Post 2.12 - Den Sorg av Engler

On Friday, 22nd July 2011, Norway endured coordinated terrorist attacks in the city of Oslo and the nearby island of Utoya. I am writing this post on Saturday, as information is still being discovered, determined, and evaluated. The death toll is currently 93* as of this writing, with the vast majority of the victims being teenagers at a youth camp. The man suspected to be responsible for this chaos has been additionally identified as a Christian fundamentalist, concerned about non-Christians being present in the country.

A friend on Facebook wrote, Well when we stop focusing on important issues like banning marriages, smoking, and the right to live as individuals maybe we will find time to stop the hate.

My response was, It's not the hate, it's the continued arrogance and ignorance. Do away with those, and the hate goes with it.

And it's just that simple.

Humanity continues to work under the premise that one group is inherently better than another, and we all want to be identified with the "winning" group. This applies to religions, ethnicities, and nationalities, and has fueled wars, prejudice, and our ongoing experiences with terrorism. And enshrining equality in law may provide a method for addressing a grievance, but it doesn't do away with the emotion that caused the problem. People continue to embrace stupidity, believe only what they are told, and then damage the next generation by teaching their children the same crap.

And when are we going to learn? How many more events like these must we endure before we stop thinking our way of thinking is better than everyone else's? When is prejudice in any form simply going to be unacceptable -- not only as an ideal, but as an instinct?

It is this failure to embrace humanity as a group that keeps us from progressing as a species. And by this point in our history and development, we really need to know better. We seem to lack the ability to separate and recognize the overall levels in society, that we exist as individuals and part of a larger whole, and that there are different rules for these groups.

But it really is basic. Let's try a few easy axioms.
  • You can believe what you want to believe to govern how you live your life, but your beliefs do not apply to everyone else, and you have no right to impose them.
  • You can work hard and be successful, but not at the expense of other people. Cheating someone is the same as stealing from them.
  • Demonstrable fact trumps "belief" or "theory". A willingness to update your perspective based on fact is a sign of strength, not weakness. Believing a lie does not make it true.
  • We are all a community. We have the ability and the obligation to support the weakest among us, because it makes the entire community stronger.
Imagine for a moment that these four items were accepted as standard. It doesn't do away with religion, it doesn't do away with business or capitalism, it doesn't do away with science, and it doesn't do away with progress. It does do away with terrorism, it does do away with systemic arrogance and prejudice, it does do away with ignorance, and it does do away with suffering.

And it puts us all on the winning team.

It's been said that the development of our species can be compared to the development of a single individual, and we are currently in our adolescence. This means that we are cleaving to cultural cliques in the form of nationalities, language, religion, what-have-you.  We can see the adult (correct) thing to do based on logic and observation, but it is difficult to move out of our emotional comfort zones that are manageable spheres of influence. Europe has been struggling with this since the time that the treaty creating the European Union was developed -- how to create a unified bloc without losing the cultural distinctiveness of the various regions? Does being "European" get to trump being "German" or "Dutch"? Smaller countries were particularly concerned about being overrun and having their voices diminished -- not unlike the smaller US states at the formation of our union.

The European left has led the efforts for equality, openness, and multiculturalism; the Norwegian terrorist cited this as his major concern, with the increasing influence of Islam -- but he's not alone. Eastern Europe has always been poorer than Western Europe, particularly following the end of Communism, and there were real concerns about adding these eastern countries to EU, given the benefits of open employment and freedom of movement. Denmark recently instituted its own solutions in border management and security in an attempt to stem the flow of immigrants and crime. These concerns arise each time a new country petitions for entry into the EU, along with the dilution of culture as multiculturalism does not require assimilation.

But we're back to the beginning. Adolescents don't just join cliques because it is comfortable, but because it brings power and influence in some way, even if it is only in the mind. It is impossible to see the forest for the trees, just as humanity doesn't want to look beyond its small group to the larger whole. It's part of our genetic makeup, favoring our family, clan or tribe over a neighbor -- but we're never going to resolve these issues and live in a truly safe world unless we work to move to the next level.

We, in the US, as well as in the greater world, have found strength and success in numbers. Not just in terms of overwhelming the opposition, but in terms of ingenuity, discovery, and shared resources. We have enormous potential, but it will remain only "potential" unless we let go of outmoded ideas.

So I again suggest my axioms. From my perspective, we'd only lose the worst of our nature, and stand to gain progress beyond imagination.

* On Monday, 25th July, Norwegian authorities revised this number down to 76.

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