Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Look into the Future

The individual life is so transient and we are such impermanent creatures that we have little tendency or motivation to consider the world of the more distant future. The ultimate fate of our species, however, depends upon this kind of examination. This is especially compelling in the modern era, since the viability of the human kind is seriously threatened. No other time in the history of what we refer to as “civilization” has our world been so precarious.

Technological advances have produced a plethora of machines and labor saving devices, some more intelligent than others, that has resulted in a set of expectations about how life is supposed to be lived. The fruits of this technology are by no means readily available to everyone. Quite to the contrary, there exists a serious state of imbalance between the minority of those who prosper and all others.

This evolution has come, however, at no small cost as witnessed by the prospect of profound and deleterious changes in the global environment. Another off shoot of this material progress is the creation of exceedingly sophisticated and deadly weapons of immense destruction. It can be argued that these two manifestations of human endeavor complement one another: the use of such weaponry is required by technologically advanced societies to ensure and guarantee their continued state of affluence. We are already beginning to see a convergence of forces, emanating from human endeavor that is resulting in a profound instability in both the human and natural environments.

In my brief lifetime, I have witnessed many conflicts. The rationale for these wars provided by government invariably includes the idea that we are compelled to do battle for the fate of civilization is at stake. In each case, the enemy is somehow less than human and is out to destroy us. For this reason, there is no limit to the savagery that is used to eliminate the scourge that supposedly confronts us. Ultimately, it is fear that is manipulated and exploited to convince a population to take up arms and discard the societal prohibitions against murder and destruction. It is fear of the loss of life, or power, or position, or livelihood or even lifestyle that is used to ferment hatred and violence of one people against another.

Many religious institutions use the fear of death to control their followers. Likewise, many governments use the fear of loss of national identity in a chaotic and unstable world to justify aggression and warfare. This world view is no longer tenable in the long term, for it portends a future in which global environmental collapse is inevitable. The natural environment can not sustain for long the cumulative and collective abuse of human folly.

To continue down the current path in which domestic and international behavior is dictated by a passion born of fear and ignorance is to take a journey leading into a horrific future.

This is not the only possible destiny of the human species. There are other more benign and desirable alternatives. There is a way out of the madness. Humans are quite capable of using intelligence to direct and guide their behavior and plan for a future in which all of humanity can share in the benefits of collective action for the good of all people. To do this, however, old patterns of behavior and thinking need to be discarded and replaced by a new paradigm that envisions all of us as being of equal worth and understands that we depend on a fragile planet with limited resources. Beneficial change demands that fear be replaced by compassion, understanding and a determination to work for true social justice and freedom. These goals can not be achieved by an imposition of a particular set of values by brute force or economic coercion. Imperialism represents a viewpoint that depends upon a world out of balance and it is an idea that is no longer tenable. The urge towards empire is not yet dead, but is has become totally ineffectual and counter productive.

I believe I can say with some assurance that all people desire a world for their descendents in which peace is a reality and a future in which the planet retains its natural beauty and the majesty of all of life. To achieve this result, a great deal of work is required. This is a wholly different kind of work since it requires profound self examination and a will towards significant change. The question remains as to whether the species has the wherewithal to take on this challenge. I hope for the sake of future generations that this is so.

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