I have no personal resolutions for the year. But I do have hopes. And I thought I’d share one with you. Late last year I posted about the eventual end of the Earth. The planet is not going anywhere. But we might.
Earth. An image I made with my Celestia installation (cool, free, science package).
When I look across human history, at the fighting, at the injustices we do to each other in so many ways, I think the human condition carries the seeds of its own destruction.
I see it everywhere, near and far; I see it in my own life in the the petty intellectualised denials of worth in their peers, on which New Zealand’s historical academics float their egoes, I see it in the behaviours of thugs who seem to think that knives and threats, or beating up people in their own homes, can earn respect. I see it in the way that people in one country plot the death of those in another and feel good for doing so. It is an awful indictment of the human condition.
Where is kindness?
No matter how often we insist wars are over, that we’ve learned from past mistakes, injustices keep happening. And today, with twenty first century technology, it’s worse than ever. Instant personal communication anywhere in the world is a miracle by the standards of a generation ago. What do some use it for? Bullying. Nuclear weapons cannot be un-invented. Diseases are a natural threat, and science has discovered ways of making them worse. We’re using resources like there’s no tomorrow.
One theory is that we suffer from a faulty survival mechanism. According to this idea, back in the Pleistocene, altruism helped humans survive. Kindness counted. We see this in the archaeological record, not least in stone age humans with crippling disease or injury kept alive solely by the kindness of others. But there were also advantages to bands of humans competing with each other. ‘Us and them’ kept the bands tight, drove them to command their environment. The oppostition worked when humanity consisted of clusters of groups, widely scattered. But, the argument goes, it doesn’t work in larger societies.
Certainly humanity has an endless capacity to abstract and intellectualise the darker side of the human condition. And along the way I cannot help thinking that reason, tolerance and kindness get lost.
Some remember kindness. I am impressed with the work of Bill Gates. This man helped make the modern computing world, and now he’s helping cure some of the world’s problems.
Kindness counts, and we need to remind ourselves of that every so often. Reason allows us to see the problems , tolerance allows us to accept others – to let go of what we perceive as a threat to our own self-beliefs - and kindness is the way to deal with others. We must ask not how do others threaten us, but how can we help them?
It may sound naive, but it’s not rocket science. And wouldn’t it be great to make 2013 the year of kindness.
What do you figure?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013