the blood-dimmed tide is loosed
TO FIX A BROKEN PLANET
LOUIS RENÉ BERES
René Beres is Professor of Political Science at Purdue
University. He is author of many books and articles dealing
with international politics. His columns have appeared in the
New York Times, Washington Post, The Jerusalem
Post and OUPblog
(Oxford University Press).
is no such thing,
as a war crime.
War is the crime.
Whatever our faith-based
differences concerning immortality, death has an unassailable
biological purpose — to make species survival possible.
Nonetheless, we humans need not always hasten the indispensable
process with utterly enthusiastic explosions of crime, war,
terrorism, and genocide.
universities, where intellectual direction and fashion are now
largely determined by numbing mimicry and raw commerce, our
students need to learn something truly primal: An individual’s
personal success can make genuine sense only if the larger world
itself has a foreseeable and successful future.
planet, reflecting its myriad constituent parts, faces stubbornly
insidious problems. “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,”
once observed the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and “everywhere
the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”
expanding global deterioration and chaos is more a symptom than
an actual disease. Virtually all world politics hides an inconvenient
truth. This is the ubiquitous and determined unwillingness of
individuals to seek meaning and comfort within themselves. In
consequence, our upcoming presidential election will have no
real bearing on the basic issues of human survival. Neither
candidate truly understands the inner meanings of world politics.
And neither candidate has it within his conspicuously cultivated
capacities to ever discover these vital meanings.
the end, says Goethe, we depend upon creatures of our own making.
Ultimately, what is needed to fix a broken planet must lie far
beyond the fragmented unities and feuding tribes of life on
earth. Only when we are finally allowed to see ourselves as
a single species, can we humans seriously entertain any credible
hopes of progress and survival. In principle, well-intentioned
emphases on diversity need not represent a contradiction of
our overriding species singularity, but these would require
an explicit and prior affirmation of diversity itself as an
intermediate step toward eventual human solidarity.
one form or another, tribal conflict has always driven world
affairs. Without a clear sense of an outsider, of an enemy,
of an inferior, of an “other,” most people will
feel altogether lost. Still drawing our critical sense of self-worth
from membership, in the state, or the faith, or the race —
from what Freud, borrowing from Nietzsche, had insightfully
called the “horde” — we humans cannot satisfy
even the most minimal requirements of coexistence.
veneer of civilization continues to be razor thin. Our entire
system of international relations is rooted in a deeply etched
and endlessly recurring pattern of horror. The sanitizing name
that we assign to this pattern is “history.” Perversely,
within this seamless litany of harms, it can be fully “rational”
to defile and destroy those who have the temerity to express
different beliefs and affiliations.
calculated destructiveness has been most evident, of course,
whenever one “tribe” encounters another that seeks
distinctly alternative paths to immortality. It becomes a fundamental
problem in world politics, because in this broadest possible
realm of human activity, there can be no greater power than
power over death.
requires distance. In our current frenzied rhythm, breathlessness
is de rigueur. The cascading horror of life on earth creates
a deafening noise, but it is still possible to listen for more
transient sounds of grace and harmony. To begin, however, we
must first pay close attention to our most intimate human dispositions
of empathy and compassion. In the concluding analysis, these
private feelings are considerably more important to species
survival than the comfortingly tangible expressions of science,
industry, and technology.
regard to human durability, the politicians and the professors
are both grievously unprepared, and manifestly wrong. From a
survival standpoint, the critical time for science, modernization,
and globalization is pretty much over. To survive together all
of us must soon learn to rediscover a life that is detached
from tribal manipulations, unfounded optimism, and contrived
happiness. Indeed, it is only in the midst of this suddenly
awakened human spirit that we may finally learn something beyond
the suffocating clichés and banalities of American presidential
man who laughs,” understood the poet, Bertolt Brecht,
“has simply not yet heard the horrible news.” Too
many still laugh amid the incomprehensible global triumph of
incommunicable pain, death, and decomposition. We humans still
lack a tolerable future, not because we have been too slow to
learn what can make us successful as individuals, but because
we haven’t yet begun to learn that such success is always
contingent. In the end, success must always depend upon much
wider and interpenetrating patterns of human progress.
egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed
to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’
is false and against nature,” wrote the Jesuit philosopher,
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. “No element can move and grow
except with and by all the others with itself.”