TREXIT: A departure from truth?

 Published in: The Daily Star on November 7, 2018
TREXIT: A departure from truth?

A six-metre-high sculpture created from scrap metal depicting a soldier returning from war was unveiled on Sunday in Dublin to commemorate the centenary of the ending of WWI.

The wars that we wage within and beyond our own borders kill us. Yet, we seem to be perpetually living in a state of war where hate speeches flood the internet, trade wars cause the economy to slow down, borders cause tension and perception becomes the truth. To put it simply, the current world is one of doubt and disaster, where nothing real is real anymore, where ultimately disruptions decide the course of human destiny, where lines divide identities that were meant to be one.

As for myself, I have valid reasons to despise borders. We are living in a time when artificial intelligence is almost ready to question me and decide if I can get into a country or not. In the European Union, border control checkpoints are testing AI-based lie-detector technology called the iBorderCtrl to identify those trying to cross the border illegally. Very soon, an animated guard will be quizzing me via the webcam. Apparently, this is to prevent terrorism and mass influx of illegal immigrants. What do I care? I come from a country that has just given shelter to a million Rohingya refugees who landed on our shores, driven away by aggressors of their own land. For us, in Bangladesh, the call of humanity is far greater than the call of self-preservation. So whenever I see an opportunity of borderless travel, I indulge…

Driving down from Belfast to Dublin is a seamless experience. Apart from a casual warning on Uber voice reminding the driver and the passenger that an international border is being crossed, there’s nothing else there. No border guards, no flags…nothing. I intentionally opt for this route as it sets me free for once. With Brexit in March 2019, one doesn’t know if the scenario will alter for the worse. In reality, Northern Ireland has a long history of war. For most of the 20th century, the 30-year conflict commonly known as “the Troubles” killed some 3,600 people. The conflict, which was primarily political and nationalist in nature, focused on the key issue of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. While Protestant loyalists wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom, the Irish Catholic nationalists wanted to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland. Peace was finally negotiated in 1998. Like the Indian sub-continental partition lines, the lines of Northern Ireland also go through farmland, schoolyards and even homes, indicating that the border is still definitely porous.

However, the new possibility of friction looms large between the United Kingdom and the Northern Ireland as the last vote of the United Kingdom opted to leave the European Union while in the Northern Ireland, 56 percent voted to remain. By March 2019, Britain leaves the bloc, but for now, Ireland and the EU remain unhappy with Britain’s proposals to keep the dividing line as is. Now the talks are souring with EU demanding progress on border issues by December 4 or else, apparently, trade will have to suffer.

In this world of disruptive gains and departure, Trump just imposed sanctions against the “rogue” state of Iran, which will clearly affect the poor and the middle class, while the aggressor incurs no cost to drag on the conflict, targeting Iran’s oil sales, its wider energy industry, shipping, banking, insurance sectors, and so on. These “secondary sanctions” apply pressure on other countries to stop them from trading with Tehran. It was only last week when IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde took a position against trade disputes, with a warning that a departure from the regular corporate supply chains could lead to a “shipwreck.” She warned that this fiscal and financial turbulence would only make the poor poorer and would only be feeding the top one percent, with the global public and private debt record now having reached a new high at USD 182 trillion, 60 percent up from 2007.

Meanwhile, truth is being redefined everywhere. With an emphasis on “fake news”, one doesn’t know what to believe or trash. Yesterday, the whole of America voted in the midterm elections which will shape their future for the next couple of decades. Whether the man who tweets with his own picture with the caption reading “Sanctions are Coming,” in almost a satirical adaptation of “Winter is Coming,” is going to lead America with his own mantra is best left to the judgment of the Americans. But at our end, one cannot help but wonder about the placement of truth in international politics and media, where the new truth is now being laced with partisan news coverage affecting the voters’ cognitive bias. As an alternative, people have taken to social media where they directly hear from the president. Today, if the cliché “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on” is to be taken seriously, then is the world really heading for a Trexit (exit from truth)?

At a time like this, perhaps taking a walk at 4am is the best. It lends a perspective that tends to get lost in traffic. Yesterday morning, your columnist, at dawn, stared at a six-metre-tall soldier made of scrap metal in Dublin, marking 100 years since the end of World War One. The statue “Haunting Soldier” at the entrance to St Stephen’s Green park in Dublin has been unveiled ahead of the centenary of the end of the war on Sunday. The soldier made of scrap metal, including horseshoes, spanners and car jacks, tells a different tale of suffering and fragility of the survivors of the war. The monument is a reminder of the 36,000 Irish soldiers who never came home. Before returning to its original home in Dorset, it will continue to overlook St Stephen’s Green in Dublin for the next four weeks, reminding us all about a simple truth: In war, human life is all too disposable, just like the scrap metal the monument is built with. Since life is too short to be untrue, let us not fool ourselves by accusing truth of being a philosophical hoax. Let us all remember that divisions are precursors of death and a deconstructed version of truth is deadly.