Op-Ed January, 2022: Microns and Macrons and Lais, oh my!
opinion editorial
Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

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In any normal month there is one question we speculate on more than any other: Does God exist? But last month was not normal. So instead, we speculated on a different question: How bad is the Omicron variant? We didn't speculate on how bad the variant is for indigenous people. But then we already know the answer. Covid-19 is so bad for indigenous people that Emmanuel Macron was able to rig a vote last month in New Caledonia.

There, indigenous Kanak and Pasifika peoples have long sought independence from France. Their leaders called on them to boycott the independence referendum on December 12 and they overwhelmingly did. They had called for a delay of the referendum due to Covid-19 — which France refused. The net result was that, yet again, a colonial power claimed that its subjects actually want to be ruled by that colonial power. (The decision to remain part of France was carried by 96% but with only 40% turnout.)

This event in New Caledonia was not the only example of alternative fake news last month. In Hong Kong Jimmy Lai was found guilty of believing that something happened in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in 1989. Not to be outdone, Russia not only banned an organization for believing that Russians suffered during the Stalin-era Soviet Union, it also decided that music, journalism, satire and art were acts of foreign insurgency.

Last month our spacecraft went closer to the sun and farther away from it than ever before. We also launched a telescope that will see further into the past than even the Hubble telescope did. And we landed an orbital-class rocket for the 100th time. In the first half of this year we will send a crew capsule (without any actual crew) around the moon for the first time in 50 years and test Earth orbit flight of the rocket that could send us to Mars. Now that our exploration of space has become as routine as our destruction of our own planet, it should not surprise us that, last month, space became the latest stage on which lack of international cooperation is becoming evident. Perhaps the only people we should ever send to Mars are indigenous people.

I took this month's photo in another troubled part of the world, Lalibela, Tigray, Ethiopia. Just two days ago the UN reported record casualties from airstrikes in the region. At the same time a new law was passed in Ethiopia calling for dialog to seek an end to the civil war there. Time will tell whether this step becomes yet more alternative fake news. Indications are that it will. Tigrayan rebels have recently taken to social media in a propaganda campaign citing the region's Islamic history in an attempt to gain support from the Arab world. In reality the vast majority of Tigrayans are, like the priests in this month's photo, Christian. Given its geographic location, it should be no surprise that the area was among the first to come into contact with both religions. As the rebels are no doubt aware, if they are successful in their attempt to portray their cause as a religious rather than an ethnic conflict, the civil war could drag on for many more years.

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