Now we are firmly established in the second decade of the 21st century what (if anything) has the world collectively learnt from history? Have we learnt not to be greedy? Have we learnt not to be uncaring of others? Have we learnt to avoid violent conflict? Have we learnt not to be cruel, not to abuse, torture or bully others? Have we learnt not to criticise others? Have we learnt to be non-judgemental? Have we learnt NOT to give false hope to the disadvantaged? Have we learnt to avoid making assumptions? Have we learnt to use our logical powers for the betterment of the whole of mankind and not for the betterment of simply ourselves? Have we learnt to share? Have we learnt forgiveness? Have we learnt kindness, generosity or compassion on a global scale?
If you feel the answer to all this is 'no' then the burning question has to be, "what will it take for us to do so?" Almost without exception all these values are common to all societies and all religions. Have we learnt to agree on that at least?
It seems not yet. Religion has been the foundation stone to every single society and nation. From those most basic of ethics of being considerate to ALL we encounter further laws which have arisen as our social structures have developed and become (allegedly) increasingly sophisticated.
I am beginning to wonder if the true nature of us all does not prefer violent conflict instead of peace and harmony, paranoia and ignorance instead of wisdom derived from factual information; mistrust instead of trust and cruelty instead of 'humanity'. We seem determined to bicker about everything like it's an addiction of some kind.
Instead of focusing upon what we all have in common to find our way out of this endless cycle of upset and distress we seem to be hell-bent on latching onto the patterns of behaviour which we are most accustomed to and familiar with as if we are afraid to let go of them. Globally we fear that uncharted territory of harmony and peace. Even though the majority of nations are of one accord on this point. We remain insistent upon arguing about which version of the that ethic is related the best or has nailed it on the head. Why not focus on the content instead?
And for all the agnostics (of which I am one) and atheists on the planet I would say this - imagine our world with no ethical values whatsoever; no laws, no sense of right or wrong at all. Like it or not that is what religion has given us and without it those civilising rules we have just about managed to accept and adopt as a good idea at least would result in total chaos. So if you think things are bad now, I suggest you ponder what life would be like with no ethical values at all. I am not the first to say this by any stretch of the imagination, I am merely adding to the list of people who have said such things throughout all history.
If we continue to ignore all the rules and laws we have all be brought up with, or pick and choose which ones we want to abide by, then we have no structure whatsoever by which any of us can feel safe and secure as was superbly pointed out by Robert Bolt in his play 'A Man for All Seasons'.
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Perhaps what is the saddest and most damning indictment of all is among those who have fought for peace, common sense and fairness is that fact that quite a few have ended up killed for such efforts. Not all by any means but quite a few notably ones. It's quite an impressive list of famous names already, here is just a sample.
Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Yitzhak Rabin, Steve Biko, Edith Cavell, Catherine (Kate) Puzey, Hypatia, Jean Jaures, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Chico Mendes, Rachel Corrie, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Hilda Murrell, Ita Ford.
If you google 'killed peacemakers' you can see even more evidence of this insanity as quite ordinary people end up as victims too. WARNING: Be careful when you read up on some of them stories though as some of them have been written by terrorist and extremist groups who'd brainwash you into believing that theirs is the only peaceful and harmonious route forward while encouraging you to blow the brains out of anyone disagreeing with them! Charming.
And, if that wasn't enough to convince anyone of how insane this world really is, then how about how everyone is still bickering about money at a time when the whole planet is running out of enough resources to sustain all of human life. We have the technology, skills and knowledge to start a colony on the Moon or Mars now, yet we continue to quibble about who is 'worth' more in financial terms. Are we not equal? Do we not all have the capability to contribute to the global community in some way or another? How can the rich enjoy their fineries and fripperies without less paid individuals working to provide them? How can we hope to be made aware of anything without people communicating or made well without people working in health care... etc etc.
No building, no power, no food, no transport and no education would be possible without people preferring to do that as their chosen career instead of being a leader. No art, no sport, no gardens no music the list is endless. And that should be a positive thing. Thank goodness we are not all the same to want the same things or be interested in the same things for if we did societies would quite simply collapse.
One of the most telling things of all is that here in the 21st Century no one can eat or have a roof over their head without money. No other species has been so stupid. Neither can happen without permission to use the land which is always owned by someone. I fear it won't be long before councils will fine you for foraging for picking blackberries that grow in the wild and that every single seed nature ever produces has to be sold under a license. Is that what lies in wait for the future of mankind?
No wonder then that people get depressed and suffer mental illness. The only remarkable thing about it to me is that the numbers are so few... but perhaps that's because not all who are ill are recorded as being ill. I have a hunch that some of the most dangerous examples are leading our precious, beautiful, vibrant, diverse planet down the road of self-destruction.
Here at the beginning of the 21st Century (second decade) we quite plainly have a choice. Never before have we had the means to create or destroy life in so many ways. We can even initiate new life, sustain life, cure all manner of illnesses. In many ways this is the MOST exciting time in the history of the world bursting with all manner of positive and wonderful possibilities. It is a time great potential but... it is a time of great risk. Never before has our future as a species been so precarious. What, I wonder, will we collectively choose to do next?