Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Humanity at a Cusp

As the human race wraps up another 365 days of its existence on planet earth, the usual questions about its future still hang in the balance. On the verge of becoming seven billion strong at the end of next year, it may seem that in numbers its future is robust and resilient. But the nature of its survival seems to have a dismal forecast. But there is one thing that keeps the human spirit alive, the idea of "hope". Hope that it can change the trajectory of things to come with ingenious technology and innovation. No matter the odds, the confidence that it can win back time by challenging nature itself is unrelenting. And then there is the arrogance that not much has changed and life will go on as it has for centuries. The inimitable faith that the planet is an infinite place and there is enough room for it to swallow all our refuse no matter what, is still a popular myth bought by many. So the struggle ensues and the battle rages on to keep the dreams for our children alive, so that they may enjoy the beauty mother ship has offered, to generations before.

Humanity is no monolith. It is but a sum of diverse flawed individuals. A smorgasbord of folly, fortitude and formidable tenacity. And so 2010 was not that much different from decades past. Natural and man made calamities, war, terrorism and other earth shattering phenomena made their mark like clockwork. Hunger, poverty, rape and mass murder reminded us yet again that the virtues of human conscience and humanity are never ever present and predictable.

An argument is made that as writers, thinkers, scientists and artists we often concentrate disproportionally on the negative or the dark side. The cynic trumps the pragmatist and the optimist. Especially at years end, one should focus on the strides humanity has made in tackling some of the colossal challenges that it faces and not just on the devastation its actions have befallen. Yes, humanity is on the verge of conquering malaria, the Internet is changing the very fabric of society in many positive ways, space exploration is being privatized, rich people are pledging more of their money to do good on a global scale, nations are beginning to show signs of early cooperation in tackling real climate issues, the rain forests of the amazon were conserved more this year than ever before. So while humanity does make strides and many individuals commit phenomenal acts to uplift the human spirit, they some how seem minuscule in comparison to the havoc it wreaks not just on its fellow citizen but also on species that share this lonely earth.

Humanity's penchant for greed and corruption always looms ever so large, and gets larger as some nations experience an uneven and artificial phenomenon known as "economic boom". The seduction of affluence can blind even the most informed and with unprecedented economic growth promised, consumption is reaching new highs hoodwinking nations and peoples to gamble their destiny. For nations that have always taken tomorrow's sunrise for granted, every day is a wake up call as unemployment runs rampant and a second car becomes a distant suburban dream. Governments looking to get reelected can pass policies and spend their way to the hilt, offering and deluding their citizens that the glory days will return, but what they do not seem to understand is that all resources are a finite commodity, and capitalism in its present form is unsustainable. Even knee jerk capitalism inside communism, with all its successes as in China is fundamentally unsustainable. 2010 in many ways was a year of fundamental change. A reformative year to remind us that the fountain of endless affluence and growth is but an illusion.

So when, where and how do we begin to appreciate the future and move away from the "end of days" scenario that is always present and is constantly reminded to us by the media. When do we begin to look at ourselves beyond the trappings of power, politics, greed, religion, dogma and division and think of ourselves as the ocean that we are. When do we begin to accept that our progress and problems are interconnected and that nations and people are all essentially the same, sharing the same destiny. When do we recognize that no nation is immune to the ebb and flow of economic and social upheaval, despite their historical make up, as globalization has erased certain walls.

And so heading into a new year full of unknowns, instead of making new resolutions, if we as a species can acknowledge the mistakes we have made in the past, that would be a huge step in the right direction. If nations were required to publish a report at the end of every year acknowledging and listing the mistakes they made that year, I think the world would be a better place. And if individuals did the same, they would be happier. Wishful thinking maybe, but to think and rethink the unthinkable is to be human.
It is what it is.