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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 147: March 2007

Also in this editorial:

War do we go from here?

We are now coming up to four years since the current Iraq war started. What is clear is that the world is a less safe place since the ‘war on terror’ started. Bush and Blair may try to con us into thinking that, despite ‘setbacks’, we are safer following the Iraq war than before. But this is a damned lie, or at least a lie that has damned many. A recent US study compares the numbers killed by Islamic jihadist attacks in different parts of the world pre- and post-Iraq war (since ‘9/11’), and found that, irrespective of location, the world has become a less safe place concerning this source of attacks. Should we be surprised? No. Bush and Blair badly misread the signs before the war just as they have gone on misreading the signs since.

The danger of an attack on Iran, only partly because of its developing nuclear programme, is a real and dire one, though we can take some comfort that some senior US generals might resign if this was to come to pass, and Bush knows that this would be an unprecedented snub and disastrous politically. There is also speculation that perhaps a turn of the tide has come in the Bush administration itself in how it seeks to relate to countries it strongly disagrees with. But none of this is a guarantee that the Bush administration will not continue with its crazy war plans.

What the world needs is not more war or attacks. What the world needs is clean drinking water, an urgent assault on the causes of global warming, a move to fairer trade for products from poor countries, and security which grows from social, economic and political progress for all, not ‘security’ which grows from a gun barrel. Those who ‘bought’ the war on Iraq from Bush and Blair were sold a pig in a poke (or, as they say in German, a cat in a sack – perhaps we could use a different English language metaphor that, concerning the reasons for going to war, ‘the cat is out of the sack’). That war turned out to be something far, far different to what its proponents thought. Further war is not only going to compound the existing problems but further poison international human relations. The greatest threat to global security is undoubtedly global warming, both for its own dire consequences and for the inevitable conflicts which will emerge as climate change refugees, and countries badly affected, come into conflict with others; the greatest current disaster is world poverty. Let us fight against global poverty and global warming; this struggle would provide rewards in terms of human security and well being which the ‘war on terror’ could only dream about.

Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight
brings us his monthly column

The Meaning of Existence

Some newspapers recently printed a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of an exploding star, giving us a unique insight into the fate of our home, planet Earth. The Earth is an old planet, it is well into its senior years, and as James Lovelock informs us (2006) the sun, on which it depends for light and energy reached its ideal warmth for life on Earth two billion years ago. A billion years from now the sun will be too hot for life on Earth and the planet will die in a massive explosion in which its atoms will be scattered across the universe forming the basis of new stars, and possibly living creatures, uncountable billions of years from then.

This knowledge of the fate of the Earth is a cause of reflection on the meaning of human life. The story of our planet, of the grand cycle of life – death - life, tells us that nothing is permanent, that nothing remains unchanged, and transience is an integral part of existence. That everything that is beautiful and wonderful, unpleasant and painful will become as dust. A common response to this realization is despair, which effectively can make living an agony if not impossible. For many the antidote to despair is the belief that of all the creatures that have ever existed humans alone don’t die but rather live forever, live longer than the Earth, longer than the sun, longer that the cosmos itself. Further, that every human intention and deed will survive, as an impression in the mind of God, for which there will be a reckoning. This is surely a fairy tale stranger by far than those we tell our children.

What enables the belief in human immortality to survive is that it is encoded in culture, which is imbued in each new generation from the moment of birth, thus becoming invisible to the eye through which we look at the world. Other beliefs without substance are also passed uncritically from generation to generation. In some cultures it is the inferiority of women relative to men. This no doubt accounts for the fact that in the Catholic Church, regardless of the theological arguments, women are not allowed to become priests, and in Islamic Arab countries women are forbidden to be alone with males who are not close family members.

The question is, can life have meaning when there is the realisation that there is no eternity of any sort, when in the end everything, books, paintings, digital recordings and stone monuments will be less than atoms in the vastness of space, and when we have no deceased Mum or Dad, or dear departed friend acting as our Guardian Angel, when our love and pain and effort receive no divine recognition? I think that in spite of finalities life has meaning. It is in every breath we take, in appreciating the moment, beauty, humour, comfort, discovery, avoiding pain, and in love, including love of nonhuman beings. It is because of love that we care, which extends to wanting to mitigate global warming, protect biodiversity, and put an end to injustices of all kinds. In our culture to effectively love means unlearning a lot of what we have been taught, which is a challenge, but one that is meaningful and has a purpose that transcends us.

Copyright INNATE 2021