© Geoff Brookes
Radical Terrorist groups are controlling large areas of Iraq. They don’t seem to aspire to gain political control of any country. Even if you think it’s good to be active in this “war”, how will you know when you’ve “won”? Can you ever “win”? Or will the terrorists retreat into safe haven territories, only to rise again to fight another day?
The same terrorist group apparently is behind attacks on Canadian soldiers, and a scary armed invasion of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. While the lone gunman was apprehended, it raises serious questions about the security of Parliament hill, and about the threats to the lives of the RCMP and security forces.
Ebola is rampant in West Africa, killing thousands of people. Cases are being detected in North America.
Global warming. Earthquakes – sometimes multiple earthquakes in one location. Hurricanes.
What in the world is going on?
I don’t profess to have any specific answers, obviously.
There are numerous theories, in addition to the well-accepted scientific/historical narrative, or the narrative of recent events. (I might add that there were a few very complimentary blogs/articles on the manner in which Peter Mansbridge reported the events in Ottawa, being careful to report only what could be verified as true).
For my part, I would prefer to offer my own comments only on the stories that involve a human element – not the natural disasters.
One of my own pet theories is that the essential nature of human beings hasn’t changed much since the relatively recent phenomena of written histories.
The dating of these writings is sometimes argued or disputed, but the oldest known writing might be sometime between 1,000 BC and 2,000 BC. I must confess that I am thinking of the Western traditions, including Minoan (Crete) and Egyptian. I am particularly intrigued by the origins of ancient greek writing, which (probably) derives from Sanskrit, in India. The Chinese traditions are really a mystery to me – I know very little on that subject.
But regardless of their age, these ancient writings tend to reveal human beings wrestling with largely the same issues that we collectively wrestle with today –
-Growth, and maturity
-Legacy, and death
-Individual lives, and the collective will/wisdom of a people
-Power, and responsibility
-The meaning of earthly life, and the afterlife
Of course, technology has changed dramatically, and at an ever-increasing pace. However, I find it even more fascinating that, despite technological changes, human beings continue to ponder the “soft issues” in life in much the same way that they did thousands of years ago. (If you really want to debate this, read Herodotus, or read the “Old Testament”). Both provide a very old glimpse into the way humans lived during their times – both well before “AD” dating. If you focus on the nature of their human issues instead of their technology or their religious beliefs (for the sake of the thought experiment), the likenesses to modern times are compelling. Even if you are an atheist, I think you can see the parallels between the common issues for humans of each era.
There is one aspect of technology that I believe has the potential to change the way humans relate to each other, and that is the technology of communication. I believe that the effects of instantaneous, world-wide communication include:
-the conversion of disparate groups into a series of connected global villages;
-the imposition of technological barriers to face to face, or voice to voice, communication, especially among young adults.
Ironically, the first effect increases communication, but the second effect degrades the effectiveness of the communication. The result is a vast inter-connectedness at a superficial, factual level, but tendency to lack deep, emotional communication. The first effect reduces isolation amongst groups around the world. The second effect increase isolation within a local setting.
Whatever happened to long talks? They’ve been replaced by short texts. What happened to the non-verbal cues from direct, face-to-face contact? They’ve been reduced to a question of whether you’re both on I-messaging, or not – blue messages versus green messages. In fact, texting can probably convert 80% of non-verbal communication into text messages, with no context or facial expressions.
When those youths have an outlet for their need to connect – to belong – is it any wonder that they might find this connection in a world-wide group that shares their particular ideology?
This connectedness can take an infinite number of forms. The vast majority might be completely benign. But some won’t be, because, well, that’s part of the human story, as well.
If we’re wondering what in the world is going on today, maybe we should try to have a real, personal connection more often each day with those who are nearest and dearest to us. The world can be saved, one relationship at a time.
Why not start with the ones that we love the most?
If the idea of “six degrees of separation” are valid, it won’t take long to make the world a better place to live.
Recommended Reading – “Fahrenheit 451”, by Ray Bradbury. Focus on the questions that Clarisse asks Montag, and how she changes his life, after a few, brief, face-to-face encounters. For fun, make a list of all of the modern consumer technologies that Ray Bradbury described (in detail), when he wrote the book – in 1950!