There have been many calamitous events, both natural and man-made, that have occurred in the brief interval between my birth and the present time – some sixty-six years - including the nuclear annihilation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the bloodbath that ensued during the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1948, the horrific famine of 1974 in Bangladesh, genocide in Rwanda, the ravaging of Tibet by the Chinese government, the savagery and lunacy of the rulers of Burma. This is, of course, not taking into account the most extraordinary slaughter of the human kind in all of human history that took place during World War II – fifty million lives were consumed in this seemingly endless onslaught. Each of these exemplifies the apparently limitless stupidity of the human kind.
In my mind, there is another aspect of modern human behavior that overshadows all else and that is the insidious and mindless destruction of the natural environment that sustains all life on this planet. Due to a horrific accident in the spring of 2010, millions of gallons of oil poured out of a broken pipe 5000 feet below the water’s surface off of the coast of Louisiana as a result of an off-shore drilling rig that exploded. This disastrous event took place on May 11, 2010 and continued for months before the leak was finally stopped. It may ultimately result in a large “dead zone” in the ocean – a place where most life has been extinguished. This is an ecological catastrophe of enormous proportions. In our collective quest for endless progress in a technological culture where all aspects of human behavior are subsumed by the thirst for profit, we are knowingly killing the future of not only our species but many others as well.
All of these instances of human depravity and sheer and utter stupidity have left me extremely skeptical of the prospects for humanity, yet I believe that the human promise has not been extinguished. There still exists much good in the word; humans have retained their ability to reason and the hunger for a better and saner world remains vital. I have the privilege of knowing many individuals who strive towards a better and more harmonious way of living. Good abounds, but it is consistently overshadowed by the self-serving behavior of the powerful, who see the world in the narrowest of terms. They see themselves as belonging to a special class of human beings breathing from a rarefied atmosphere. They see the world as being there for their own personal aggrandizement. They really believe that they are not subject to the same ethical standards and constraints as the rest of humanity. They prosper from humanity’s collective pain, suffering and death. They promote war; they proffer anything that will return profit, for profit is their chief sustenance and power their significant other.
The future of contemporary human civilization remains suspended between pathways that lead to alternative futures. To continue forward on the present track will necessarily lead to a planet whose environment will prove to be inhospitable to the benign continuation of the human species. It would ultimately be a bleak and desolate place for humanity. Choosing an alternative destiny involves risk, of course, but there is really no sane and reasonable alternative. Collectively, we need to revitalize the commons and include all humans into what we consider to be our “family.”