Welcome to our crazy world! We create artificial problems and ignore real ones. We claim affiliation with various religions while failing to understand their meaning at all. We fail to appreciate real talent while swooning over the likes of (redacted; several names). It’s all quite mad.
The worst part is that we now have all of the tools, money and recourses necessary to fix the entire world and insure a future of peace and prosperity for all of us. The truth is that our world has always been crazy in much the same way that it is crazy now. The only unique, incriminating fact for our times is this bit about the possibility of redemption. We have the ability to lift all of the weakest among us and eliminate the worst of deprivation and violence from our history, but somehow we don’t even acknowledge the possibility. Now that’s crazy.
The Twentieth Century was a time of real, existential threats to entire ways of life, backed up by frequent bouts of ultraviolence on a world-wide scale. Now those were troubled times! It was as though someone prayed to God, “please God, don’t bring back anything like the Thirty Years War,” and God was just waking up from a nap and thought the prayer was to actually bring back times like the Thirty Years War.
The politics in the Twentieth Century! Porco Dio! What a mess! Things like dictatorships and oligarchies, etc., were old hat. But the complete lack of common sense, human decency and basic cooperation had a new gloss on it. The resort to violence and warfare came catastrophically on two occasions: once kind of willy-nilly, because one of the players was in a snit and the others just went along, you know, because of treaties or something; and once out of the shear mendacity and malevolent will of two of the big players, dragging the rest of the known world into a maelstrom of death and destruction.
Afterwards there was the mere threat of something even worse! Something that would render all of humanity either: 1) instantly dead; 2) kneeling somewhere blindly puking our insides out; or 3) slowly or quickly starving to death. One of the instigating countries had had a taste of it in the second great unpleasantness, and the world was quite impressed with the results. Thank you Sweet Baby Jesus in the Manger!
The nuclear peace, however, left plenty of room for mischief, and plenty of mischief there was. It was in this time, perhaps because of fear, that common sense went out the window. I’m talking now about the late Twentieth Century. And then, suddenly, one of the two remaining major players went tits-up, leaving only the United States standing at the head of nations. You could be forgiven to think that it was a great time to relax a bit, and to back away from the state of emergency that had existed since 1941. That was fifty years of presidential emergency powers in a row, due to one emergency or another, and then, suddenly, all of the emergencies were gone. But no, by that time permanent emergency had been cut-in-stone. The president’s emergency powers only accelerated after that, as new emergencies, real or imagined, were substituted for old. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, we are still in that state of emergency, due now, I believe, to terrorism or something. Exit common sense, stage left.
The Real World
The period beginning in 1991 would have been the perfect time to start organizing a great march forward, with almost all of the countries in the world joining in the great task. China and America were cooperating economically, and almost all of the world’s major players were in a relatively peaceful posture with no real enemies to speak of. Russia was not in a position to do anything but receive help, but they had great ability to pay for that help with resources, a mutually beneficial arrangement. Just start moving the ball forward; as Mao said, a journey of a hundred miles begins with a single step. If you stay on the path and keep taking steps, you get there.
Nothing like that was even considered. Triumphalism and economic advantage won that day.
The skill-set that could enable us to build a wonderful new world includes wild, science-fiction-like improvements in communications, manufacturing and information technologies. But here, the degradation of human decency and general cooperation has ruined everything. The scientific breakthroughs are all used for the wrong reasons. Fabulous new possibilities for income generation have rendered a large percentage of our most talented minds greedy beyond anything previously imaginable. Fabulous new possibilities for crowd manipulation have enabled some of the worst among us to rise to the greatest heights of political power around the world.
There’s a huge swath of the globe that is dark these days, with so many countries having descended into violence and tribalism with no laws and virtually no economies at all. These are the “failed states.” Many countries, short of that condition, are surrendering to corruption, or weakening their own democracies, or resorting to extrajudicial killings, or abandoning reality in favor of fantasy. It’s like something in the water; I often wonder if the John Birch Society was right about fluoridation.
In my own benighted country, people are too afraid of income insecurity, health insecurity, personal safety insecurity, food insecurity and retirement insecurity to give a thought to the perfectibility of the world. Americans are hoping for the best and desperate to hold on to the little advantage that they still have. As is the case in most of the world, our political leaders like it that way. (We’re also guilty of several of the excesses listed in the paragraph above this one.)
Has it always been this crazy? The answer is, “probably.” It’s easier to see the craziness all around you than to see it through the dark lens of history. Versailles, the Renaissance, Camelot, ancient Rome and Greece, it all looks so nice in paintings and prints. It’s harder to see, from here, the foul smelling, shit-stained, disease ridden reality of it, much less the craziness of their politics and their societies. But those rulers of the past had an excuse that no longer works for us. With their technology, and their science, and their communications networks, and with the state of their general knowledge, they were condemned to stumbling forward in darkness, just trying to keep enough people alive to do the work and fight the inevitable wars. It’s hard to condemn them all. The Romans, for example, made great (relative) progress with their limited advances in communication and technology. We could do so much better now, if there would appear some kind of political will to do so.
Where to Start
At least, as the doctors are instructed, “do no harm.” Or, for many countries, “stop doing harm,” or even “begin, for goodness sake, to start unwinding the harm you’ve been doing.”
And maybe countries could find a way to begin to cooperate more. Starting in very small ways, anything would help. This constant struggle for national and racial and religious advantage, by nations great and small, really must end. It’s ridiculous and counterproductive, and well, it’s just damn embarrassing is what it is.
And if there are programs that could be agreed upon, and strategies that could be embarked upon, and if those things should require a great deal of money, I have an idea of how to proceed on that as well. Why not take some of the money back from the small percentage of the earth’s people who have stolen it? Surely we have not signed a suicide pact with those pirates! There’s no need to let them keep all of the money even if it kills all of us and all of them and destroys the earth itself.
I’m afraid that the hardest part will be the political will.
I’m afraid that the hardest part will be the political will.