This is the twenty-first century, for God’s sake. This statement has become the short answer to almost every question about our time – from religion to politics, sexual orientation to marriage and the concept of a family, fashion to food, from how we live and die to how we produce– everything.
Sometimes it is an impatient retort to anyone who appears to doubt how far the human race has come. Other times it is a sharp rebuke to people deemed to be slow-witted and stuck in an earlier period.
But it can also reflect the refusal to face up to the reality that the world in this century is, in fact, in some ways not different from what it was in pre-historic times.
Humankind has, of course, made progress and we rightly pride ourselves on having evolved to a superior civilization in all aspects - economy, politics, social organisation, international relations, technology, and many more.
And there is evidence to back this unprecedented sophistication. There have been incredible advances in technology that have revolutionized how people live – at least in the advanced industrialised countries.
One need only look at the revolution in information and communication technology during the last few decades. Even the remotest corner of the world has not been spared its impact.
In many instances the conventional concept of space and time has been so subverted as to almost become irrelevant. This is how the idea of the global village was born.
Politically, most of the world claims to be governed under some form of democracy. Despots and dictators are increasingly becoming endangered species whom no one is eager to prevent from becoming extinct.
Where the internal process towards extinction is not fast enough, a not-so-gentle push from outside will speed it up.
Advances in social organisation are such that we have had to redefine social relations and invented new words and categories to accommodate the redefined reality.
And so, for instance, the concept of the family and marriage as the basis of society and its continuity is undergoing radical change.
Humankind being what it is, we need rules to govern our relations and sometimes for protection against ourselves.
Our superior civilisation has evolved a number of international organisations and conventions to prevent conflict and ensure peaceful co-existence.
In many other senses, however, there has been very little evolution. We have remained much the same way as when man and woman first walked on this earth – with the same basic instincts, appetites, practices and morality. Nowhere is this more evident than in the exercise of power.
Where power is concerned, all pretence at sophistication and civilised behaviour vanishes. The law of the jungle applies. Might becomes right and the strongest must have their way at whatever cost – including lies and fabrications of every sort.
That is the situation today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in Syria.
Now, the DRC is a jungle literally and metaphorically. Everyone knows that there is a war going on in the east of the country caused in large measure by the incompetence of the Congolese state and a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise a section of the Congolese people.
Both the DRC government and its allies have abandoned ordinary norms of civilised conduct in favour of the law of the jungle.
In the past two weeks, the war heated up and threatened to spill over into Rwanda. Indeed more than thirty mortar shells were fired from DRC and fell on Rwandan territory, one of them killing a woman and injuring her two-month old baby.
The response from the international community was astonishing as it was telling. They said the mortars that fell in Rwanda were fired by the M23 rebels.
Yet these are the same rebels Rwanda is supposed to be backing, and if a certain Lambert Mende is to be believed, M23 are actually Rwandan soldiers.
So it would be Rwandans firing on their own territory and killing their own people. It is illogical, but this is the story put out by the UN, the guardians of international peace and security.
The reaction that followed this was even more predictable. – loud calls on Rwanda to stop supporting M23 and show restraint.
The point of these calls is to make it a fact that Rwanda is the guilty party and should be condemned. The Congolese army, MONUSCO and their FDLR allies are completely absolved of any blame.
It is now easy to tell what will happen next. There will be more calls for sanctions against Rwanda and no mention of any wrong-doing by either DRC or MONUSCO.
That is what happens in the bizarre situation that DRC has become. The victim becomes the aggressor and vice versa.
Again, the jungles of Congo have exposed the hypocrisy of the international community. The doctrine of the responsibility to protect civilians in conflict situations has been abused and applied selectively. MONUSCO has been backing the Congolese army in fighting the M23 rebels in order to stop them from killing civilians in Goma.
This alliance has been bombing M23 –held territory which also has civilians. Are these civilians not entitled to protection? Or are they condemned by their genetic makeup as defined by Congolese authorities?
It has been clear for a long time that the powerful countries involved in the Congo problem are not interested in resolving the issues there.
They are more interested in getting at Rwanda and will do anything, including the illogical to get her.
It is like the story of the lamb and the wolf.
A lamb went to drink water at a stream. Upstream was a wolf which immediately wanted to kill the lamb and eat it. It accused the lamb of muddying the water it was drinking.
The lamb protested its innocence, saying it was downstream and couldn’t make the water the wolf was drinking dirty.
The wolf then said the lamb had even done that the year before.
Again the lamb protested, saying it had not yet been born then.
The wolf was getting angry by now and said, if it wasn’t the lamb then it its mother or grandmother who had made its water dirty.
It then fell on the little lamb and killed it.
That is the law of the jungle. It does not only happen in folk tales. It is operational next door. The only difference is that Rwanda is not willing to be a helpless lamb.