It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
– C. S. Lewis
Screwtape Proposes a Toast
and Other Pieces
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who are going that way.”
I’ve now posted 34 blogs / (essays) … not counting this one. And this morning I was thinking – “What’s missing? What do I need to say?”
And what came to me is – that we need a way, a conceptual framework, which will allow us to steer … to conduct ourselves from where we are now … to a desirable future – one which includes Survival, a Healthy Planet … and Thriving.
Perhaps such a conceptual framework is within our grasp.
We are (of course) going to ignore all the ‘predictions of certain Doom’ (which have already been made). We’re (simply – as a Working Hypothesis) going to assume that survival is Possible.
Let’s look at three (major) aspects … choices (and practice on these) –
our laws … and the (precarious)
non-distribution of wealth & power.
War is destructive. People die. Families are wrecked. Cities reduced to rubble. War is (currently & recently) our chief means of ‘self-created Hell’.
Besides that (the unfathomable agonies) – war constitutes a gross inefficiency. If war was a non-reality, an enormous amount of resources would then be available for activities which actually make life better – such as Education … better roads … reversal of desertification, etc.
Also – war is (mainly) unnecessary.
HOW (for example) does a Municipality (London, say) deal with the problem of Human Misbehavior? It establishes and maintains a Police Force. If a “gang” (some group with overly narrow and selfish values and ambitions) should become a threat to the society at large, then the entire resources of that society are mobilized to preserve order and safety.
We could do the same thing on a planetary level. Mmm ? (And we WILL, if we live long enough.) It’s the only sensible solution. Establish a World Government … and prohibit War.
I’m pretty sure we COULD have had World Peace at least 50 years ago; but, as of now, war is still not illegal. It’s still permitted. This is because Peace would require relinquishment of our precious Military Might to an impartial and benevolent world government. And this is in conflict with our ambitions to exploit (covertly, of course) the whole world, and profit from controlling as much of the world’s resources as possible.
This choice will reverse … when our priorities clear up. Once we realize that Peace is more valuable than Profit (unchecked Selfishness) … we’ll have Peace.
Here are three excerpts from the 2008 version of the film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” –
Professor Barnhardt: There must be alternatives. You must have some technology that could solve our problem.
Klaatu: Your problem is not technology. The problem is you. You lack the will to change.
Professor Barnhardt: Then help us change.
Klaatu: I cannot change your nature. You treat the world as you treat each other.
Professor Barnhardt: But every civilization reaches a crisis point eventually.
Klaatu: Most of them don’t make it.
Helen Benson: I need to know what’s happening.
Klaatu: This planet is dying. The human race is killing it.
Helen Benson: So you’ve come here to help us.
Klaatu: No, *I* didn’t.
Helen Benson: You said you came to save us.
Klaatu: I said I came to save the Earth.
Helen Benson: You came to save the Earth… from us. You came to save the Earth *from* us.
Klaatu: We can’t risk the survival of this planet for the sake of one species.
Helen Benson: What are you saying?
Klaatu: If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives. There are only a handful of planets in the cosmos that are capable of supporting complex life…
Helen Benson: You can’t do this.
Klaatu: …this one can’t be allowed to perish.
Helen Benson: We can change. We can still turn things around.
Klaatu: We’ve watched, we’ve waited and hoped that you *would* change.
Helen Benson: Please…
Klaatu: It’s reached the tipping point. We have to act.
Helen Benson: Please…
Klaatu: We’ll undo the damage you’ve done and give the Earth a chance to begin again.
Helen Benson: Don’t do this. Please, we can change. We can change.
Klaatu: The decision is made. The process has begun.
Helen Benson: Oh God.
[Seated at a McDonald’s, Klaatu begins speaking to Mr. Wu in Mandarin]
Klaatu: You’ve been out of contact for a long time.
Mr. Wu: I had a dangerous assignment. This is hostile territory.
Klaatu: I’ve noticed. I was hoping I could reason with them.
Mr. Wu: I’m afraid they are not a reasonable race. I’ve been living amongst them for seventy years now. I know them well.
Mr. Wu: Any attempt to intercede with them would be futile. They are destructive, and they won’t change.
Klaatu: Is that your official report?
Mr. Wu: The tragedy is, they know what’s going to become of them.
[Both Klaatu and Wu turn to look at Helen, Jacob and Wu’s grandson who are seated at another table]
Mr. Wu: They sense it. But they can’t seem to do anything about it.
Klaatu: It’s decided then. I’ll begin the process as soon as possible. We should make preparations for our departure.
Mr. Wu: I’m staying.
Klaatu: You can’t stay here.
Mr. Wu: I can and I will.
Mr. Wu: If you stay, you’ll die.
Mr. Wu: I know. This is my home now.
Klaatu: You yourself called them a destructive race.
Mr. Wu: That’s true. But still, there is another side. You see, I… I love them. It is a very strange thing. I… I… I can’t find a way to explain it to you. For many years I cursed my luck for being sent here. Human life is difficult. But as this life is coming to an end… I consider myself lucky… to have lived it.
In the above scene Wu makes it clear – that the humans on this planet do not expect to survive.
What we expect – shows up in our laws. And, as it is, our laws support profits (instead of Life).
It COULD (of course) be Illegal – to destroy the planet … but it is NOT.
If we change our minds … and decide to Survive, one of the First places we should start will be in the field of Law. We will make a choice. We will make it illegal to destroy our planet … (and in so doing – to commit self-genocide.)
A future characterized by Sustainability will NOT be one where wealth and power are concentrated and in the hands of a small minority. Given our Materialistic mindset, the temptations (which confront the 1%) are, I suppose – understandable. But the situation (which imbalance the 1% works hard to maintain) is NOT Sustainable.
We must find a way to move AWAY from the Great Imbalance of Wealth (& Power).
Power needs to be in the hands of the Stakeholders (not merely the shareholders).
We should redesign our corporations so that they take aim at a better target (than cost displacement and short-term gains). We (all … even the corporations) need to aim our sights on Survival.
I selected the epigrams for this essay (the one by C. S. Lewis … and the one from Matthew) mainly because they urge us to choose.
The stakes are High.
Nor should we not be surprised (having chosen rightly) – to find ourselves going ‘up the down staircase’.