You don’t need to be reminded that this world is getting out of hand. Anyone with eyes and ears and half a brain can see that. There’s wars, starvation, hatred, exploitation, greed and American Idol to contend with on a regular basis, and now on top of all that the economy is shot so we can’t even spend our way into stuporous complacency to make it all go away for a few hours. Money’s tight for everyone except the wealthy bankers who stole it all and got away with it. Who’s got the money for a decent bender these days?
You’re thinking, how did we get in such a mess? You figure the world has been in worse shape before and somehow survived, like with World Wars, Hundred Years Wars, the Black Plague and having all our world leaders and assorted royalty dressing up in makeup, powdered wigs and musical theater costumes like it it was Mardi Gras all the time. Those things were pretty disappointing, especially the silly costumes and wigs. What was everybody thinking?
Somehow the world recovered from these catastrophes and mankind moved on in the fits and starts that have marked our slow march out of our caves and hunting grounds into moon rockets and luxury condominiums (Are there any other kind of condos, like regular ones?). From running from giant predators to running water, from smoke signals to electricity, computers and cell phones, it’s been quite a journey. We might have been a lot further along if not for all the warfare, genocide and tyranny. We have also poisoned our water, our land and our air and burned so much dirty fuel to power our new toys that we are now changing the climate of the planet, placing all of us in mortal peril. Two steps forward, one step back.
Not that it’s all bad. People have done and continue to do wonderful and amazing things. We’ve been to the moon, cured polio, invented rock & roll and came together as a planet in The United Nations to declare the universal rights of all mankind. The human rights deal has been spotty at best, but we’re working on it. The problem with that is, and always was, us. We seem to have our heads buried pretty far up our own asses, a position that makes it difficult to notice what selfish and paranoid jerks we’ve been. We hate and mistrust other people and nations for the stupidest of reasons, if indeed you can call hatred remotely reasonable.
We allow 36,000 people to die of starvation every single day, 85% of them children under 5 years old. That’s over 11 million dead little children every year. Uncounted millions more join them in early graves due to the numerous diseases contracted from drinking contaminated water. We know better than this and can do better, but we don’t. Why? Who knows, maybe out of sight, out of mind? Maybe we think it’s someone else’s problem? Or do we think the problem is too big to tackle and so throw our hands up and lament what a hard, hard world this can be?
That’s not the attitude that defeated the genocidal fascists in World War 2 and put a man on the moon in 1969, two fairly monumental undertakings that were completed within a single decade. Isn’t feeding dying children at least as pressing a priority? How about freeing the slaves in many Muslim countries? What slaves, you ask? Their women, of course, fully half their populations under house arrest, denied educations, jobs, drivers’ licenses, property, life choices, freedom of movement, medical care and pretty much anything the majority other nations’ women take for granted. The United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights exempts no one, and the countries who hold their women in bondage signed that pledge like everyone else when they joined the U.N. Why aren’t they kicked out and shunned until they live up to their oath?
When human rights go disrespected, nothing is sacred, not the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we walk upon or the non-human creatures with whom we share these precious resources. These are the things that provide us with life itself, and like every human being, ought to be cherished, respected and treated with dignity, kindness and love. We violate these basic precepts of life every day. We shit where we eat. This is incomprehensible, especially considering that we have shown time and time again that wondrous things are within our power. By deeds great and small, we have transformed the world, doing and building some pretty magnificent things. Imagine what we could do if our heads weren’t buried up our asses?
Imagine if no nation invaded another with armies? Imagine no man or woman hating another? Picture a world where every human has access to food, clean water, medical care and education. A world where no one poisons the water we drink or the air we breathe. A world where greed is not considered a virtue, but the destructive aggression it has always been. Where theft by the wealthy from the poor is unheard of. Where leadership is not bribed, corrupted or power mad, and nations trade in good faith on equal terms. Where no leader rises to power selling hatred, fear and mistrust. A world where opportunity is universal, and where achievement is celebrated, no matter who does the achieving. A world where our successes, and our burdens, are shared. Where individuals are free to be themselves and groups of people have nothing to fear from other groups of people.
Imagine people speaking to other nations, other ethnic groups or members of other religions with courtesy and respect. Imagine dignity and self-worth being the birthright it is supposed to be. This is not a lot to ask, and only what every human wants for themselves and their loved ones. Why would anyone deny these things to another? They are the same as yourself, and just as worthy of life and dignity. Being civil to one another would not prevent anyone from pursuing their dreams, from getting rich, from living according to their own lights. The Golden Rule is the answer: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. That simple ancient concept can change the course of history and relieve us from constantly wondering what went wrong. What the hell are we waiting for? Why are our heads up our asses?