If I could change one thing, I would ask that all people have empathy. If they did, they would respect others and love the humanity in all people. If we could somehow learn this, most of the world’s worst problems would fade away. Can you imagine what the Middle East would be like right now? Do you realize that the weekly death toll of unarmed people of color would be zero?
Here’s something that Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, simply do not understand. Remember 9/11? Of course you do. It was an atrocity and it was traumatic. But in many parts of the world people didn’t get very excited about it. And why not? Because for them, the scope of 9/11 was rather small (under 3,000) compared to the ongoing destruction of their lives by Western armies and corporations, particularly American ones, continuous destruction for centuries.
The atrocity of 9/11 was small and insignificant.
The great 1984 chemical accident in Bhopal, India was inevitable, created by the industrial hubris that allowed obviously unsafe conditions to persist and deteriorate, until some 16,000 people were killed outright, and over a half million were permanently injured. Union Carbide was driven into bankruptcy because of their brazen disregard for the lives and safety of those around them, but those victims still alive thirty years later live in misery because of their injuries.
I mention this incident, but it is only one of a centuries-long litany of worldwide evil in the name of profit, often perpetrated on simple people just trying to live peacefully. And always so that a few rich people could become even richer. Take Nigeria, and the ongoing destruction of the environment for the sake of the oil there. Thousands have had to leave their ancestral lands because they no longer support life. The society has been ripped apart, and everybody now lives in the dismal polluted slums of Lagos, a city of eight million.
The great 1984 chemical accident
in Bhopal, India killed 16,000 outright,
and permanently injured half a million.
Not that western corporations have a corner on the atrocity market. Nearly every day there is news of one Muslim group or another bombing a different Muslim group at a mosque, at a wedding, at a funeral, or a market place. Any why would they do this? Because in the year 680 the grandson of the prophet Mohammed was murdered. This is seen as sufficient reason to murder members of the other main sect 1,333 years later—that and the fact that they pray funny. Or they are getting even for the most recent atrocity by committing yet another one.
History is full of this stuff, and it would all disappear with a modicum of empathy.
Not that Muslims have a corner on the stupid atrocity market either. There are frequent mobs of violent Hindus, and Neo-Nazis commit atrocities in several countries. Even at the local level in American cities, gangs of young men go out every night carrying guns with which they hope to murder members of other gangs whom they don’t personally know, or just innocent bystanders. If we could assign a meta-goal for this ongoing activity, we might say that its purpose is to thin the ranks of young males, and assure the fiscal health of the prison industry. The project has been very successful that way.
Do you know why the US can’t accept
the most sensible definition of terrorism?
Nor can our government lay any claim to stellar ethical behavior. Do you know why the US can’t accept the most sensible definition of terrorism, the killing of innocents? It’s because in WWII and other wars we carpet-bombed civilian populations, and dropped two A-bombs on civilian populations, people who had nothing to do with the war. Our more recent wars and the use of drone terrorism are not so benign either.
How to overcome these tendencies, how to promote respect for all life, is the keystone necessity for a peaceful world. The truth of this came to the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in a flash:
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.