Monday, May 27, 2024


What Kind of World Will We Leave Behind?

I have been personally examining the possibilities that may lie ahead for the human species in the years ahead by attempting to extrapolate the more immediate impact of the kind of communal decisions and choices being made throughout the world during the current era. In this examination, I have chosen to look at what I consider to be a so-called “worst case scenario.”

From the perspective of the global political environment, I see some disturbing tendencies. There seems to be an unsettling rise in the popularity of autocratic rulers who have openly expressed a blatant attraction to fascistic principles even within the Western-style democracies. Important examples of this trend are evident in the policies and pronouncements of such leaders as Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Vladimir Putin of Russia. These leaders are currently involved in brutal and ongoing wars against avowed enemies that barely disguise an effort to expand their dominion.

These wars are taking such horrendous tolls on the lives of their powerless foes – the Palestinians in the case of Israel and the Ukrainians in the case of Russia. The toll of this savage aggression endured by ordinary citizens in each instance is sadly reminiscent of the behavior of the Third Reich during World War II. In addition, the popularity of Donal Trump in the United States as the 2024 Presidential election approaches is surprising and notable especially in regard to his often-stated affinity towards autocratic rule in place of adherence to the rule of law, and political democracy.

The underling reasons for the popular support for autocratic rulers and repressive policies and political agendas is complex and multi-faceted. However, it is my contention, that the essential driver for such tendencies is fear, and that fear arises from an internal sense of instability and uncertainty regarding the future for those who have assumed that they hold dominant positions within the social order.


In many ways this unfolding of events is terribly reminiscent of the cycle of the rise and fall of human civilizations that echo throughout human history. The unfortunate tragedy of these kinds of historic events in the present technological era is that so much is at stake in regard to the immediate future of the human species.

Autocratic rule does not bode well for the future state of humanity for a variety of reasons. The foremost of these is that the lie is used to supplant a striving for truth - the unmitigated use of falsehoods and propaganda to propel forward an arbitrary and inherently dangerous agenda is a proven tactic to purposefully exploit the underlying fear and uncertainty of the population. We have seen this in the case of Netanyahu who has allowed lawlessness on the part of Israeli settlers to terrorize unarmed Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere often resorting to burning down houses and shooting innocent individuals with total impunity, held Palestinians captive in Gaza for the last sixteen years and committed terrible atrocities against ordinary Palestinians in Gaza with merciless bombardment, resulting in tens of thousands of needless deaths, provoking mayhem and the likelihood of terrible famine in much of that very crowded region. We have seen the insidious nature of autocratic rule on the part of Vladimir Putin in Russia in his relentless pursuit of incorporating by violent means the Ukraine sovereignty into the Russian empire. Lastly we have seen the repeated use of the lie and callous and provocative propaganda during the presidency of Donal Trump who has more or less embraced a clearly racist ideology and who has contributed to the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths in the midst of the COVID pandemic by downplaying the severity of the onslaught of the disease - disregarding the advice of public health experts and who proudly proclaimed that Climate Change is a hoax. This trend towards autocratic rule and its accompanying social and political repression is not isolated to the above examples – in fact, it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.


If this trend continues throughout the human world, then the voices of peace, social and economic justice, equality of opportunity, reason and intellectual pursuits would be effectively muted and suppressed. The ultimate consequences of this predilection towards obeisance to autocratic rule and governance would prove to be unsustainable in the long term.

As has been repeatedly demonstrated in human history, pursuits of the intellect, science and broad-based thinking would be profoundly discouraged. As a result, the absolute need to address the overweening issue of Climate Change would have no traction. As a matter of fact, the conditions that contribute to this human-created problem would be seriously exacerbated. Climatologists have periodically enumerated the new reality that would emerge on planet earth if their warnings go unheeded. This would include the fact that regions of the earth that are inhabited by hundreds of millions of humans would be essentially unlivable due to the extreme heat and humidity. These would include regions in the Middle East, Asia, especially India and the African continent.

Should this calamitous situation become a reality, it would mean the forced emigration of huge populations of humans – the kind of migration that would certainly provoke horrendous conflict and would engender an unsustainable living environment for a substantial portion of the earth’s human population. This kind of impact precipitated by Climate Change is a major one, but certainly not the only ramification of unfettered and calamitous change. Others include the impact of rising temperatures in the world’s oceans leading to the probable extinction or diminishment of many species of marine life that currently provide a necessary protein source for many animal species including Homo sapiens. In addition, the change in climate would precipitate savage and unrelenting storms in many regions on the planet resulting in additional stress upon human survival.

The collective impact of these alterations on the living planet would likely result in the gradual and ineluctable diminution of the human population, ultimately resulting in and end to the technological age due to the degradation of the advanced infrastructure that is required to sustain it.


If this kind of scenario actually unfolds, the severely diminished human populations would most likely coalesce into tribal relationships over the ensuing generations. The lifestyles of these “New Humans” would conform to earlier neolithic ways of living if the state of the local natural environment supports agriculture or be more likened to a paleolithic culture should the local environment support a hunter/gatherer style of living. The net result would be a rich variety of tribal societies that may or not come into conflict depending upon the degree of competition for survival. In any case, the memories associated with technologically-based human civilization would gradually fade from communal recognition. In a sense, the human species would have been rebooted. It would take a prolonged interval of time before the living world fully rebounded from the trauma of human-caused environmental degradation. How humanity would evolve in such a setting is difficult to imagine.


Keep in mind that this vision is entirely speculative, and, of course, it is conceivable that humans in the current era could make choices that would significantly alter the future for the benefit of all creatures on this most remarkable planet. It is also conceivable that the ultimate outcome of a failure to act responsively in attempting to avert this kind of calamity may not be as dramatic or catastrophic as this bleak scenario describes. However, the future that does enfold will most likely result in a scale of pain and suffering that would have been totally avoidable if only humanity acted intelligently and cooperatively to avert a disheartening future. In the final analysis it is up to all of us to take significant action at the present time for the sake of future generations.

Friday, January 12, 2024

A Question

   

It is now 2024 – the year of my 80th birthday. To this date (January 3, 2024) the human world is just as crazy as ever. The propensity of Homo sapiens to slaughter members of their own species has continued unabated since the dawn of human civilization. Racial, cultural, religious, and ideological differences seem to drive this horrific behavior even though, science has clearly shown that humans regardless of nation of origin, color of skin, differences in ethnicity are all members of the same human family.

The slaughter continues even though science has unequivocally demonstrated that, as a concept, race is a mythological construct. Two major wars are raging on the planet, and the carnage that is resulting from these conflicts is difficult to fathom. These wars are fine examples of the apparent inability of humanity to resolve differences other than through violent means.

As a direct result of the staggering economic, social and psychological impact that war engenders, humans are regressing and, as a result, are failing to thrive. Even though it is abundantly clear that the heartfelt acceptance of the recognition that we all members of the same human family would lead to a remarkably different and life-affirming future, we continue to behave in a way that ensures the horrific burden of human suffering of the kind that is unnecessary and stultifying.

From this reality, the question I would like to pose is the following – “Will we as a species ever truly learn from the lessons of our own history that our tendency towards violent behavior will ultimately undermine our collective future? There is, after all, no reasonable alternative to peace.



I realize that there is no answer to this singular question; I also know that it has been asked innumerable times in the past from all over this beleaguered planet. Humans, after all, are complex and often inexplicable creatures and the future destiny of humanity remains elusive.

I persist in my determination to live with my eyes wide open. After all, the reality of the human condition is the essential truth we can rely on and the study of history our truest ally and guide.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Remember the Children

 

Remember the Children

Remember the children

crushed and obliterated

under the weight of 2000 pound bombs

screaming from the sky

dispatched by uncaring machines of death.

 

Remember the children of

Israel and

Somalia

Yemen

the Sudan

Nicaragua

Honduras

victimized by

insidious bigotry,

religious differences that

seem so oblivious

to the suffering they engender.

 

Remember the children of the present

and the future

who live in a world

that offers no relief,

no respite

from the cruelty of their captors,

from endless punishment

over which they have no control.

 

Remember the children

suffering needlessly

for no good reason.

 

Remember the children

denied the capacity to thrive and grow

for they are our lost treasures

consumed by the raw power of hate.

 

Remember the children for

they hold in their feeble hands the

ultimate fate of humanity.

 

Remember the children

to forget is to

consign ourselves to an abysmal future

devoid of compassion and love

leaving us with an uncaring and brutal world.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

On the Propensity of Humans to do Harm to Each Other

 I am struck by the complexity of the nature of human relationships when one considers the manner in which human identity is established within each of us during our lifetimes. Constantly faced with a panorama of choices that constitute so much of our dealings with the world around us, our minds must continually filter, interpret, and analyze the constant stream of data that we take in through our senses. The sense of belonging that is such a potent driver within the self and in relation to others is further enhanced by one’s association with family, tribe and nation.

These processes are complex and overlayed by our ever-changing state of mind, and the state of health of both body and mind. In addition, all of these “cerebral gymnastics” are influenced by our variable and often volatile emotional states of being that originate from a distinctly separate part of the architecture of the human brain. These choices are also constrained by the summation and convergence of innumerable past experiences that influence so much of the decisions we make.

I am pursuing this line of investigation into the nature of the internal world of the human mind (i.e. brain) in order to understand why there is so much suffering that can result from human interactions. It may be that the level of complexity that is inherent in each of us, as briefly outlined above, is further magnified in the arena of human interactions resulting in a vast panorama of possibilities and outcomes. To quote a line from the Bob Dylan song, Idiot Wind, “It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.”

Within the swirling matrix of human interactions, differences in attitude and viewpoint are bound to surface. It is within the nature of politics to find mechanisms to assuage differences in order to reach practical and sustainable solutions to societal problems. Within this elaborate matrix of human interactions with its wealth of possibilities, it becomes inevitable that there are those who succeed; those who fail and those who succumb.

I remember what my dear friend, Ralph, of long ago who was an immigrant from Jamaica and living in New York City, at the time, said to me. To paraphrase, he marveled at how well New Yorkers seem to get along given not only the sheer and often overwhelming population density but also the fact that so many came from disparate and diverse backgrounds. To me, this reality highlights the natural human longing to find harmony whenever possible. Sadly, this tendency is too often overshadowed by the equally powerful propensity to surrender to the emotionally-laden feelings of prejudice, bigotry, fear, and hatred.

As members of a particular culture, we are taught to rationalize these darker emotions by categorizing our enemy as somehow evil or less than human. Within the framework of this kind of propaganda we are never trained to consider our own culpability. In this way we are destined to repeat this pattern again and again.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Fate of the People of Gaza

To further support this pathological pursuit of the destruction of Gaza by the Israeli government is sheer madness. How could we remain silent in light of this unrelenting carnage raining from the sky with continual aerial bombardment for nine consecutive days without apparent letup? It is a massive imposition of collective punishment wrecked upon the ordinary citizens of Gaza who have already endured 16 years of a joint Israeli and Egyptian blockade that has created what is regarded as the largest outdoor prison in the human world. Within this blockade, almost everyone of the 2.2 million individuals is trapped within a very small area. An overwhelming majority of the population of Gaza are young with many very young with not hope of escape or improvement of their abysmal living conditions on the horizon.

Further exacerbating this untenable situation is the barbaric siege imposed upoon Gaza that has resulted in the blockade of all electrical power, water, food and medical supplies. Ironically, the scale of this inhumanity as a means of collective punishment is behavior reminiscent of Nazi Germany. If this behavior continues, massive death and unspeakable suffering will surely follow. Is this the kind of future scenario we are embracing with our silence?

After all, the overwhelming majority of the population of Gaza are not members of Hamas, or participants in the fanatical and violent extremist actions perpetrated by Hamas. Can the Israeli government actually claim innocence in the midst of all of this horror? Can they continue to propose that Hamas alone is evil as they are the originators of the horrific blockade that has persisted for so long, and as they intentionally bomb buildings where people reside, target ambulances, mosques, communal marketplaces, hospitals and even cars filled with individuals attempting to escape from the worst of the mayhem.

In the final analysis, in this the twenty-first century where we find humanity engulfed by two major conflicts, it seems that the human species has not learned much in regard to actively pursuing a path of social harmony and peace in over ten thousand years of civilization. This unavoidable reality still dominates human behavior even though science has clearly shown that all humans are members of the same human family and that as stewards of this planet, we continue to act in a way that is responsible for the inexorable deterioration of the ecological fabric that sustains all of life on this most remarkable planet Earth.

Shadows of War

On September 8, the world was rocked by the incursion onto Israeli territory by gunmen directed by Hamas, the radical group in control of Gaza – from the extremely tiny territory of Gaza populated by over 2 million inhabitants that have been subjected to a severe and unconscionable blockade for 16 years. This blockade has successfully interdicted shipments of such important commodities as medical supplies, water and with effective control of electrical power that is supplied to this enclave. Free passage out of Gaza by Palestinians has been made virtually impossible. Gaza has been described as the world’s largest outdoor prison.


On Sept 8, a state of war became the second major global conflict in the human world adding to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War.

My thoughts on this situation –

At times like these, it is tempting to take sides and offer a plethora of rationalizations regarding the infinite wisdom of going to war and fill ourselves with a sense of righteousness ennobled by our grievances. And yet, the age-old song of violence and retribution gets played once again. And once again, humanity is infected with a bolus of rage and hatred that will ultimately get us nowhere. And once again, true human progress is thwarted.

What is not clearly understood is that the human world is heading towards an unsustainable future, for humanity is undermining its own prospects by maintaining a structure with a vast imbalance in the distribution of wealth and the reliance on massive violence and death to sustain the status quo. This subservience to power leads inevitably to needless suffering on a massive scale. In addition to this recurring onslaught, we are collectively laying waste to the biological infrastructure that sustains all of life.

Shadows of War


Darkness once again falls

heavily upon this tiresome human world.

Shadows of war

propelled by ridiculous dreams of dominance and empire

sustained by minds

unable to see the horrid future they project,

unwilling to embrace the pain and suffering

they inflict,

unreceptive to the laments of mothers

over the children forever lost to the shrill

call of bombs and bullets

as explosions rip through the fabric of neighborhoods,

unrepentant for the death they distribute

to the innocent like candy,

for all the blood and bones and carnage,

for all the wrecked lives and distorted hatred

injected into the future,

unable to embrace all of humanity as equals,

ever ready to crawl into bed

with hollow and pointless death.

Shadows of war,

a long and tiresome story

revisited again and again

the litany long,

the dark foreboding song always the same,

the list seeming endless,

stretching back

to the very beginnings of

civilization.

How long can Homo sapiens endure?

how long can the natural world

upon which we depend

sustain us?

when we choose

chaos over harmony

needless death and unimagined suffering

over love and life,

darkness over light,

stupidity over real intelligence

over and over again.

Darkness once again falls

heavily upon this tiresome human world.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

 


President Jimmy Carter

James Earl Carter Jr. was born on October 1, 1924 in the provincial southern farming town of Plains Georgia.  His father was a farmer and businessman and his mother was a practicing nurse.  As a young child he moved with his family to a farm in the neighboring town of Archery.  Carter grew up in a thoroughly rural community; his family’s home was without electricity and his neighbors were predominantly African-American. 

Although at the time of his birth the highly segregated and prejudicial cultural and legal infrastructure, collectively referred to as Jim Crow, was everywhere in evidence, his mother, Lilian, volunteered her nursing services as a midwife and health care provider to her black neighbors.  Her generous and caring nature had a profound influence on the young Carter.  His father was an astute businessman and expanded his farm to include 4,000 acres; he subsequently became a peanut broker and a retailer of farm supplies and equipment.

Carter was educated in the public schools and went to the Georgia Institute of Technology before he enrolled in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland.  His professional interest initially gravitated towards science and technology.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and ultimately pursued graduate studies in nuclear physics.  It was shortly after his graduation from the Academy that he married Rosalynn Smith of Plains, Georgia.  After earning his doctorate in nuclear physics, Carter was chosen as an engineering officer on the Sea Wolf – the second nuclear submarine commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

Carter’s military and professional career was suddenly cut short by the sudden death of his father in 1953.  In response to this tragedy, he resigned his post and returned to Plains with his family - that now included three sons – to assume the responsibilities of his father’s various family businesses including the family farm.  His father had served in the Georgia state government as a House Representative.  Carter, like his father, felt a responsibility to serve his community and consequentially ran for a seat in the Georgia Senate.  At first, it appeared that he had lost the election, but an ill-conceived fraud was uncovered in which his opponent had registered fictitious voters some of whom were deceased.  Once the fraud was exposed, Carter became a member of the Georgia State Senate and readily won reelection.

In 1966, Carter ran for governor of his state, but was defeated by the overt racist and segregationist Lestor Maddox.  Following this defeat, he was inspired by his sister Ruth Carter Stapleton to reevaluate his life and had undergone a spiritual reawakening that he later described as being, “born again.”   Four years later he became Georgia’s governor and during his acceptance speech made the exceedingly controversial and unprecedented statement that, "the time for racial discrimination is over."

During his term as governor, he implemented many reforms including:

·         Increasing the percentage of African-Americans in Georgia’s civil service by 40%

·         Equalizing the public funding for rich and poor school districts in the state and, thereby, greatly enhancing educational opportunities for those most in need

·         Increasing educational opportunities for prisoners and the developmentally disabled

·         Streamlining government and eliminating wasteful projects

·            Canceling construction projects that would be detrimental to the natural environment.

 

These progressive programs and policies drew the attention of the Democratic Party and he was chosen to be the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Campaign Chairman for the 1974 congressional election.  On account of the disastrous presidency of Richard Nixon of the Republican Party and the uninspired administration of President Gerald Ford, the Democrats did well in the 1974 elections. 

Since the constitution of the state of Georgia barred Carter from running for a second term as governor, he decided to run for the Presidency of the United States.  With highly focused energy and resolve, he campaigned rigorously in the democratic primaries throughout the country and did so well that he won the nomination on the first ballot at the party’s convention in Madison Square Garden, New York City.

 

Jimmy Carter became the President of the United States.  His effectiveness has been called into question by some who felt that he was not strong enough within the arena of foreign policy, especially in regards to how he dealt with the nation’s adversaries.  Although he was instrumental in getting the leaders of Egypt and Israel, President Anwar El Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, respectively, to agree on a plan for peace – the so-called Camp David Accords (a peace that is still in existence) - he had the misfortune of being president during the successful Fundamentalist Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 that led to the toppling of the Iranian monarchy under the Shah.  This ultimately led to the taking of American hostages.  The resulting standoff lasted for 444 days beginning on November 4, 1979 and lasting until January 20, 1981.  Coming under considerable domestic pressure, Carter authorized a rescue mission referred to as Operation Eagle Claw that took place on April 24, 1980.  This mission was an abysmal failure.  It should be noted, however, that all the hostages were ultimately returned safely and unharmed and that no war ensued.  However, Carter lost the support of the American people and he failed in his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.  The hostages were released within minutes of Reagan’s swearing-in ceremony.

 

Unlike many presidents who have gone before him, Carter has devoted his post-presidential life to the causes of peace and social justice throughout the world.  He has accomplished this through the creation of the Carter Center.  He describes this work in the following way, “Our most dedicated investments of time and energy have been among the poorest and most forgotten people of Guyana, East Timor, Haiti, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Niger, Liberia, Cote d’lvoire, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Ghana and other communities throughout Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.”

The Carter Center recruits experts for the purpose of dealing with following kinds of issues that plague many parts of the human world:

·         Conflict Resolution

·         Human Rights

·         Mental Health

·         Agriculture

·         Disease Control and Prevention

·         Promoting Democracy.

These experts analyze complex political relationships that underlie trouble spots around the globe and meet and exchange information through intelligence briefings.  The Center also employs interns from some 350 different universities worldwide.  The staff of the Center works closely with local governments and meets with those that are in need of assistance in their homes and villages.  The Carter Center is a non-profit enterprise and depends upon individual and corporate donations in order to function.  Carter sold the remainder of the family businesses in order to help finance this monumental endeavor.  The site of the Center along with the Carter Presidential Library is located in Atlanta, Georgia.  As stated on the Carter Center website (cartercenter.org), the Center’s mission is based on the following five principles –

“The Center emphasizes action and results. Based on careful research and analysis, it is prepared to take timely action on important and pressing issues.

·         The Center does not duplicate the effective efforts of others.

·         The Center addresses difficult problems and recognizes the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk.

·         The Center is nonpartisan and acts as a neutral in dispute resolution activities.

·         The Center believes that people can improve their lives when provided with the necessary skills, knowledge, and access to resources.”

It is not so much a think tank as it is an action agency.  Thanks to Carter’s careful and judicious planning and conservative economic development, the Carter Center now has an endowment of over 250 million dollars, and programs do not proceed until the funding is assured.  Some of the programs that have been put into play through the Center include the fight against diseases endemic to the tropics, especially malaria, river blindness and trachoma and improving the quality of food grains in Africa. 

In addition, considerable efforts have been made towards conflict resolution.  For this purpose, the Center employs Dr. Doyle Powell a fellow in conflict resolution.  As a result of an analysis done regarding the nature of conflicts, it has been found that nearly all the thirty-four conflicts studied, involving battle deaths of at least 1000 individuals, are civil wars.  In order to help settle these conflicts nonviolently, the Center has often called upon some of its more influential members including Desmond Tutu, Oscar Aria, the former President of Costa Rica, and Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor.  In the course of its work, the Carter Center has monitored almost 70 elections throughout the world in the course of 18 years.

On account of these extraordinary efforts, President Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October of 2002.   The decision was based upon the following reasons as stated by the Norwegian Nobel Committee -

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Jimmy Carter, for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.

During his presidency (1977-1981), Carter's mediation was a vital contribution to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, in itself a great enough achievement to qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize. At a time when the cold war between East and West was still predominant, he placed renewed emphasis on the place of human rights in international politics.

Through his Carter Center, that celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2022, Carter has since his presidency undertaken very extensive and persevering conflict resolution on several continents. He has shown outstanding commitment to human rights, and has served as an observer at countless elections all over the world. He has worked hard on many fronts to fight tropical diseases and to bring about growth and progress in developing countries. Carter has thus been active in several of the problem areas that have figured prominently in the over one hundred years of Peace Prize history.

In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that, "conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development.”

President Jimmy Carter’s devotion to the causes of peace and social justice has certainly earned him such an honor.  His tenacity is so formidable that his efforts continue to this day.