Millions of young men and women across the world are making their way to university where they hope to find some of the most exciting time of their lives.
A ritual that is repeated each year, like the seasons, has for the class of 2018 something unique. These are some of the first 18 year olds that have no first hand memory of the events that unfolded precisely 17 years ago.
These youngster have, however, for much of their childhood and teenage-hood, been served a “diet” of occasional barbarism which thankfully for this year has been more rare.
Now nearly two decades on, one hopes, one dreams, the reign of terror has come to an end with a dreadful chapter hopefully closing. As if to prepare for it, they have already found their new enemy, Russia.
That’s a “friendly” “enemy” where a diet of scaremongering is supplemented with some competition dessert whereby the west tries to one up in science, in space exploration, in worthy pursuits.
Quite a different endeavor to the past 17 years when the only competition was based on who can take most of our liberties, who can invade most of our privacy, who can curtail most of our free speech.
War is no light affair. Religion a tool as it always has been, but nationalism, a great Arabia, was their aim. Like Hitler’s aim to conquer Europe, Bin Laden too aimed to impose his will by force.
Something which did not work in both cases and thankfully the cost for the latter, although great, was far lower than the former.
Yet plenty can argue that Hitler did eventually get his way in some aspects. Europe now is somewhat united and somewhat of a singular entity. Arabia too, considering their common language and culture, might eventually peacefully build a diplomatic structure of cooperation in the pursuit of human betterment.
That’s what today we may say, but there were times when it appeared things could go in a far worse trajectory. Even now many fear the reign of terror, which hopefully has come to an end, has led to significant tensions with the youngsters, who have not seen a time of peace as the millennials in their late 20s early 30s have, now seemingly more open to certain crude generalizations based on color, race or religion.
It is because such end result was predicted, even if one had the most basic knowledge of Pavlov, that it appeared until recently the world was on a very dangerous path. A path whereby even total war could be seen as the tensions were getting almost out of hand.
The two great democracies of the world did however change course in two extremely close votes that may have now changed the trajectory for the better.
Technology was key to both of those elections, and while some dare demean the will of the people by suggesting Russia somehow manipulated millions into voting a certain way – so in effect suggesting the vote is not legitimate, and thus nor is democracy since it didn’t go their way – one can argue and we will argue this was the techies vote and the outcome of the millennials.
After ten years of general global peace with no state enemy, when liberalism was winning across the world, when optimism was sky high, when economies were booming with millions being lifted out of poverty in China and Africa, when the then teenagers were just starting to get “addicted” to the internet, it appeared to many that a new era had begun.
The idea of a war with another nation appeared unthinkable. The whole world looked up to us. The whole world wanted to emulate us. When the unspeakable events occurred, denial was the first response.
The world had changed, but no one wanted it to change. People continued as if nothing happened. Yet something had. Soon it was to change even more when Iraq was invaded.
That invasion, for the millennials, was a betrayal. An occupation of choice was a line that should not be crossed. No one bought the reasons they gave for it, reasons now proven to be false, yet no one was able to stop the march to war.
That optimism and denial quickly gave way to a veil of darkness most acutely felt in 2006-7 when the air was so thick it appeared students, quite spontaneously, were imminently about to take to the streets.
Tony Blair, one of the chief proponent of the Iraq War, resigned, perhaps pre-emptivly, so avoiding what might have been a far more angry uprising. But students did take to the streets a year or two later, both from the right and left in Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement in a somewhat gentle and peaceful affair.
Even more gentle was the rise of Wikileaks, initially very much the people’s heroes. Through technology they focused popular resistance against the war on online fora, raising political pressure to end the war.
They failed. The weaponized mainstream media had subtly turned against Wikileaks, with a checkmate of sorts in denied sexual allegations leading to a tainting of perception.
Snowden then revealed a bombshell, but he too failed. The timing was very much not right. Some even wondered whether the revelation was worse than it having remained rumors because now mass surveillance has become somewhat accepted.
In the meantime, Arabia rose. Mass protests in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria had technology at their heart. Yet a will to dream turned into a nightmare as Gaddafi threatened to go door by door. With information quickly spreading from Libya, public support backed strategical disarmament of the regime. It worked, to some extent. At least it prevented what could have been a great tragedy.
In Syria, in contrast, Ed Miliband, the then opposition labour leader, voted down at the last minute a likewise quick strategic action. That’s after promising the then Prime Minister David Cameron that he would vote in favor. An act that treasonous might perhaps be too harsh of a describing word, but far from it is not.
Miliband was quickly ejected from the labour leadership after badly losing the election, Cameron was rewarded with a majority, but that defining moment had considerable implications for the years that followed.
Fierce battles between different armies supported by numerous major powers turned ancient Syria into rubble, giving rise to ISIS and perhaps the most dangerous point the world had seen since 9/11.
Millions displaced. A million refugees on their way to Europe in a modern day exodus of sorts. The old continent tested to its limits. Britain, the oldest modern day democracy, rebelled at the ballet boxes.
The reign of terror had reached the point where one could see pavlovian responses leading to a significant over-reaction with great consequences for everyone.
Most thus reached the conclusion that this has to end and has to end now by any means, within reason. Otherwise things could get way out of hand.
Which is what made the Trump election in particular the greatest display of democracy and its strengths and perhaps the only win of the techies where this specific area is concerned.
The manipulation by the media we had previously seen during the Iraq war and in many instances thereafter, became apparent to all as the tools the techies had built counteracted the signal.
4chan went into overdrive. Wikileaks too due to their hate of Hillary Clinton who had suggested an assassination of Julian Assange. Reddit became a party atmosphere in Trump fora. After staying on the side, independents started leaning Trump.
Since then, the sun has returned and the veil of darkness has been lifted with the defeat of ISIS. One can even see the prospect of peace in Arabia, after nearly two decades, and peace in our lands too.
Without the tools that were built in those two decades, and without the tools that are now being built on public blockchains and other spaces, class of 2018 might have been in uniform, rather than about to enjoy some of the best years of their life.
For freedom is not granted, nor is peace. We must build both, we must keep both, and we must extend them further. In this day of tragedy thus, a message of hope, hope that what was has gone, and hope that what is to come is confident optimism in a peaceful world.