The courage to defeat evil

Why are people playfighting a long-dead slave trade rather than resisting the triumph of a real one?

One of the advantages of being a clergyman is that I can talk about evil. When politicians try, they sound absurd; ask the “Axis of Evil”, whose labelling as such probably enhanced its targets’ reputation while diminishing poor old George W’s already limited reputation for wordsmithery. But clergymen? It’s rather our job description.

So what happens when evil wins? Obviously I desperately hope what I really mean is “if”. But there’s no guarantee that in any era “good” will triumph. Barack Obama got it wrong when he misquoted Martin Luther King Jr and said, “The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice.” If history teaches us anything, it’s that the arc of history does no such thing.

Good guys lose all the time, good things disappear for good, liberties get watered down and then lost. To think that history is the advance of good people leading us inexorably out of a bad past is a privilege almost unique to our very specific place and time.

Many who toppled statues will eagerly watch a competition hosted in stadia built by modern slaves

After our time in charge, the liberal West faces a challenge not just to its geostrategic position but to its entire political and ethical framework. We are witnessing the coming of age of a political philosophy and ethical framework that has moved from the dictatorial commonplace of mass surveillance, suppression of free speech, and the occasional massacre, to that of an expansionist slave state.

Actions against the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang province have tipped over into genocide. Millions are in concentration camps, have endured forced sterilisation, and had forced labour inflicted upon them; this is the eradication of a people and a culture. In 1945 we said, “Never again.” It is happening again.

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