There was a time when our ancestors roamed in hunter-gatherer bands who lived on the frayed edges of existence. Outsiders were seen as a threat, a valid one indeed. Our survival was insured by this protective, cloistered behavior. We as many other species thrive in a group, a pack or tribe. This us vs. them is a part of us. It is inborn and innate and it starts early.
At one time this tribal mentality worked to our advantage, but as global populations swelled and competition for resources increased, our survival depended not only on the cooperation of a small group but on the greater one at large. It truly does take a a village to survive for most of us. We are not only connected in this village but we are dependent on each other. At the very least, what I do effects my neighbor and vice versa.
This is not a choice. It is a fact.
Another fact: the earth is changing. Regardless of why, it is and we as a species must adapt. This requires cooperation and understanding. This at least requires an honest and constructive discourse with each other and ourselves.
Circumstances and surroundings change faster than we do. It is our ability to adapt paired with luck that has gotten us this far.
There is no room for us vs them. This way of thinking leads to the inclusion of some at the exclusion of others. It is a childish attitude that must be eradicated. We need to grow beyond all this. We all belong to each other on this beautiful planet we share. We are beyond boundary lines and colored shapes on a map.
We as a species have always seemed to thrive on war. Is it even possible for the human race not to have war? Will fate allow us the time it takes to evolve past this ultimately self-destructive inclination?
Is it even possible for us to evolve past this? Is it within the capabilities of humankind to not only see humanity as a whole but as a connected and thriving whole capable of almost limitless potential?
Can we even entertain this as a realistic outcome to our present manic state?
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
― Thomas A. Edison
I am reminded of the story of the Scorpion and the frog.
One fine spring morning a scorpion spied a frog at the edge of a stream. “Hello friend frog.” said the scorpion with a smile. “Could you please ferry me across to the other side of the stream?” At first the frog refused; bringing up the valid point that it feared the scorpion would sting it. After much sweet talk the scorpion convinces the frog it will not. “After all…” said the scorpion to the frog: “I cannot swim therefore if I sting you we shall surely both perish.” The frog finally consents and allows the scorpion to climb on its back. It proceeds to make the swim across the stream. Suddenly the scorpions stings the frog. “Why did you do that?!” asks the frog as they both sink below the surface. “It ismy nature”. The scorpion explains.
Isn’t it fortunate we are human beings and not scorpions or frogs? It is possible to evolve past our violent and self-destructive nature into something wondrous and incredible. We are a thinking, reasoning species and we do have the advantage over other animals because we can and do play a a major role in guiding our evolution.
We as a species are about to embark on a great challenge and opportunity. It can be an opportunity if we see it that way.
The world is a runaway train about to jump the tracks and head straight into a deep dark abyss. There are over six billion souls on board. People from all walks of life; men, women, children. The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. People who have it all and those who have nothing. We are all on this runaway train together; whether we asked to be here or not, here we are. And you my friend are at the controls. You didn’t ask for this…you shout to no one in particular: “I don’t want this, what did I do to deserve this? Your desperate shouting falls on deaf ears but all eyes are on you…what do you do? Just what do YOU do?
This is a nightmare scenario my imagination just cooked up. Of course you are not at the controls and I’m sorry that I put you on the spot like that.
You are probably in the comfort of your cozy home reading this on your computer or electronic device as I am while writing this. The world, although disjointed is still relatively intact. Odds are we are alright. It is those other people that are in trouble. We have nice families and friends, a warm house and full stomach.
Odds are tomorrow we will go off to work or school or somewhere; perhaps to meet someone for coffee or to walk the dog or go shopping or to a show. The world will still be here when we get home back to our nice warm beds. The world has always been here as long as we’ve been alive and for the most part, for most of us, life has been pretty good….
…and so I get back to the runaway train part….haha lulled you into a false sense of security. I bet you thought I might have forgotten about the train and that scary abyss…
Well here we are and it’s like we are on the train and there is no one at the controls at all. We are all passengers; our fates dangling precariously. Most of us just want to get along and make it through to our destination, even enjoy the ride a bit, but there is a disturbance…a fight has broken out…
We are a world divided. As polarized as ever. Each side is 100% convinced they are 100% in the right. Pick an issue; any issue, no matter how multi-layered and complex it is and you will get the two sides and each will explain in vivid detail how incredibly wrong the other side is.
I don’t have to tell you, my esteemed and learned friends, how both sides can be wrong: no one can be 100% right on anything. We all know the world is made up of a myriad of colors, shades and hues. Nothing is all black or all white.
I myself have been guilty of this thinking in the past, actually not so long ago. As many of you have surmised; I come in on the left side politically, to call myself a liberal is not far off the mark and I see nothing wrong with being one. However I am a person who tries to see outside of the neat little boxes that society tends to shove us into.
That being said, there have been times upon hearing a remark coming from “the other side” that I became a wee bit incredulous even to the point of anger. I am not proud of this, but this I do freely admit. I have somewhat of a temper about what I feel passionate about, but there is one thing I try not to be and that is a hypocrite, so I admit here to you and everyone else that in the past I have been angered by some of the things, the other side has put forth. I don’t have to go into what nor do I want to. Most of you have heard some of this stuff and can fill in the blanks. What I am writing here is not to promote my cause or beliefs when it comes to these very hot button issues that we liberals and conservatives are fighting tooth and nail over. This is not at all what I am addressing today.
The point I am attempting to address is the polarization: the fight-fight-fight till you drop attitude and how it’s not getting anyone anywhere.
Taking governments, corporations and special interest groups out of it, while we are at it lets take the media out too–The “liberal media”, Fox news and what have you. Lets just address people here. Your average citizen. I am mostly talking about Americans here because being one, I feel I can speak for Americans…but on second thought…maybe I am speaking for us all, because I am a citizen of the world as well as you are…
We are in a state of decay. I think most of us can agree with that and I think most of us can agree that we are divided and that most of us care….care about our communities, our fellow citizens, for the world at large and most importantly I’d say that most of us care deeply about our families and ourselves.
The world is a confusing and scary place; hey….another thing we can agree on. Again this is overwhelming and most would agree on that too.
This proves my point and here is my point in a nutshell: we can agree on something. We can find common ground and this is where we can start. Next comes the listening. As I’ve mentioned no one can be 100% right about everything, at the very least we can agree to disagree and then move to what we agree on. There is too much at stake to just shut our eyes and ears to everything that the other side has to say….and while I’m at it….this Us vs. Them thing…this sets us up for failure.
We humans have this tribal mentality, it’s hardwired into us genetically. This need to belong to a group, but somewhere along the line, a long time ago, we humans decided that in order to belong to a group this group must exclude others. We have trained ourselves to search for differences instead of looking for commonalities.This has led to much heartache, death and destruction. I don’t have to tell you this. I don’t know if we can ever get over it, honestly…but I do know that we should try because there is a lot at stake, in fact there is everything at stake. This tribal tendency goes far beyond our local politics, this enters into every fight, skirmish and war we have ever been involved in…..perhaps this is irrevocable human nature and what I am suggesting here borders on the impossible…
For the most part there has always been war. Some would say this built-in aggression has been essential to our survival as a species and I would tend to agree. Out of the many humanoids who lived on the planet, only Homo sapiens have endured and that is probably no accident. We are a product of evolution and humans are capable of great change and growth and we as a species can learn. I believe we can learn to, at the very least, try to find common ground and listen to each other. We share this beautifully wonderful and diverse planet. We are neighbors and we are on board this runaway train together. We have a vested interest in getting along….
So maybe next time you hear someone; a co-worker, an acquaintance who lives down the hall, the man at the bus stop, the woman at the grocery store, even your “cranky” Uncle Pete or anyone for that matter who disagrees with your beliefs. No matter how vocal that person is, or angry or whatever…even if what they say sounds 100% insane to you. Remember that no one is 100% correct on anything and we can all learn something from everyone…so open your mind and your heart. Show some compassion (even if they have none themselves) and listen….please.
The world needs leaders, the world needs compassion, the world needs you and I… and even cranky Uncle Pete.
Thanks for listening,
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” ~Albert Einstein~