Monday, April 30, 2007

Of Tao and MsDemmie

This post is in response to a post from MsDemmie in response to a response about another one of her posts that she posted for BYB: Sunday. Got all that? Well this blog is called "Blather and Rants..." I was going to just add this to the comments on her blog, but I realized it was too long. Also I wanted an excuse to use this pic since I think I look vaaary nice on that horse...

First off, thanks for answering the question!!! The idea of reasoned discourse is one of the things that bring me back to the internet: I wish it happened more often.

Second, sorry that it took me so long to respond. I don't really have a good excuse so I will not prattle on with a lame one.

And now some comments: I think that the blessing you described is more of an ideal than the literal truth: I don't think the kind of peace the poem described is the case when a nation is at peace. I strongly disagree that we are raising a generation where violence is the norm: I think human beings are extremely peaceful compared to most critters on the planet.

While I wish it were true that, if a nation is at peace, that there is peace in the cities, neighbors, homes and heart; it just isn't so. I think the situation with the USA and Japan over trade is good example. In many ways, the people of the USA resent the loss of jobs to people overseas. I recall an example where a congressperson took a sledgehammer and smashed a portable stereo to symbolize her feelings about the situation.

This was by no means limited to the citizens of the United States. There were also cases where Japanese workers would do essentially the same thing with goods produced in America. Yet the USA and Japan are at peace. Here is a situation where the nations are clearly at peace, but the people are clearly not at peace in their hearts.

Just because something is something is unattainable, however, does not mean it is not worth striving towards. On the contrary, this is one of the things it means to be human! As a people we will never reach peace, enlightenment, etc, but the process of striving – of trying to better oneself, is the human condition.

I think that many people will agree with your opinion that we as a people are raising a more violent generation or that humans are generally destructive. But I would ask: compared to what? Recall that previous generations have given us World War 1, World War 2, centuries of conflict in Europe, Asia, etc. If a generation wants to be "more violent" than the pervious one, they have a lot of work to do!

Compared to many species, human beings are incredibly cooperative and peaceful. Lions, wolves, etc. will all regularly fight, injure or kill each other. The same is true of many herbivores and sea-dwelling mammals. Conflict and even what one might consider "war" is by no means limited to humanity among primates – even Jane Goodall has observed fatal conflicts among chimpanzees.

[Sorry about the vague references – if anyone actually cares leave me a comment or send me an email and I'll come up with them.]

Now compare this to humanity. We live in incredibly dense, complicated surroundings that requiring intricate cooperation and yet we survive and even flourish. While violence makes the news, consider how much trust is required for a simple traffic intersection to function: there is nothing stopping all the drivers from ramming each other except their willingness to cooperate.

So I think the Tao chant that you mentioned is an idea rather than a goal. Never the less, I think it is an ideal that is worthy and that people should strive towards. I don't think that the generation we are raising is more violent than previous ones – I think human beings in general are peaceful and cooperative.

In closing, given my optimistic outlook and generally amiable disposition, I can't believe I'm writing this. Perhaps this is a sign of future senility, but I do see more hope then despair when I look at us.

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stev said...

i vote this as the best read in ur blog so far! ;)

"Just because something is unattainable, however, does not mean it is not worth striving towards."
Totally agree with this. It's just like that reaching for stars & not getting sh*t quote... But I digress...

How about an ideal which can possibly be a goal to some if not all? And are not ideals but goals to reach for?

msdemmie said...

WOW - what an interesting response. Thank you.

Some thoughts in return.

War can be waged on many different levels.

The USA and the UK are at war. They have occupying troops on the offensive in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They are seen as warmongers and aggressors by a large percentage of the worlds population.

Not only are we physically engaged in war - we are also in a financial war - competing for trade and goods at the lowest prices possible.

We have a similar loss of jobs in the UK to those in the Indian sub-continent and to the Asian block including Japan.

We have very little manufacturing base left in the UK.

My counterpoint here is that we may not be "at war" - but we are taking part in an ongoing trade war/resources/ economic war.

(And if you think it is bad now just wait five years and see how the situation with China develops!)

I think you draw very valuable comparisons to the animal kingdom - humans seem to have regressed back to that pack mentality - especially in densely populated urban areas - and they do fight over territory - and space and resources - just like wolves in a pack.

I think that where humans had risen above the pack mentality to some extent it is now becoming the norm rather than the exception.

In the UK there are more an more youngsters getting locked up for violent crimes - from shooting and knifing other teenage gang members, to attacking and mugging old ladies - violent crimes are on the increase.

This 2006 YouGov survey reflects what those in the UK felt about the UK and the world becoming a more violent place to live in.

I have been trying to find violent crime statistics for the UK for the last 50 years (ie how long I have been around) to try and illustrate my point - however they are proving elusive.

I now that the UK in 2007 is a far more violent place than the UK in 1957.

I do applaud your optimism - and I do hope that optimism is justified.
It is good to know that there is some hope to be had.