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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Puzzle of Our Time

I don’t often touch on politics on this blog; at least not current hot-button political issues. The reasons are several: (1) I want this site to be about philosophy and getting overly specific about politics has a very dominating and distracting effect, (2) if dealing with politics, I prefer to stay in the abstract philosophical realm, because that’s where all the root answers tend to be anyway, and (3) my hope is to focus more on things that unite rather than divide.

However, this latest struggle between Israel and Hezbollah has got me vexed. In fact, much of the developments in the war on terror over the past few years have vexed me. Of course, I have my own opinions about various things and they can be quite strong, but I want to go beyond that – I want to go deeper. It’s too easy to merely vent my perspective and be yet one more voice yelling about what ‘should be’.

This whole business of terrorism, the third world, religious extremism, international business interests, modern warfare, and their intersection are really the great puzzle of our time. But instead of anyone trying to figure anything out, it seems that all we have are various religious fundamentalists (on all sides), various nationalists (on all sides), various haters of particular political officials, and other people with agendas simply trying to further them. If there are any people with serious deep questions and thoughts about this puzzle of our time out there, they are being ignored as eggheads or muffled by all the sensationalism to be found elsewhere. Can we please have some sincere efforts to reach pragmatic and realistic solutions without being so biased, hateful, blame-seeking, or focused on complaining about the present or past?

Everybody knows what should be done, and what the other guys should be doing. They know what should have happened in past elections, negotiations, and military actions. They know what we should be doing internationally, and they know what we should do in the future. But does anyone have any ideas about what can be done? In other words, what can be done given our current situation and the current dispositions of all parties involved?

There are obviously tough challenges facing the world, and they’re not going to be solved by simply declaring cease-fires and trying to get people not to attack one another. The underlying causes of these things are too complex and the dangers too intense. If one side is unwilling to cease, then those threats will demand that some fighting will have to happen. But the problems also aren’t going to be solved by obliterating everything without foreseeable end.

What’s even more complex is that it takes more than even a complete analysis of all the subtle underlying causes for things. Because, even if we had that, it would be another matter entirely getting all of the various power-holders, organizations, and institutions to actually pay attention, care, and change.

It's more than a little disturbing that all of our religious faiths and even our philosophic insights, including my own, seem incapable of easily piercing this dilemma, even if they may be very effective on an individual scale. This puzzle of our time is going to require something radical; something drastic. A new movement or perhaps a joint multi-cultural revolution of sorts happening in several opposing camps at once. Unfortunately, such things don’t usually arise unless extreme pain and suffering has pushed the pendulum far enough.

But one thing is sure, the puzzle is more complicated than a giant ball of tangled twine, and we have several people pulling on the same threads in different directions, trying to unravel it at the same time. If we can’t get some sort of broad and deep solutions going, then I suppose pain and suffering for a lot more people, on a lot greater scale, will be what’s in store. If that’s the case, then I’ll simply have to remember my Stoic readings and remind myself that I can’t control the choices or actions of others – only myself.


  1. I can definately relate. Last week, near the beginning or the real mess, Fox News's coverage of the bombings ruined my lunch: I was at this really good fried fish place where they unfortunately keep the TV running all the time, and I found that 20 minutes of footage of buildings being blown up along with a running commentary about how people were dying somehow made me just not hungry anymore. I think that the thing that made me decide to get up and ask the other patrons if they minded if I asked to have the channel changed was when I half heard a press release guy say something along the lines of one side's saying that the other started it, as if that were a perfectly reasonable excuse for the whole affair. I'm fairly certain that very few, if any, adults would take the same excuse from a five year old accused of fighting with a sibling. So, why do so many otherwise reasonable grownups seem to think that "he started it" is a valid excuse for a soverign nation or other political faction? It makes me cringe just thinking about it.
    Remembering that one can only control one's own actions is great for times like this. Doing just that has done wonders for helping me not be unnecessarily bothered by this conflict (which is something that my being bothered about will not affect one way or the other, and I know it.) Well, that and not reading news stories about it. I'm very un-sagelike at times, and I'm well aware that I can only read so many updates on the massive amounts of suffering that are occuring elsewhere without letting them get me down. :-)

  2. Thanks for the comments and good points Erika. :)