Proposed here is whether the wise counsel of Jesus of Nazareth, Adam Smith, George Kennan and legions of other insightful souls might well provide a sound basis for solutions to the world’s self-made catastrophic disasters – a vitally crucial issue demanding action before ‘point of no return’ overtakes all.
First considered is why, despite humankind’s ability to provide for the needs of all across the world, the arrival of settled agriculture led to lack of common purpose which has split communities and nations asunder, causing aggressive tensions and wars that continue to undermine biological sustainability. Indeed, a reality so advanced it threatens the survival of all species, including (alleged) homo sapiens.
Genetic – c.f., Culture-based Human Survival Paths
Throughout millions of years of evolution humans (like all species) could not have survived without genetically-determined selection of cooperative behaviour. However for humans things changed greatly following the fortuitous occurrence of settled agriculture, for then surpluses of food, tools and weapons led to stratified society specializations which allowed corrupt leaders to divert community wealth to themselves and buddies intent on preferential ‘exclusive’ gain. Thus, instead of focusing on culturally-determined improvement of all in society via wondrously creative social, scientific and artistic developments, corrupt choices enabled the self-privileged to misapply the common wealth to evil ends including self aggrandizement. (Darwin, C. ; Diamond, J. ; Wright, R.)
Whether or not one is a theist, initial genetically-based, species survival makes sense as a hallmark of human morality for otherwise there would be no life. However, the additional ‘gift’ of cultural choice, while wondrously valuable, is full of unforeseen traps capable of ending life. For, while today’s crises began with minor conflicts over land and resources, corrupt systems soon expanded greatly into exploitation of conquered peoples, resource plunder, slavery and international wars between contending ‘winners’ over the spoils. Then to major conflicts between imperial leaders intent on ‘grandeur’ including ‘godhood’, hence politico-military corruption coupled to pseudo-religious doctrine to ‘justify’ the worst kinds of exploitation and killing. However, such could never provide an enduring ‘civilization’, it being at war across itself, fragmented, unsustainable.(Gibbon, E. ; De Rosa,P.)
Nevertheless, as still today, within many societies there existed a benevolent spirit of fairness which induced those like Jesus of Nazareth to advocate a god of creation having common-sense values of love, inclusiveness, mutual appreciation and sharing. However, following Jesus’ crucifixion Constantine, aiming at increasing Christian support, re-branded Christianity ‘legal’ subject to Roman authority. Although that would block Jesus’ advocacy of love, inclusiveness and fairness which challenged imperial power, Church Fathers agreed at the first Council of Nicaea (CE325). Hence far-reaching corruption since Rome’s top families assumed its leadership, the rich and powerful engaging in secular power struggles, a total negation of Jesus’ message. Consequently the wide range of evil anti-Christian outcomes extending to current times.(De Rosa, P. ; Tuchman, B.)
Origins of the West’s Disastrous Mercantile System
After Rome’s fall and the brutal land carve-up during Western Civilization’s genesis, Paul Kennedy in “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Growth and Military Conflict 1500 – 2000” relates how, while Europe’s Christian nations continued fighting one another over territory, resources and markets, its maritime powers explored foreign coastlines seeking further gains. Hence, e.g., the post-1492 invasion plunder and slavery of the Americas and Triangular Trade that for over 300 years greatly expanded Europe’s wealth. All well described by Moral Philosopher Adam Smith who recognized not only the European system’s injustices at home and abroad, but its instability and enormous weaknesses that lured the West into increasingly disastrous wars. Indeed, augmented by new technologies and fossil fuels, together with its focus on privatized wealth and power, its unsustainability and collapse appeared assured. (Kennedy, P. ; Smith, A. )
Accordingly, based on common-sense moral principles and logic, Smith in Wealth of Nations made clear what would work sustainably. Consistent with Jesus’ Christianity such was ‘lauded’ by Europe’s ‘exclusive brethren’, yet to this day rejected, undermined in favour of ever-expanding production, colonization and ‘more decisive’ wars – essentially regime changes abroad. However, still competing with one another, tensions continued rising; hence universally destructive WW1. But, failing still to see the system as cause, Germany was crushed, its colonies taken by victors who blundered on. And when the system collapsed into Deep Depression, fearful Conservatives encouraged Hitler’s Germany to re-arm, then supplant the communist USSR. Hence the vastly more destructive WW2. However, still nothing learned: nuclear weapons developed (‘lest Hitler get them first’) and dropped on Japan; then unending regime changes in defiance of International UN Charter Law binding the USA, its principal architect. Bombed intensively, Korea and Vietnam, were but the first of many.(Smith, A.; Sachs, J. ; Churchill, W. ; Eisenhower, D. ; Leahy, W. ; Kennedy, D.; Cumings, B.; UNC ; Blum, W ; Kennedy R. F. Jr.)
Transition From WWII to Homo Sapiens’ Self-made Crises of Today
As David Kennedy records, the US did not emerge from its deep 1929 Depression until vast military production began in 1942 – it then greatly expanded after WW2, justification being military threat from war-devastated USSR which at terrible cost (~24 million lives) had driven Hitler’s army back to Berlin. George F. Kennan, US Diplomat in Russia during WW2, considered that European security concerns be handled diplomatically, but to no avail. For preparations to use nuclear weapons to destroy Communism at its alleged source proceeded even after USSR’s counter- response made it mutually suicidal. Like others, Kennan was appalled noting in Norman Cousin’s The Pathology of Power (1987), “…Were the Soviet Union to sink under the waters of the ocean, the American industrial-complex would have to go on… …..until some other adversary could be invented. ….”. Tragically still a reality, with expanding militarism coupled to regime changes and hideous bombing wars maintained in spite of enormous human costs, fast-deteriorating environments and economies. (Kennan, G. F. ; Ellsberg, D ; Clark, Wesley ; Sachs, J ; Pope Francis ; Galbraith, James K.)
In short, although the amazing accomplishments of artists, philosophers, economists, scientists and citizens over the past 500 years could easily have supported homo sapiens in secure comfort, the West’s mercantile political economy’s beneficiaries clung to their authoritarian military mind-set with its gross injustices, exploitations, inefficiencies, international tensions and endless wars which have caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of mostly young people, they and their wonderful talents lost to the world. And yet, still shackled to this system, today’s Western Leaders blindly continue to manipulate sources of wealth and power, including Orwellian obfuscations of terms like ‘freedom’, democracy’, ‘national security’, ‘free trade’, ‘terrorism’ (others’, not ours!) to disguise the true origins of what all too many regard as ’normal’: i.e., exploitation, inequity, monopolies, belligerent ‘trade’, international wars cum terrorism, and advanced environmental degradation – now so extreme they threaten life on earth.
And all such unconscionable developments in the face of benevolent humanitarian advice through the ages by the wisest of people – from Jesus of Nazareth, Edward Gibbon, Adam Smith, Major Mitchell and Pope John XXIII – to today’s wake-up calls as from Bill Gammage, Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and others who revere justice and the State of Nature with all its creations, all its living species, including deluded confused homo sapiens. For we still have a great deal to learn, much by studying the ways of indigenous peoples like our Aboriginals with their 60,000-year history of common-sense peaceful cooperation and sharing as they safe-guarded their natural surroundings, (c.f., NITV).
Ian Buckley, former medical scientist who has a long-term interest in the origins of wars that have plagued evolving humanity since the establishment of settled agriculture. http://www.anu.edu.au/emeritus/members/Ian_Buckley.html