Three words to save the world

I was humbled by the response to yesterday’s post on ANZAC day – check out some of the comments to see what I mean.

Thank you. And it spurred me to a few further thoughts – an extra post. I’d like to know your thoughts.

Historians such as Niall Fergusson argue that the First and Second World Wars were the same conflict, divided by twenty years of uneasy peace. I agree. And it introduced the world to what Richard Overy called ‘deep war’ – dark, like deepest night.

Today the age of industrialised warfare between major nations seems to be over. But I am not holding my breath. History offers dismal lessons. The eighteenth century introduced us to relentless global warfare, cold and hot, between major nations. The cycle broadly began in the late 1680s and ended on the field of Waterloo in 1815. Afterwards the combatants actively sought permanent world peace. Er – quite. Today, 70,000,000+ dead later, Europe’s foes of 1914-45 are united. Humanity survived the Cold War of 1945-92. Yet today, the world is just as violent and unstable as ever.

Sadly, it seems the dark side of human nature dooms us to fight. Is there an answer? Maybe not; but we can do a lot with reason, tolerance and kindness. It is such a simple thing – accepting others, being reasonable, and being kind. It’s my motto for this blog, and my motto as a writer.

Three simple words: reason, tolerance, kindness. What do you think?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012


12 thoughts on “Three words to save the world

  1. Very wise words! That is one reason why we need people like you to share historical stories. By better understanding the past one can better understand other people, and hopefully not repeat all of the mistakes of previous generations.

  2. Reason, Tolerance and Kindness. In a world where we get to practice those values are commendable and would certainly reduce some of the conflict, particularly if we could remove history as well. Then perhaps, they (the unreasonable, intolerant and unkind), would be left without a reason for their unreasonableness, intolerance and unkindness. For most argue over what had happened in the past as being the reason they behave that way. And if there was no history, what reason would they be left with?

  3. Very well said. We’d certainly be better off as a species and be able to make the world a lot better place if a lot more people practiced these three traits. Thanks for a couple of great posts.

    1. Thank you. And I think some of the time DO proceed along these lines – including Winston Churchill, who laid similar ideas out in his history of the Second World War (“In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance, in victory: maganimity, in peace: goodwill). Max Hastings recently pointed out that if we want to see why that war was fought, we have but to compare Churchill’s reasoned oratory of 1940 – when Britain was on her knees – with the deranged ranting of a certain German dictator five years later when the tables had finally been turned.

  4. Oh, heavy sigh. I could write a volume or two on this subject but it wouldn’t really add anything to the argument. The only ray of hope I see in the decades since WW2 is that we as a species didn’t manage to blow ourselves to kingdom come with nuclear weapons. I’ve read Ferguson’s The Pity of War — excellent. Let me recommend two other titles to you: (1) A Terrible Love of War, by James Hillman, and (2) The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler. OK, one more: On Killing, by Col. Dave Grossman. Eisler’s book develops a concept she calls “dominator psychology” which, if read in conjunction with Hillman’s and Grossman’s books, supports an interesting theory of why, exactly, we as a species go to war and what motivates us to kill. After World War 1, no one had any illusions about glory and honor in war, so why did we so eagerly jump into World War 2? Even if it was a “necessary” war? Anyway, if we promote reason, tolerance and kindness, we have a better chance of survival. Let’s cross our fingers on it.

  5. Matthew, please take this the right way – and read why – but this made me cry. Three such simple words. For me personally, it wasn’t the world I was worrying about, but my husband. Last night as we were lying in bed (the only time we really get to talk these days!) memories came flooding back for him, as they do from time to time. He was talking about how he couldn’t understand how the RRT member had made some of the statements and drawn some of the conclusions he did, or how the lawyer appointed for him ahd kept just saying “Hurry up, we only have 24 hours” (bit rough when your life depends on the outcome).

    Then there was our partner visa catastrophy. Had those three words been applied, NONE of it would have happened.

    I know your looking at the world in your article, but it occurred to me, if we started local, surely it would spread? We can’t even apply these three simple words in our daily lives a lot of the time. Look at Australia’s latest fiasco of deporting a man who arrived when he was 27 days old – he knows no other place, but he never applied for citizenship. It is a long and complicated story, but for us to deport a person who has lived all but his first 27 days in this country seems cruel.

    Will the human race ever get it right?

    1. Thank you – I am very humbled by your thoughts. And yes, I think the only way to start is by setting examples to those around us. My own example of ‘reason’ stems from Peter Munz, who taught me the philosophy of history post-grad at Victoria University. He was a Jewish refugee whose family had come to New Zealand in 1938 to escape persecution. It would, I think, have been very easy for him to be bitter, given what happened; but he always insisted that the real answers can be found by reason.

      Will humanity ever get it right? We must always hope that this will happen; but equally, I fear that the human condition is such that it carries the seeds of its own destruction alongside all the good that we could do. Starting by setting personal examples of reason, kindness and tolerance is, I think, the first step. I try to; and I just wish more people did the same.

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