[Note: I will be giving a presentation on this subject this Sunday, December 12th, from 12:30 to 1:30 at the Unitarian Church (Hewett Hall), 49th and Oak, Vancouver]
Johann Goethe wrote: “Viewed from the height of reason, all life looks like some malignant disease and the world like a madhouse.”
His view may seem extreme, but most of us have lived our lives in a bubble, protected from the horrors of our world. We have been spared the traumas of warfare and catastrophe on the one hand, or the day-to-day misery of parents who can’t afford food for their children.
In addition, we have ignored these realities because witnessing such suffering would be overwhelming. Schopenhauer said that anyone who viewed even a small fraction of the amount of pain in the world would go mad.
We also turn away because we can.
Of course, every once in a while we are reminded of how bad things can be: the earthquake in Haiti, innocents killed in Afghanistan, child abuse, and so on.
Also, the corporate media give us a very biased, antiseptic view of reality, along with an infinity of distractions.
While there are a host of complex factors that are responsible for the horrors in the world, the global systems of wealth and power are the main sources of these problems. At the risk of oversimplifying, it is the Capitalist economic system, along with the global state structure, which is primarily responsible for condemning tens of millions of people to die every year from preventable causes, and for most of the violence in the world – for guaranteeing that most people’s lives are “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Now, however, the miseries inflicted on others is coming “home”, especially since the recession that began in 2008. “Austerity” is now the order of the day in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, and Greece, while the richest nation on earth, the United States, is struggling with the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
Capitalism is also destroying the natural world.
I could continue, but it is vital to stress that NONE of these problems are necessary, for the simple reason that we already have more than enough knowledge, technology, and wealth to address all of these issues.
For instance: only a fraction of the $16 billion that the Conservatives want to waste buying U.S. warplanes could end poverty in Canada.
And in 2009. the combined net worth of the world’s 1,011 billionaires increased to $3.6 trillion, up $1.2 trillion. Just one-quarter of the NEW wealth in just one year could end global poverty.
Any system that wastes trillions of dollars on war while killing the natural world and perpetuating poverty is pathological.
However, we have the power to change it, beginning with the fact that most people would love to see an end to war, poverty, environmental destruction, and so on.
We can do it.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” – John Lennon