Uniting Around the Finest Values of Human Life
Just as people in places like the Maldives, Bangladesh and Pakistan may have shook their heads at the cluelessness of Americans who suddenly woke up to climate change when Sandy came to town, people living in hot spots of violence around the world now have every right to be shaking their heads at the collective American refusal to see and understand how, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, we are much to blame for our own misery.
The U.S. is the largest arms manufacturer and exporter in the world. We have by far the largest military. We are also by far the most heavily armed civilian population in the world, with some 300 million guns circulating among our population of about 300 million people. Americans, we need to acknowledge that collectively, as a nation, we have been responsible for hundreds, and probably thousands of deaths of children worldwide through the weapons we sell abroad.
There is not a conflict in the world today that has not been fueled by American weaponry.
It is hypocritical to weep crocodile tears for the slaughter of innocent children in a kindergarten in Connecticut but to callously ignore the slaughter of innocent children by American drone fire in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We need to start connecting the dots and realizing that the violence we mete out to the world will come back to haunt us a thousand-fold.
I’m not just talking about gun violence or missiles.
I’m talking about the violence of inhuman labor practices and poverty, leading to rage that is sometimes turned inward, as in the spikes of farmer suicides due to heavy-handed Monsanto tactics in places like India and Asia, and sometimes outward, as in the terrorist strikes against targets inside the U.S. (9/11, anyone) or at our representatives abroad (did someone say Benghazi?).
I’m talking about the violence Western-style “development” has wreaked on the natural world, which is now boomeranging back to slam us against the wall of a destabilized climate.
If you create lethal weapons and spread them widely among the populace, you should not be surprised when they discharge and kill people.
If you overheat the climate and bulldoze all the trees, you should not be surprised at the deadly droughts, wildfires, storms and temperature swings that result.
Charles Darwin’s theories, conceived in the 19th century, have long been hijacked to defend the idea that competition is good, that the strongest and fittest survive by invisible decree, and that if the weak perish it’s all for the best. It was a perfect rationale for the capitalist/imperialist narrative of the past 500 years, domination as evolution, at gunpoint and bulldozer blade.
But Darwin never intended his theories of biology to be employed in such ways. Would Darwin look out at today’s dangerous world and proclaim serenely that the coming population drop of humans, due to violence of our own making is simply part of the grand scheme of Evolution?
Even if the answer were “yes,” would that mean we should just sit back and watch it all unfold with detachment?
I don’t think so. I believe it’s the great task of our generation to meet the violence of our time with unwavering, clear-eyed resistance.
To a large extent, the damage has already been done. The guns are circulating out there in the world; the nuclear power plants are whirring; the oil and gas rigs are pumping; the myriad plants and creatures with whom we grew up in our era on the planet are disappearing.
Pandora’s box is wide open, and the Furies have been released in the world.
We may not be able to get them back, but we can continue to insist that they do not represent us. We can continue to stand as beacons to another mode of living, based not on competition and aggressiveness, but on collaboration and respect.
As we move into the darkest week of the year, let us not give up hope that as the planet swings back towards the Sun on December 22, we can collectively climb up out of the abyss of violence and pain, and unite around the finest human values of life, peace and love, for our fellow human beings, and for the planet as a whole.
Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, Ph.D., teaches comparative literature, media studies, and human rights with an activist bent at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and directs the annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and the new Citizen Journalism Project at WBCR-LP. She is a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision, and blogs at Transition Times.