In the wake of the past week, I wish to re-publish this essay and request your attention and consideration.
If I have your attention, let me clearly state that I do not want to obtain a wholesale swap of the reader’s convictions to what you may believe are mine. I intend to move no one from left to right or right to left. I would hate to live in a community of intellectual clones.
What I will try to do is shake some thinking, just as one would shake a martini. Having been shaken, some minds might be more interesting and interested in what should be our common goal: a benevolent, forgiving and charitable community that sees a value in each human life.
Fear is our greatest enemy. I believe that the polarity produced by fear is more damaging than terrorism. Fear is the purpose of the terrorist. Fear attempts to convince us that “other people”” are the enemy. Fear persuades us “to throw out the baby with the bath water”.
When people feel fear, they always invent “evil people” to be the source of the threat. The “other” is a historically developed explanation for disasters. It has seldom been accurate.
There is no them; there is only us. Walt Kelly’s popular cartoon character Pogo in an iconic statement says: “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”
“It is us versus them.” “It was a snake. It was the Devil. It was a witch. It’s foreign. It’s alien. It’s anyone else’s beliefs. It’s the poor. It’s the rich. It’s the feminists. It’s the male chauvinist pigs. It’s the criminals. It’s the police.” When I was a boy, it was the “Japs” and the “krauts”.
The findings of DNA research and the decoding of the human genome have proven that every living person has the same genetic great-grandfather and great-grandmother. (1) There is no them; there is only us.
In only fifty years, a controlled inbreeding program took wild red foxes and by selective breeding, produced a breed of domestic silver foxes.(2) Apparent differences in the wild red fox and the domestic fox, obscure a common ancestry. Biological differences are small in the progeny of same ancestry.
Billions are spent identifying our fears and selling us artificial solutions that would allegedly save us from those fears.
Snake oil salesman and “spiritual self-appointed carnival barkers” sell us their solution to our concerns. Politicians seem to believe that fear-baiting is their most useful tool. There have been dozens of times charismatic cult leaders have convinced many believers, of their “visions”, predicting the “end of the world” when, in truth, they were the disaster. They seize on our fear of death and try to achieve our intellectual surrender, if not physical death, to quell our fear of death. Remember Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple 1978? (3) Nine hundred people simultaneously committed “revolutionary suicide” (This was the origin of the phrase: “drink the Cool-aid”). Today, those who shout with strong convictions, stimulate a passionate defense from a mirror-image crowd that demands equal time, each wanting us to “drink their Cool-aid”.
Now I start each day with a new ritual of not turning on the television. One can obtain an objective, unemotional report on the internet. The TV and radio channels all seem to be on one end or the other, of a swing of the pendulum with Ayn Rand on one end and Mother Teresa on the other. I invite you to join me in a “fast” from television and radio; take opportunities for face to face, listen to others and seek similarities. That which we share is much greater than our differences.
Contrary to what numerous talking heads would have us believe, catastrophes are part of life: floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and infectious pandemics are horrible but they are not caused by witches, strange people or the other guy’s dogma.
For eons, tribes have always blamed their problems on other tribes from the other side of the mountain. That’s easy but it never works. What works is to calm down and find common ground values. Together, let us look outwards toward the real enemy that includes inflammatory rhetoric, slander and name calling to gin up fear of “the.other”. Rather, let us seek mutual understanding and forgiveness. Let us nurture communities that we would be proud to leave to our grandchildren and that which our grandparents expected of us.
There is no them; there is only us.
Charles Clanton Rogers, June 27, 2015
(1 [human genome] Green, Eric D., http://www.genome.gov/115
(3) [Peoples Temple] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/