It is difficult to watch the strife and human abuse that we see daily on our planet, but it seems, at least on a global scale, that is all we can do. We have seen the consequences of meddling, or even just trying to tweak the progress of those who seem to have “right” on their side, those who seem to promise the best outcomes for their own people and everyone else on our world. And we have seen the fallout from trying to wreck those who seem to promise the worst outcomes.
We want to bridge the differences in the Middle East, we want to feed starving people (everywhere except in America it sometimes seems), we want to open up North Korea and reunite the North with the South, we want to be rid of crazy megalomaniacal leaders, we want some economic parity across nations and within nations so as to produce an income for each person that meets and exceeds basic needs. And we are told that small acts of mercy are not too intrusive, but stepping in like some kind of overlord, however benign, is not acceptable and more often than not has unintended consequences and possibly unconscious, but astonishingly selfish motives.
So what does a person do as s/he watches, as if human events are some kind of spectator sport, the parade of inhuman behavior which surrounds us (think of that awfully amazing Bosch painting, the Garden of Earthly Delights). We try to intervene gently here and nudge events there and stop, if at all possible the worst of the horrors, while repulsing any attempt to bring the mayhem to our side of the globe.
After all, we have our own internal concerns to attend to, our own problems to solve and we cannot even choose between some kind of self-interested tough love and good old-fashioned human compassion. Half of us want the Industrial Age back and half of us are looking to see what the future will bring and we hope it is something less materialistic, less back-breaking, and less harmful to the planet.
While it is tempting to turn inward and wall out the rest of the world, we know in our guts that it is impossible. We would just atrophy in a kind of unproductive inbreeding that would eventually destroy us. Injections of new energy are ever more necessary as the temptation to stagnate and rusticate grows stronger.
We hold before us, in the chemical pathways of our brains, a gleaming future where technology enfolds and surrounds us (perhaps also separate us), a sort of engineer-centric future in which governance is settled (although possibly quite ponderous) and ingenuity is the “coin of the realm”. The planet still has dark places and sad corners and back alleys but the main thrust is towards a mechanics that will propel us outward from this too tiny, destined-for-extinction planet, out into the vastness of the universe or universes, one human colony at a time. (What terrible imperialism will be practiced then depends on whether the universe is populated by others or exists just for our future expansion.) We call it Space, and it is the only future we can imagine that gives scope to our restless adventurous spirit and our insatiable need to know.
We are not ready to occupy all that beckoning Space right now. We are earth-bound on this beloved planet to either learn to survive this present chaos or not. So we watch. We watch the upheavals here on Earth. Is it just growing pains? Is it the beginnings of a better future? Will it resolve in decades or will it take centuries? Or will it be back to the Dark Ages, reboot, start over after whatever annihilation we perpetrate on each other?
Some people don’t want the world’s leaders to have a vision of a global future. They believe it betrays America to discuss some kind of orderly progression towards a more peaceful, and yet still free, global society. They believe the plan that exists (if there is one) get rid of nations (in other words gets rid of America) in favor of some kind of world government, world military, world police force, and global social structure. They want the future of the world to be an American future. They want America to govern the world (a prospect that is not looking at all doable right now seeing that we cannot even decide how to govern ourselves). I also harbor a desire to have the whole world become an American world. This is the nature of chauvinism. I think I could let this incarnation of America go if I thought a global government would strive for the same ideals. A global government seems almost as distant a goal as populating Space.
We may be able to sit back and watch the rest of the world as if through a VR headset, but we will not be able to keep our hands off world events in every case. We will be inspired to push here, prod there, rescue when necessary and if possible. This is a very difficult position we are in right now. I doubt we can maintain our distance for long. There is a cycle to this kind of seemingly omnipresent upheaval, I think, but are we at the low point or the high point? In the meantime we still need, at the very least, to call attention to atrocity where ever and whenever we see it. I think that it helps us to stop in the midst of all the myriad detailed problems to be addressed to step back and picture a hopeful future and to take a wide view at the entire world of human endeavor and possibility.
By Nancy Brisson
Become a Global Citizen at https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/