Global Policy Forum

The Only Hope for the World


By Doug Soderstrom, PhD*

February 1, 2006

The world has gotten itself into a real jam. I mean a humdinger of a jam! As in John Paul Sartre's existential drama, No Exit, which so nicely portrays the inescapability of self-chosen evil, the inevitability of a self-made Hell, there seems to be no way out for the world; no way for the inhabitants of planet Earth to escape what appears to be the inevitability of a hell of its own making….. World War III!

Of course, as I tell my students…. the history of the world is the history of war, as armed conflict seems to have been a constant companion. From the beginning of time, it appears that we have "been at each other's throats." However, since that fateful day in 1945 when "Little Boy" gave us a glimpse of what was to come, things have never quite been the same. Before Hiroshima, the world was able to deal with man's inhumanity to man, but with the advent of modern nuclear (or in the words of George Walker Bush… "nucular") warfare, things have gone from bad to worse. No longer can we afford to dabble with our weapons of mass destruction. One more mistake, one more miscalculation, and the world will go up in flames!

George Walker Bush, the leader of the so-called free world, seems to have forced the world into an existential corner, one which leaves others with little choice but to roll over and "play dead" or else retaliate. Something like grabbing the world by its proverbial balls, and then slowly squeezing until it decides to either give up or fight back. It is this man, the one who touts "freedom and democracy for all," who has decreed that the world must play by his rules, and, for those who do not, well…… they will simply have to die. And, of course, that's the reason for the administration's formulated policy of pre-emptive war; to encourage the world to do exactly as it is told. There can be no doubt that the United States has become the biggest bully on the block, a true terrorist, the likes of which the world has never seen, an accomplishment for which our president seems to be extremely proud.

But given the Middle East's movement toward democracy, a deliberate denunciation of secular rule, a certain decision to root itself in the faith of its own people, the Islamic world has made it clear that it will no longer cow tow to George Bush. Similarly, the Western world seems to be moving back to its own roots. As can be seen in recent elections (Germany, Canada, and, of course, the United States), much of the western hemisphere (although not Venezuela or Cuba) seems to be increasingly aligning itself with the values of a post modern world, those that extol the virtues of capitalism, civil religion, sensuality, conspicuous consumption, and military dominance. No doubt a true clash of cultures, a war of wills, a cockfight with but one thing in mind; the absolute destruction of all who stand in the way!

With such contention, I see only one way out; a metamorphic leap of faith, an about face in the way we think, a decision to let go of everything that we, as a nation, once held dear, an understanding that the world will surely end unless we recognize the fact that we have no choice but to embrace our enemy as our brother, the one, without whom, we will never find peace, a brother-in-arms, enchained from head to toe, with whom we will either drown, or, together, might be allowed to live for yet another day.

The world has been taught that survival is king; that a people must do what they believe to be in their own best interests, what they believe is necessary in order to survive, with little, or no, regard for its effect upon others (as in the collateral damage, the death, of as many as 100,000 Iraqi citizens during the most recent war in Iraq). However, such an approach can no longer be considered an acceptable way of life in a world in which the life of one is so inseparably tied to that of another, a world in which the annihilation of one may well lead to the death of the other. Thus the need for a metamorphic leap of faith, a divinity founded upon that which we all have in common, our humanity, a presumption that each and everyone of us, as human beings, are sacred, a recognition that killing others, even those of the enemy, represents a failure of the human spirit, a miscalculation, a profound misunderstanding of why we have been "placed upon" the earth, an inability to understand that for the world to survive we must consider what is best for the entire human family, otherwise we will all perish.

When you get down to it, nations are not that much different from individuals. We all seemingly want what we want and to hell with everyone else. But the time for change has come. It has been said that we, as modern folks (as opposed to so-called primitives, aboriginals who have no need for nuclear bombs nor delight in the destruction of their environment), are civilized. That due to our advancement, the fact of how we have seemingly progressed, how we have become such an educated lot, we have become known as those of the so-called civilized world. However, if civilization means anything at all, it means to be civil, to be courteous, to be thoughtful and kind. It implies a willful concern for the needs of others. Essentially, the capacity to extend our will so that it might include that of others, a propitious incorporation of their need into that of our own, a conscious decision to ensure that the survival of one becomes the survival of the other, a transformation in the way we think, a sincere desire for peace, a state of harmony in which each works for the betterment of others.

Perhaps Jesus, as well as Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), said it best when each proclaimed that we "should not do unto others that which we would not have them do unto us." Put another way, if we want to learn how to get along with others, it is absolutely essential that we be willing to place ourselves into that of our brother's shoes. That we ask ourselves how we might feel if our adversary were about to do to us that which we have been planning to do to him. And, of course, if having come to the conclusion that such a thing would be inappropriate, then, as a moral fellow (a moral nation that is), it would behoove us to act appropriately in regards to our brother (that of the other nation).

Alas, such is not the way of the world. Rather, it seems that according to our country's foreign policy- the way we have, in fact, chosen to deal with other nations of the world- we have been inclined to put ourselves first, to look at things from our own rather petty, no doubt provincial, and nearly always biased, point of view. Without exception, we have demonized our enemies, in the past Germany and Japan, most recently in Iraq, and now, of course, in regards to Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela, choosing to focus on their shortcomings, all in order to make it easier to kill them… if that is what our government decides to do. Conversely, there has been a perennial attempt to escape the fact of our own transgressions, a history of entangled complicity in that of other countries (60 years of Machiavellian manipulation in the Middle East), the overthrow of constitutional democracies, and egregious alignments with foreign dictators. Not to mention the rather arrogant presumption, on the part of so many in our nation, that the United States, having received the a priori blessing of God, has been assigned the divine responsibility of dictating to the rest of the world how it should be governed.

Clearly, such a world view is a recipe for disaster, a way of behaving that will lead to all that we most fear, our worst nightmare come true, an Armageddon of fire and doom, Dante's inferno having come to life... the natural end of a world having gone mad with power, greed, and ambition.

So, the next time you have a chance, listen to George Bush. Listen to Dick Cheney. Listen to Donald Rumsfeld. Listen to what they have to say, and how they say it. Look at how they position their bodies... so straight and tall. Pugnacious profiles. Self-righteous men, hardened to the core, and, no doubt, pious to a tee. Take a look at their faces; the smugness of their smile. And then…… never forget that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that pride, without fail, always cometh before the fall!

About the Author: Doug Soderstrom is a psychologist in Wharton, Texas. Email to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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