Friday, July 8, 2016

History's Crooked Line...

Science fiction writers dream of future worlds where petty feuds and national boundaries have been erased by the tide of human evolution, where the planet Earth stands as one in a brave and noble quest to explore the universe.  When the world was younger, we had our dreams.  And, hopes.

Today, it seems, the dream withers and humanity seems to be receding backwards into darkness, rather than forward into light.

The European Union was a dream.  For some of us, the first step towards a United States of Europe.  Of the world, perhaps.  But, fear, selfishness, tribalism, cynicism and feelings of alienation triumphed over the newer human qualities of hope and idealism.  Reversion to fear and anger killed at least  part of that dream when England, to the shock of the world, withdrew from the E.U.

Some blame the failure on bigotry; the same fear of the outsider, of the stranger who is different from you and me, the primal fear in all of us that drives police bullets into black suspects (and now, perhaps the reverse) and fuels Donald Trump's wall-building frenzy.  Trump builds walls against Mexicans and Muslims, the Israelis build walls against Palestinians.  Now, the English want to build walls against all foreigners.  Walls are going up all over.  Is it just bigotry?

Partly.  But, others blame elitism.  Decades of the rich and the powerful ignoring the working class. There's truth in that. What we are seeing now, worldwide is in many ways a worker's revolt.  Sad, that all that unfocused anger, festering for so long had to find its focus in the blind hatred of the outsider.

So, is this the end of the dream?  Has humanity made the final U-turn?  We are never to stand as one in reaching for the stars, but only cower behind our damned walls, fearing foreigners and killing each other, ultimately turning not outward to new frontiers, but inward to the caves?

Maybe.  But, then again, it would be na├»ve to expect human progress to be a straight line from the caves to the stars.  It never has been.  History has always been a crooked line.  There have always been great rises and falls.  Advances followed by grave disappointments.  The dream of a United States of America was delayed, after all, by a civil war fueled by both economic conflict and racism.  Many would contend the former eclipsed the latter.  America simply had to unite, in spite of its divisive racial hatreds and fears, because larger forces demanded it.  And after re-unification, the dream and the struggle continued, and still continues today, through all the senseless hatred and violence.  The line is crooked yes, but it does seem to move forward, however haltingly.  The same may yet prove true in Europe and elsewhere.  Only time will tell.

Perhaps today's sad failure will be tomorrow's wake-up call.  Perhaps a house divided against itself truly cannot stand.  Maybe it took something like this to wake the world up to the fact that elitism is not the road to the future.  The workers must have a hand in the future they are called upon to build.  A truly united Europe...or ultimately a united Earth... must be one that includes the votes and voices of the common people.  But, for that to happen, education must take the next generation beyond its tribal fears and isolationist instincts.  The vote to exit the E.U. was largely a vote of the old over the objections of the young.  The last gasp of a dying generation?  We'll see.  Where there's life, there's hope.

Lessons learned, and tomorrow's another day.  Maybe.