Have we, unconsciously albeit, fallen into a trap of many centuries that finds us chasing ourselves in an ever decreasing centricity of circles, like the uroborus snake, deepening the outline of our path, with our head stuck firmly in our tails, unable to change course.
Let's begin a little unpacking of this notion.
In western medicine, the patient has a complaint, a pain, an illness, a growth.....something that s/he is finding uncomfortable, restrictive, embarrassing, or functionally impeding normal body functions. Whatever "it" is, western medicine has historically and even somewhat heroically, attempted to find a "response" that reduces or eliminates the pain, however that pain is calibrated. Research labs around the world are devouring billions in experiments that uncover mysteries previously considered beyond our comprehension. Just recently, David Suzuki's and CBC's "The Nature of Things" documented considerable progress in the relationship between insulin and altzheimers disease as well as other parallel research into the application of nasal ingestion of insulin to counter the potential impact of the build-up of plaques on the nerves in the brain. We watch such tutorials with awe and amazement, as some of our best brains drill down into their respective 'disciplines' on our behalf.
This kind of progress, and the promise of more of the same, drives many philanthropic initiatives, as well as governmental projects in many countries. Simultaneously, in another lab, scientists are uncovering a potential link between our intake of processed foods and the development of altzheimers. The legal profession, too, is based on the notion that laws can and will protect human beings from the "harm" that can and will come from the abuses of the "other". So, the "other," the one designated as the "wrong-doer," becomes analogous to the "disease of the human body, in medicine.
Similarly, in our accounting and reporting systems that glue many of the disparate parts of our organizations together, we are looking for the "wrong-doer," the miscreant, the disease, whether that applies to the individual or, naturally in our cultural mindset, to the society and culture generally.
We are collectively and individually engaged in a process of discovering and as far as possible eliminating those "things,"....whether they be people, relationships, organisms, or incidents that do not conform with our previous ways of perceiving what is "right and natural" as opposed to "wrong and unnatural".
So, while considerable money and intellectual resources are being poured into research that peels the layers of ambiguity and uncertainty from our many disturbing and somewhat dramatic 'issues,' we are also engaged in a process of business development that permits corporations, for the single purpose of generating profit on the backs of innocent, naïve and even blind-sided consumers, from the manufacture, sale and distribution of various products, services and experiences, in many instances, without regard to their long-term impact on human health, considered individually or collectively.
And although these potentially mutually exclusive patterns are playing out, with the flow of economic activity and profits accruing to the business world (long before the scientific community has determined the impacts of the business activity), millions of lives are being negatively impacted without a trace of accountability or responsibility. The cases of both cigarette smoking and sugar consumption are only two of the many tragic dramas of our own making.
Accommodating human ambitions, needs and predilections, as a social and political experiment, within the boundaries of reasonable and sustainable respect for each other, ("all men are created equal") has been one of the more perplexing goals of human pursuits for centuries. However, most experiments have been built on the over-reactions to other "experiments" that were found to be less than congruent with our human natures. Relations between church and state have found their way into many debates about how we configure our social and political structures. Relations between military power and the generation of laws is another meme in the architecture of social and political organization. Good versus evil, another of those guiding principles of both individual belief systems and social and political organization, is and has always been integral to any debate and constitutional agreements over national and international political organization.
In fact, how humans perceive, or deny, portray or repress our darkest inclinations, our most painful memories and our most heinous ink blots on the carpet of time, whether that evil is indigenous, or learned, has driven many of the debates in all cultures and faith expressions, since words and symbols began to be inscribed in the sands of our deserts, and on the papyrus of our feathers, and finally on the screens of our digital imaging devices.
What if, just for a few moments on a Monday morning in July 2014, a month and week that many observers are calling the worst time in historic memory, with regard to the number and the severity of violent clashes we are all witnessing and bemoaning, we stopped our frenetic pursuit of the wrong-doer, the evil one, the perpetrator and the culprit, since in the fog of many enigmas, the pursuit of that "truth" is so complicated as to be doomed from the beginning, and started to look within at the premises that are guiding, in fact even driving our frenzy....and not parking our investigation and our reflection in Pogo's correct yet simplistic aphorism, "we have met the enemy and it is us!"...and pushed farther into our capacity to see things differently...
And then what if we were to ask ourselves, "What if we are collectively, if blindly, complicit in an unsustainable structure of portraying "the good" as our goal while consistently and predictably falling short, and spending our very limited resources on punishing all of those we are pursuing, in our vain and unachievable attempt to eradicate evil from our world?"
What if, in the process of elevating medicine, law, scientific research and corporate profiteering based on a competitive model, not to mention our very own brand of defining both God and "the good" we are neglecting what is also right in front of our eyes, ears and all around us, the very good we are attempting to achieve, it too being intimately and integrally entwined in our very natures, and reinforced by a nature that wraps itself around us, benignly each and every day?
Are we potentially reaching the point in human "civilization" when we have already proven, beyond a shadow of doubt, the futility of hard power, of "fixing" what is wrong, as compared with creating a set of circumstances, structures, laws and intellectual under-pinnings that start from the Rousseavian premise that we each, all humans in every culture, language, religion and ethnicity, want to be and do the "good" and that through the passage from the womb to the cradle, to the playground, to the church school and the schoolyard to the college and university and then into the "work-world" continually learn how and when to be more fully engaged with our less than admirable selves...all the while cognizant that there is an "establishment" ready willing and able to find us "out" should we deviate from their prescribed path.
Have we not, just possibly, elevated evil to a status and power and influence that it does not deserve nor can we sustain the various complex systems designed and engineered to prevent, to derail and to punish those who select its many and complex attitudes, beliefs and behaviours? Have we, just possibly, fallen into the trance that we are inevitably and predictably going to be engaged in conflict as an integral component of our narrow, narcissistic and even religious perceptions of our pursuit of the "good life" and that preparation, education, competition, failure and hardening of the "skin" and the "sensibilities" for that conflict is the sine qua non of human maturity, and then defined that conflict as extrinsic, external and driven by other human beings who find us and our pursuit of our ambitions, passions and interests, less than acceptable. Have we, just possibly, set up a structure that is itself self-sabotaging through its persistent pursuit of wrong, evil, disease, and even eccentricity in order to eradicate all evidence of their respective existences?
Even those institutions, including schools, governments, universities, churches, banks and corporations that have operated "successfully" under the current system, if prodded and poked through deep and persistent interrogation, would acknowledge that much of their effort to achieve and sustain "success" is dependent on an overlooking, or a denial, or an uncertainty about their activities, when viewed through an ethical, moral and sustainable lens. We are all searching, in our private lives, and in our working and relational lives, and in and through our organizational activities, for more conscious awareness of those 'things' we have not yet learned, not yet discerned, not yet grasped and are yet to be disclosed. In that process, we are complicit through our blindness, our hubris and our addiction to our past "trophies" and accomplishments (many of them at the expense and even the destruction of an opponent) that we parade in front of our children, as "education" when we all know, on all sides of the ideological spectrum, that such activities constitute propaganda for our way of life, for our belief system, for our ancestors and not so much for our children and offspring.
We have, collectively and complicitly constructed idols to human accomplishment, including a private enterprise system of trading and making money, including world banks, and monetary funds for those large entities that default, as they inevitably will, over which we have less and less control, given our corresponding thrusts into ways of 'spying' into the activities of others, including both individuals and corporations, as well as 'other' governments and religions and ideologies. In that process, of painting the "lighted" items on our canvas of human civilization, we have simultaneously ignored, dismissed, disdained and even denied those darker spaces, shadows, on our individual and collective human canvases that, given our current circumstances, merit much more attention, as we attempt to transition from the "prevention or eradication of evil" to a more sustainable and integral integration of our individual and our collective shadows. We were never meant to, nor designed to, nor inspired to chase our evil tails. No God ever proposed that, as a prescribed path to salvation, redemption and any form of perfect "afterlife," humans were to become so enmeshed in the eradication of evil, that it became an obsession, an addiction and a futile definition of both the human purpose and a healthy relationship with a Supreme Being.
Both human health and well-being in and of itself, as well as any human relationship with a Divine entity, depend on an open, honest and socially, culturally and even spiritually inspired and perceived acknowledgement that evil is not our enemy, to be eliminated, to be imprisoned, to be "choked" to death (as happened on the streets of New York this past week!) but rather requires much less obsessive and compulsive addiction to its elimination and much more "love and acceptance" as an instructive and yes painful ally.
We need more agencies and services, like the midwife, the pastoral counsellor and the "coach and mentor" who seek and find the 'best' in each of us, including our capacity to contribute to the 'good' of all the people, and make that pursuit more the norm than the exception. We need, correspondingly and simultaneously, to cease our worship at the altar of power, including all of the many and varied symbols of "success", power, influence, status and domination....those easily recognizable perks like BMW's and yachts and scales of measurement that place the rich and the famous at the top of our ideological totems, and the poor the uneducated, and the desperate in the gutters of our conscious and our consciences, out of which swamp, we know that most future acts of desperation, including most forms of criminality, most attempts at the abuse of military power, most initiatives to subvert others, regardless of their methods will emerge.
Our superficial analysis of the widening gap between the 'have's' and the 'have-not's' is merely the tip of a much larger iceberg that contains within it the seeds of our own demise. We are all complicit in simultaneously pursuing those 'goals' that society has presented as "achievement" while we deny, ignore and even denigrate our vulnerabilities, our blindnesses and our complicity in the 'march of the ants' towards a shared and potentially tragic demise.
Would it not prove at least worth an experimental design to test the null-hypothesis that "human pursuit of the eradication of evil is unsustainable"....through a transformation of experimental neighbourhoods of collaboration, negotiation, mediation, and a system of rewards and sanctions that are premised on the notion that no one seeks to harm another, that all persons are truly equal, that all individual and collective efforts at enhancing the lives of both the initiators and the beneficiaries are to be supported, and that measurement of the short, medium and long-term implications of such an experiment are worthy of both public and private dollars of support.
It is not merely
- the reduction of green-house gases, nor
- the reduction of the arms sales from the powerful to those seeking enhanced power, nor
- the reduction of racism, bigotry, sexism and ageism, nor
- the reduction of terrorism and violence against human beings based on religious beliefs and righteousness, nor
- the reduction of the gap between those who have human rights and those whose lives wreak of neither rights nor advocacy for their attainment, nor
- the reduction of poverty and disease and hunger, nor
- the elimination of the many plagues of super-bugs and microbes resistant to known forms of antibiotics, nor
- the enhancement of access to education by all young men and women everywhere, nor
- the reduction of barriers of pride, hubris and the pursuit of power "over" others that defines the most neurotic among us everywhere, nor
- the production of treaties that command respect and honour from all, that find peaceful methods of conflict resolution, and rehabilitative methods of inclusion of those who have harmed others, and trading practices that have as their goal and purpose not the acquisition of personal wealth and greed but the collective attainment of shared resources and opportunities for all human beings everywhere, and
- nor foundational debates and documents of common understanding and practice among the various faith communities....
It is a transformation of our attitudes to one another, to the evils that we witness every day in all countries based on the same scarcity, and the same over-compensations, and the same futile attempts to "control" and to "eradicate" and to "blame" the other for his/her/their "evil acts, beliefs, attitudes, through commission and through omission that the world community needs. Only through such a transformation will the achievement of many of these worthy goals become feasible.
And, while this proposal is not specifically tied to a political ideology (although many would condemn it as socialist or communist), it seeks to provide a wake-up call to help us shift our path from heading for several of the many ditches, cliffs and mountainsides that we seem determined to seek and to find, because we refused to change course, speed and driving habits.
Insanity, we have been told, is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.
Is it time for us to intimately and courageously accept that truth, and begin to forge a different set of principles to guide the futures of our children and our grandchildren? Perhaps!