By Terry Plotkin
Nature, evolution, cosmic consciousness, technology, progress or something else I can’t put my finger on has brought us to the brink of having to do something that many of us don’t want to do, that is very difficult to do, and that is absolutely necessary that we do: Learn to get along. Families, tribes, and villages have known this for a very long time. A family whose members dislike each other live lives of strife. A tribe whose members can’t get along will find neither harmony, nor prosperity, nor peace. A nation that is in strife with another risks ruinous war.
That was the old days for good or ill. We have arrived at a new place. In the nuclear age it is – as Martin Luther King said – “non-violence or non-existence.” This has been true since Hiroshima. The world has shown some sense and restraint up to this point in not using the atrocious weapon, but we have not succeeded in putting the evil, unbelievably destructive genie back in its bottle either. It only takes one bad day, one evil person, one atomic weapon dropped in the wrong place at the wrong time to hurl the world towards catastrophe. World-wide massive collective action might be the only thing to stop it at that point. The weapons are becoming easier to make and the know-how is readily available, but still we cannot find the resolve to abandon them. This should demand our full attention, but it barely gets a mention, focused, as the media is, on the most trivial of things.
It does not end there. Climate change has pushed the world to make a global decision about fossil fuels that pits cheap energy and greed against science and nature. While the battle for hearts and minds is being waged, progress towards a solution and world-wide agreement is painfully slow. While the world dithers, heat-trapping gases accelerate into the atmosphere. If we don’t all agree to stop using oil, gas, and coal soon then we will all get burned together.
There are other pressing issues that demand the world unite to solve: Diseases can easily spread across borders, drinkable water is disappearing, natural resources are depleted, species are going extinct, over-population is crippling our ability to cope, the air is bad, the oceans are becoming acidified, filled with garbage, and marine life is in steep decline. The point is, we cannot solve these and other problems unless the people and their governments come together and see the wisdom of acting as one for mutual survival. We have done it before: banning ozone depleting chemicals, whaling bans, nuclear test bans, and the United Nations. There are many other examples of people and nations coming to the aid of each other in times of need.
Relations between Christians and Muslims are not good. They don’t understand each other. Certainly not when it comes to the idea of how religion and free speech should be practiced. Add this to the fact that imperialism is all over this conflict, and, as is always the case, violence and repression are used as its tools. The Arab and Western worlds have to back off or risk World War 3. This is a war we simply cannot have if we wish to have a planet worth living on. As a first step, I suggest to the West that if the Muslim world doesn’t want us to draw pictures and make fun of their prophet then we shouldn’t do it. Why? Because they asked us to, because they find it offensive, because we should be respectful of their beliefs. In return, we have the right to ask them to do everything in their power to stop the wild violence in God’s name. After that, we can turn to slaying the dragons of greed and conquest.
I was having breakfast recently with a friend who is looking to buy a home and is worried about the neighborhood and the kind of people there. I said no matter where you go, there are bound to be some people you don’t like and some you’ll want to avoid. It is the same at most workplaces and extended families. Wherever humans congregate there is likely to be some conflict. Yet we are stuck with each other, and we really have no alternative but to find a way to get on. She said, “That is the worst truth ever.”
It is painfully clear, even within our own land that we often fail to come together and find higher ground. Truth is, there are times when Americans can hardly stand each other, which prevents us from solving problems, and that is in just our own country. The nations of the world are still struggling mightily to think like one people. Yet, our state of development demands we rise to the occasion. We all know how to cooperate. I know it can be done, and I believe it will be done. The question is how much pain and suffering will we inflict on ourselves before we do it.