken ideologies, secular no less than religious, has taught us,  that we are, all of us, full and paid up members of the still existent although threatened animal species homo sapiens.

Now the very worst that Donald Trump has done is to have encouraged some of us, sometimes it seems most of us, to believe that we are not just one people but members of different tribes at war with one another. Witness what he had to say during the aftermath of Charlottesville, where hate groups including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and others were pitted against those who would defend the Enlightenment ideals, those of a free press, religious freedom, minority protection, free elections, democracy, a free and independent, judiciary, tolerance, and respect for others.

What Trump said was: “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,”  “Very fine people, on both sides,” not true of course. And if you have ever attended one of Trump’s rallies (with shouts of ‘crooked Hillary, lock her up, crying Chuck Schumer, low IQ Waters, slam him to the ground, the Fake News people at the Wash Post and the NYTimes etc.’) you’ll know just what I mean about his stirring up the very worst in us..

Terrible things do happen in the U.S mostly because of crazed individuals, although in many cases encouraged by Trump’s own  failure to separate himself from the white supremacists, with guns, all too ready to turn their guns against the objects of their hate, against people just like themselves.

Things are bad in today’s United States. Witness the almost weekly shootings. But things are much worst elsewhere, making it more incumbent upon ourselves to avoid stirring the waters of hate. And in fact perhaps everywhere except in Europe and lands and countries of the developed world, where there are still a few enlightened peoples who at least act as members of the single species homo sapiens. As an example of the hate, of the unreason and untruth that is out there, witness this news item from the Economist of November 8:

When a panel of three judges on Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned a poor Christian woman’s conviction for blasphemy, which carries a mandatory death sentence, it was, as one commentator, Zahid Hussain, put it, as if they had at last broken the country’s “ring of fear”. Nine years ago in the fields, Asia Bibi, a mother of five, had taken a sip of water before passing the jug on to fellow (Muslim) fruit-pickers. They said they could not share a drinking vessel with an “unclean” Christian, and demanded she convert to Islam. She refused, and soon a mob was accusing her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Pakistan’s main blasphemy law is breathtakingly sweeping. Anyone who defiles Muhammad’s name, even if “by imputation, innuendo or insinuation”, faces death. Since its introduction in 1986, several hundred people have been charged, with a disproportionate number either non-Muslims or Ahmadis, a persecuted sect who revere both Muhammad and a 19th-century prophet—something many other Muslims consider abominable. No one has yet been executed. But more than 50 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered….

So the judges’ decision was brave. The charges against Ms Asia, they said, were “concoction incarnate”. The reaction of hard-core Islamists, meanwhile, was predictable. Muhammad Afzal Qadri, a founder of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (tlp), a fast-expanding political party formed in response to the hanging of Mr Taseer’s bodyguard, called for the three judges to be killed. Supporters poured onto the streets, bringing cities to a halt with blockades of burning tyres and shutting down the motorway between Islamabad, the capital, and Lahore, the country’s second-biggest city….

Apparently stung by the criticism, the authorities may now be acting. As The Economist went to press, Ms Asia had been freed. Her whereabouts are unknown, although the government insisted she was still in the country. Meanwhile, the authorities warned the tlp’s leaders that they would be put under house arrest if they called out the mob. For now, Mullah Rizvi has merely said he will “consult” his followers on what next. Most Pakistanis are fed up with zealots blocking roads and burning cars. Even an inexperienced government appears to realise this. If the state is at last finding some backbone, it will be a triumph of hope over experience.

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