Why do we pledge? The politicians promise a future to the people, and that is not only politicians in a democracy, but also politicians in any kind of ideological system. With that promise, a politician gains popular support, and hence power. The corporations and governments pledge for future action, of what they will do to ensure the safety and security of people and the earth. This has become so common in the field of climate change. But this habit of pledging isn't limited to only the so-called “macro” worlds of politics and policy, but takes place also in the private and personal worlds, such as our friendships and familial relationships. We promise each other so many things. It could be the promise of marriage, of staying together forevermore. It could be the promise of doing something in return, so as to get something from each other now. We might have all been through this habit of pledging, and I think it is quite important to ask ourselves, why do we pledge? Because, by pledging, by promising to do something in the future, we have definitely delayed our action to the future, so that we don't have to do anything now. So it seems, pledging serves one important purpose: preventing immediate action.
The world is dominated by a theory of perpetual economic growth. World economies are measured by its growth in GDP, among other metrics, to determine whether the economy is healthy or functioning. We might ask, what does it mean to be healthy? Does perpetual growth mean health, or does it mean excess, like a tumor? What is really driving our desire for perpetual growth in our economy, and what exactly is growing?
These questions are quite important if we consider them in the context of our lives, and the many crises we face as humanity: war, hunger, human-caused climate and natural disasters. These are real dangers that face human beings in the world, and what is their relationship to growth? Obviously, if we observe our life, things grow, and then they wither. Like any living organisms or inorganic forms, they exist, flourish, multiply, decrease, and die. This is something no one and nothing can escape, but is the idea of perpetual economic growth trying to escape that fact?
Do we measure whose life is more worth living? Do we decide whose life is more expendable?
There seems to be always an uneven reportage of world events. While some wars get tremendously detailed and live coverage, others only make a corner of certain news outlets. Of course, any reportage is uneven by design, because one must choose what to report. This process is necessarily selective, therefore it is rife with prejudice and inequality. So, there arises the need to do more equal reporting, which is of course impossible. As long as we put a measure on human life, there will always be preference as to whose war is more worthy of attention. The current war in Ukrain is more worthy of attention, while there are other wars going on, and other lives lost. One such war is the conflict in northern Ethiopia.
We might not be aware or willing to admit how fragile our civilization has become. It seems that with the smallest ember a big fire can break out. With our current so-called development, we are on a collision course on mutual destruction. It seems very important, at least to me, to understand what we mean exactly by development, and whether that means prosperity or perpetual war.
Many crises have broken out in this century. The climate, the non-stop wars and humanitarian crises, the general breakdown of human psychological health, and the pandemics. Although we as human beings might worship order, we have created chaos in the world. It might seem that the many crises are separate, individual cases, but if we could see where they form at the root, we might understand that they are not different, but similar.
The story is one of the most powerful forms of persuasion. From the very ancient times, parables existed to persuade human beings to obey certain principles. Now, in our technologically advanced civilizations, and waging technologically advanced warfare, not only physically, but also psychologically and culturally, we are still using stories to persuade, to justify, to rationalize our violence. Of course, there is always the better stories, the more truthful narratives. Yet, it is the claim here that no narratives can be truthful. Narratives are inherently a selective process, a representation, and nothing can be further from the truth. In times of crises, we tell ourselves stories, may be immersed in their glory and proclaimed virtue, but we are so frequently unaware of how stories are always written for a purpose. When we believe in any story, we inevitably perpetuate conflict among human beings. There are no better or worse stories. There are only stories, and stories have no relationship to truth.
A scapegoat is easy to find. If we want to find someone to blame, for our many crises, for war, for violence, we can absolutely find someone. This is a way of perceiving history, that the tremendous suffering and pain were caused by a few people making the big decisions. Implied in this way of perception is the tendency to separate oneself from history, to maintain a fairytale of the good against evil, and, of course, we are always the good ones. It is tremendously easy to demarcate, to draw lines and boundaries, to make someone into the enemy. Any declaration of war is this same movement. One must demonize the other in order to justify killing the other. One must say the other is evil in order to liquidate the other with good conscience. But, is any killing done in good conscience? Is any demonization a good? When we tolerate demonization, or even celebrate demonization, do we ever look at ourselves? And when we do, are we really different from the enemy?
The basic assumption of diplomacy is not peace, not compassion, but selfishness. In times of war, or in times of crisis, like a global pandemic, there appears a tremendous amount of calculation, political maneuvering, and deceit. There is so rarely anyone at the international stage who could sincerely say something, who could deliver a message without any ulterior motive. We have seen this going on, and the current Russian war in Ukraine is only a further testament to this selfishness. Every country went out to say something, to make a statement, to say how appalled or proud they are, and so on. But hidden behind these words, were only empty promises, because they didn't really want to promise anyone anything, only to secure their own self-interests.
It seems that humanity is only apt to repeat its own errors. In an age of advanced information technology, we might all notice the countless wars which had been fought since we existed. We have also stopped to ponder the question, why do we have wars? When World War II ended, a great wave of despair and meaninglessness occupied the world, and what has come out of it? Why is it that human beings only know violence? Why do we react only with force? Why do we believe that any kind of war, at any level or scale, can solve any problems at all?