As a species, I think that humans are pretty darned amazing. We have evolved into the planet’s dominant species and are slowly sending out tendrils of our culture and technology beyond the confines of our small planet. Unfortunately, even though we’re an amazingly intelligent species, we are fallible and therefore capable of all kinds of stupid behaviour, ranging from religion to an obsession with financial wealth (which I’d probably agree is also a kind of religion) to incredibly stubborn denial of the negative effects of both of those things upon ourselves and the environment which supports us.
Politics is one of those areas of human activity that is constantly under scrutiny, which may go some way to explain why we hear so often about politicians doing stupid things, although I lean towards the theory that the people who tend to rise to the ‘top’ in public political life are the very people who should not be allowed to do so. The political map of The Middle East, for example, was largely constructed by old men (doubtlessly dusty and festooned with cobwebs) who felt that they had the right to draw wiggly lines across a region and utterly disrupt the lives of millions. They had the power to enforce their wiggly lines, and so made it happen, for better or worse. ‘Worse’ would seem to have been the outcome.
I don’t pretend to be particularly bright (I just wish that I was) or to have a deep understanding of all the issues around the mosh pit that is that region of Eurasia, but it seems rather clear that the reckless meddling of colonial powers (old or new) has done little to mollify the ancient hatred and violence that now characterizes it. Currently the chief meddlers are the USA and Vladimir Putin’s fictional Russian Empire, and both governments continue to do nothing constructive. This seems to be because both governments are continually desperate to retain some control - and hopefully increase such control - of the sticky black residue that we as a technologically aggressive society are ridiculously dependent upon. Of course that dependence, in the face of emerging alternative energy technology, becomes more and more ridiculous and money-driven (controlled by the oil industry) as the decades roll on…
Such desperation for power and influence is borne of a lack of trust between these two large (and I am avoiding using the word ‘great’ deliberately) nations; each government wants to have the Lion’s share, each wants to have power over the other. Governments are of course led by politicians, whom, as anyone with more than a few brain cells will agree, tend not to be the best of our societies; they are simply the ones who play the political games most effectively. Governments, it seems to me, exist not to do the right thing, but merely to get re-elected. Governments in democratic and non-democratic systems (and that includes sham democracies) form policy to remain in power, first and foremost. The short, mid and long term goal of a government is to maintain or enlarge their power base. That is a fundamentally dangerous – in terms of morality and ethics - basis from which to govern.
This goal to remain in power and to perpetuate ideology (religious or otherwise; power is power, after all) is the motivation behind many wars of the last century and is the main reason for conflicts which continue through the ages. The governing bodies throughout The Middle East have no interest in compromising or conceding anything to ‘enemies’ because to do so would constitute political suicide – and precipitate a loss of power. The politicians play chess with people’s lives in order to maintain a mandate (if they care) or to secure votes, or even worse, to achieve personal aims based upon nationalistic ideals. No matter what, I find it difficult to accept that a small group of officials (elected or otherwise) have any moral right to play games with sentient beings (us).
Compromise is a dirty word these days (it’s the ‘bogey’ word in many TV commercials, for example), yet a life without compromise is a life without empathy, a life without compassion and a life without thought for consequences. Compromise – genuine, well-considered compromise - is a tried and tested method of reaching agreement or resolution, but it seems to be a concept alien to those of devout religious conviction, or an addiction to any idea (the profound capitalism we see in countries such as the USA, for example). The approach of “It’s my way or the Highway”, also verbalized famously as ‘You are either with us or against us.’ creates division and polarises positions.
The Middle East is a region which successfully models intransigence and lack of compromise, as does the political system in North Korea, China and, increasingly, Russia. These examples can be symbolised by human suffering and environmental disaster. This is not, however, so simple as pointing the finger at left-leaning (they’re after all so far left that they have swung all the way back around and find themselves on the dictatorial right in most cases) governments. Witness the out-of-anybody’s-control corporately-owned government of the USA (where anything is good if it makes money, because money is good, especially if you print the bible on it) and lately, Canada. In these countries, the poor suffer in plain view, while the rich get richer and the obscenely rich multiply in number and political influence. No matter how it gets spun, that is a truth, and it is immoral.
Against this backdrop, I struggle with the ethical and moral issues of our time. I like the idea that we have a health care system which will help me and my family when I need it to, and I’m OK with paying for the things that society provides for me to make use of. So much of what happens in the world, however, leaves me feeling distressed and quite pessimistic about our future as a species. We fight too much and compromise too little. We do not instinctively trust.
I console myself with the thought that my intelligence is very probably too weak to properly understand the complexities of our modern world and that the answer to humanity’s silliness is out there somewhere, just waiting for us to happen across it and start behaving more responsibly. I console myself that something good will happen, but that I don’t have sufficient brain power to imagine what that might be. I really hope that I’m right about that, because I want my children and successive generations to enjoy their lives.
In the meantime, I’m still looking for that plot of land.