The world order as we know it is seriously threatened. In the coming years and decades, we will face several (dis)orderers – I know, there is no such word, but that does not stop me from inventing it! – that could, indeed would, upset the status quo in different ways.

mar’s photographs capture everyday life in the Sudan. ‘I want to display’, he says, ‘the beauty and complexity of my homeland to the world’.

When Umayyad Caliph al-Hakam II decided to expand the Grand Mosque of Cordoba, in 965, he faced a problem: mosaic-making knowhow had disappeared from this part of southwestern Europe half a millennium before, when the Romans were driven out of Hispania. Without it, al-Hakam II’s prospects of emulating his ancestors and recreating the kind of splendid, Byzantine-style mosaics attained in Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque were slim. So he sent a message East to Constantinople and Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus II, asking for a little capacity-building support in order that he might create, in his dynasty’s Andalusian exile, a reminder of its Syrian homeland. 

I want to let you in on a little secret. So you know what to expect when you are watching a film or reading a novel and suddenly the protagonist comes across an organisation or club or grouping of individuals – usually all wearing matching uniforms – that wants to employ his or her assistance. You know, they tend to walk in step with one another, like to repeat a lyrical motto, and justify their philosophy and actions in the name of preserving, establishing, or re-establishing some sort of stated Order? Well, there is a good chance these folks are actually antagonists. This trope, presently bordering on being a cliché, is being employed with an alarming frequency amongst ‘creative’ writers. Traditionally, this trope was applied to some allegory for Nazis or Commies, and because these entities were fairly universally seen as bad, there was no need to labour the point. More recently, writers have been attempting to apply this trope as a trick, a bait-and-switch. Certain writers think they can pull a fast one, introducing this group as the ‘good guys’ only to pull the rug out from under you with a mid-second-act reveal that they are, in fact, fascists and they have been using our protagonist to unwillingly see out some seriously evil stuff. I see this, over and over, and think what is going on? This is not a twist, is it not obvious? Sure, they tone it down a bit, cutting out comical salutes, blue-eyes with blonde-hairdos combos, and the wearing of arm cuffs, but Hitler in sheep’s skin is still Hitler, right? The unoriginality alone boggles my mind. I mean, it is a bit ridiculous. There has been a wholly unoriginal obsession with using this trope (I assume because it is an easy way to make your film meta) with some form of ‘time police’, fanatically bent on maintaining ‘the timeline’. This is used in three ongoing series I can think of, right off the top of my head, Rick and Morty, The Umbrella Academy, and Loki, and I am sure there are plenty more. The one remotely clever thing they will do to make this trope a twist is to make the protagonist morally dubious. But we have known for decades that the days of perfect superheroes are long gone. How could these writers break a key principle: do not insult the intelligence of your audience? 

Race is so intricately woven into the world order – indeed, the very fabric of life – that few people can see beyond it to a time when the world was not organised and controlled this way.