Youth will go ten thousand miles to find the smiles of Mother Earth.
A mother more, to ease the pain, comfort and console a baby’s cry.
But as rocks melt my dear and seas are running high.
Let’s take our cup of kindness yet for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.
You must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
Lies dead by the side of the road
You must see how this could be you
(Naomi Shihab Nye)
There but for the grace of god go I
When a pacifist nun, 82-year-old can break into the inner sanctum of a nuclear weapons complex, we should say, well done.
The world looks down a road of mounting insecurity living on borrowed time as the international community is out-maneuvered in its attempts to avoid an increasingly hostile future. 2021 trails away in disbelief, disappointment and dread emanating from a high-court decision opening the door to the extradition of a fragile Julian Assange, but at the same time exits on a note of great elation with the Nobel Peace lectures. Two journalists that inspire, one a Russian Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov, are more than willing to stand up for goodness and freedom, both of which walk the plank. The other, Maria Ressa1 addressed the threat to press freedom and referred to the toxic sludge in which hate thrives. “When I go home” (to the Philippines), she said “I have no idea what the future holds-but it’s worth the risk.” In the Philippines, Russia, China, Turkey and Hungary autocratic leaders control much of the narrative. Civil war between political parties republicans and democrats, right and left undermine democracy. Military coups attempt to enslave populations, such as in Myanmar and Sudan. Repression, suppression of individuals and groups ideas prevail. State and para-state organs seek to destroy individuals, groups and designated dissidents with detention, imprisonment/incarceration and torture. Hope and trust in our world where inequality and social dementia prevail are two major elements helpful to a successful retreat from the brink.
When misplaced influence prevails, turning a blind-eye can turn lands of the blind with one-eyed rulers into a much darker place. We have to fight the fake, condemn governments locked in corruption and deal with disease and disaster that transforms fertile land into cemeteries. Many instruments have been tried to direct our world: militarism, crusades, sanctions, prayers or resurrection, commercialism, nationalism, socialism, capitalism, globalization, but not classical philosophy. The children’s crusade failed because it was driven by despair. Youth imbued with classical philosophy just may achieve something that no instrument has achieved before.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has offered a moral indictment of the state of our world in his reference to the abyss moving in the wrong direction, which is equivalent to the recent Appeal of the World Philosophical Forum in Athens and my social dementia discussed within the International Youth Forum in Belgrade, both held in late 2021. Philosophy and youth in no uncertain voice say enough is enough; cope or cop-out. They need the support of the international community and government. Perhaps this request for support can become a New Year’s resolution.
The flagship Earth runs the risk of a shipwreck of titanic proportions that will deep-six humanity to full-fathom fifty. The morning and evening star will sink together and neither Mars nor Mercury will reach Earth on time. Uncertainty, mindlessness and distortion characterize our current moment and no longer should we ask for whom the bell tolls. From Greece, the Pope worries about the shipwrecking of civilization. The wages of scholasticism were paid at the expense of Greek classical philosophy; the search for the golden mean remains still, yet out of reach, and youth lost out in Glasgow (COP26).
Climate change accelerates faster than ever, with 50% of the known environmental damage having been done in recent years. The available healing capacity (social policy, technological innovation, environmental education and indigenous wisdom) remains largely unused. Life runs down as homeostatic mechanisms supporting it are being pushed to work outside the temperature window that has benefited evolution; agricultural development, emergence of language, society, science, philosophy and culture. It is no exaggeration to say that vulnerability and inequality, hand in hand, grow faster and the survival of humanity hangs in the balance and the crosshairs of annihilation.
At 90 and dropping symbolic seconds to midnight on the clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the wisdom of classical philosophy is needed. Midnight is a time when the unexpected can be awaited. Midnight is that awful moment of lost charm when a button pressed can release weapons of mass destruction and end the world as we know it. Culture dies, languages fall silent, radio and television fail to broadcast, museums, music halls, law courts, churches of all denominations, parliamentary houses, and libraries lie in rubble. As thinking beings, we have to wonder which system will collapse next and what will be the route to mankind’s rout. It has come close on several occasions. With each failing system the need for better disaster management is seen and it must be based on interdisciplinary public health within a framework of classical philosophy.
The development of humanity, human thought, culture and all cultural phenomena are strongly connected to philosophy. Philosophy provides insights into fundamental problems; existence and our concept of it, meaning, knowledge, and our value directed cultured minds. Man’s mind has the capacity to examine a proposal without necessarily accepting it. There has to be a way of bridging red lines and lines that divide. Can we find fresh idealism, reject materialism and develop a new found creativity?
On the cusp of 2021-2022 I am in a dilemma with respect to my New Year’s resolution, even though I have made them ever since I can remember. The sentiment of bridging that-which-is and that-which-ought-to-be is strong. Once they came easy but were soon forgotten. In writing articles, hoping to spread out reality and make sense of it, or to strengthen protest or add to a petition, does not seem to get very far, go anywhere. When interesting feedback comes my way I am grateful but it seems insufficient to keep me going and too far away from coffee, conversation and ouzo. A head start was called for, but as it turned out it was the driest, and wordless of one. “What about-telephone wise” I said?... “Sorry just going for my third shot…it’s the flu…I’ll call you tomorrow….let’s not catch delta….COVID is still beating about the bush.”
COVID is winding down to a final endemic status, while viral variants push back, lash out. Certainly, omicron, COP26 and Botswana are working to derail my dilemma, working against my new pop-out-up resolution of ‘write less, play more.’ They are ripping up my resolution, causing me to worry about omega and you my readers are the victims. One COVID variant claims 39 spike proteins, far fewer than the number of angels standing on the head of a not so medieval pin today at the top of the head of many believers.
The year 2021 hosted the glorious bicentennial celebrations of the Greek War of Independence and the 12th dialectical symposium of the World Philosophical Forum. The year has also made good use of Greek letters to name-call COVID variants. It’s as if time, a twelve month bundle of it, wanted to become more literate and send out a plea to become more philosophical. But few hear it! One brilliant scientific achievement of 2021 is the continuing development of a small number of effective vaccines, that if distributed to all can confer planetary herd immunity. One unworthy achievement has been the singling out with stigmatization, of anti-vaxxers as well as an entire continent with its extremely low access to vaccines. One unworthy non-achievement is the incredible number of conspiracy makers.
On an optimistic note it seems that COVID jabs will defend against Omicron. If it continues to surge, the unvaccinated and young will be threatened most. As the world continues to support scholasticism, denigrate public health and accept the status quo of education, incredible and creative things happened in 2021. However, pessimistically, it has failed to vaccinate the world and its successor 2022 will reap revenge. When large parts of the world are unprotected from the virus, the vaccinated elsewhere are still vulnerable (with the unvaccinated more so) to dangerous new variants, such as omicron.
Three continuing and growing humanitarian concerns hard for mankind to get its collective mind around are to provide solutions to horrendous dilemmas; positive and negative aspects inherent in AI, threats and benefits of nuclear science and advancing disruption and destruction caused by climate change. COP26 in Glasgow, while peppered with inspirational talks, was neither a success nor a failure. David Attenborough knows and explained it clearly that millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of human consciousness are under threat. They can unravel slowly with great suffering or disintegrate at some apocalyptic moment in a traumatic big bang. Some days ago the Pope in Greece and from an Island migrant camp referred to the shipwrecking of civilization.
All hands are needed on deck! Flagship Earth flounders in rising seas while its captains and crew are divided on how to reach safe harbor. South Sea islands know they may go under with earth warming as storms rush at it, remnant icebergs encircle it, winds lash it; tempest and typhoon whip it. Its passenger list is the world’s population with a purser for a very small minority on the uppermost deck. Inequality means the vast vast majority are distributed densely in the bowels of a dark hold and spreading up to the lower deck with far too few lifejackets and unwieldy leaky lifeboats, and with seating sufficient to accommodate only the elderly but no way to get them there.
In many places earthlings scramble for lifebelts and relatives await the news. On land the world is being stripped of its security, its rug of life ripped from underneath it; trees are felled and topsoil is washed away as mineral wealth is looted. Breathing becomes labored from pollution and life can be suddenly lost. The bells of hell are ringing ting-a-ling for the entirety of humanity but not all hear them. Knowing that life can be suddenly removed and loved ones can fade away makes it more precious. One sustaining thought has been ‘life is short and the art is long’ but now even culture might fall apart as Dag Hammarskjold’s phrase may be coming true: “the United Nations was created to save humanity from hell.”
Let’s resolve that there is only one race, the human race, that youth must be nurtured, armament production downsized and philosophy come first and for all with an aim to save the planet; slow down or reverse negative trends within society and help rejuvenate individuals, organizations and nations. The symbolic doomsday clock ticks as it moves towards the midnight hour. Given the geographical extent of current conflicts on multiple levels and between many actors, it may advance in a few days; be moved forward from 100 seconds from where it rests now. Our New Year’s resolution should be to turn back the doomsday clock.2
1 Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and Rappler’s CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign and has also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.
2 The writer was raised in a village straddling agriculture and industry that drove the industrial revolution. His village, Rorestone, is registered in the Doomsday Book. Doomsday has become a metaphor sounding the alarm of how close man is, of his own making, to nuclear destruction. It conceptualizes an unalterable-irreversible decision or Last Judgment.
3 The Sakharov Prize going to the imprisoned Alexei Navalny is an excellent choice. See Springtime begins in Saken.