Them and Us, War and Peace, Now or Never
Picking up from last week’s post, this time I’ll tell you where I think we all can find common ground. It’s all around us, and it’s staring us in the face, right here, right now. We see it most clearly when we face the future.
The common ground of the present moment is the only thing certain in life. You can’t count on the past for this, because the past keeps changing depending on who is writing the history. (The Texas School Board has been hard at work on that!)
And the future is a big unknown, a giant question mark. While we can have some success at making the invisible visible by charting trends and collecting data through time, at best we can make predictions, and our best predictions either overstate or underestimate the case. The future is even a giant question mark for those who claim to have religious or spiritual certainty, because the deeper meaning of their belief will only be revealed in a coming time of revelation.
But here’s the thing. If there’s going to be a future worth living in, I think you will find more than enough agreement from most everybody that much needs to change. That’s a promising field of opportunity. It means that connection, communication and persuasion have the mojo, leverage and potential to win the day.
So many years ago, John Lennon invited us to ‘Come together.’ And though some of the world has come together in some specific ways (notably in economics and sports), generally, it has yet to happen. Yet we also know that war, as a way of settling differences, is becoming increasingly obsolete. That’s because our weapons for waging it against them can also kill us. I do not doubt that many people hope for, wish for, pray for and dream of finding a better and more peaceful way to resolve our differences in this world. What’s stopping us? What is standing in the way of our coming together?
We are. Us. Centuries of history, of mistrust and misunderstanding, of ignorance in both our leaders and our role models, have got us to where we are. And much of the world still believes in the necessity of war. Many of us, and by us I mean the human race, hear the word peace and it provokes nothing but fear and terror. History shows that there are those who use periods of peace to buy time to build up their ability to wage war. There are those whose definition of peace is to take another piece of us. In a world where Hitlers and Stalins and Bin Ladens rise up in every generation and, pitting us against them, dish out the destruction until they themselves are destroyed, it’s a wonder that we get along at all. Every group and subgroup of us has some foundation for grudges and grievances. Everyone has a sad tale to tell of being victimized by someone else. Human history is not a happy tale of challenge and triumph. Much of it is the story of horrible suffering and pain, torture and torment, and with each retelling of that story, new generations adopt old nightmares and terror.
Look up and look around. It’s not just history, but geology, archeology, and astronomy too. We know deep down in our soul that, no matter how much we hope and pray it were otherwise, the universe is not benevolent. It Generates, Operates and Destroys. We don’t want to expose ourselves and our families to danger, to turn our back only to find moments later that someone has plunged a knife into it. And so protecting ourselves from each other has become a planetary prime directive that keeps us apart, keeps us afraid, and keeps us angry.
Yet at the same time, I believe it is obvious to just about any thinking person that addressing the urgency of our fears while ignoring the greater importance of the future cannot go on forever. Something’s got to give. While we can’t afford to forget, (those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them) we must find it in ourselves to forgive, to go first, to give the benefit of the doubt, to give peace a chance.
One of my personal heroes, Bucky Fuller, spoke of humanity eventually arriving at the end of the womb of acceptable ignorance, a time when we would be faced with a stark choice. Continue backing into the future by fighting or fleeing from what we don’t want, or turning to face it squarely, realize we will live in the tomorrow we create today, and get busy creating a tomorrow we want to live in. He called it Earthian’s critical moment, and saw it as a pass/fail test as the universe inexorably proves its own integrity. Events like the meltdown at Chernobyl, the events of 9/11, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions have convinced me that we’ve arrived, that this is that moment, that pivotal moment, in which we begin changing the course of human history and bending it towards peace and justice, towards sustainability and general health, or we will face our doom, not at the hand of God, but by our own hand.
I’ll be back in my next post to talk about what can be done and who can do it. Until then, your comments and feedback are welcome.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.