Alas, Millennium: Century 21 & An Age of Global Citizenship
In another Age, dubbed 'Gilded' by its greatest chronicler, two strong men interviewed.
At the time--1889--a young author unknown (to Twain), J.R. Kipling, had traveled from Far Eastern origins in India to find a certain S.L. Clemens, middle-aged and world famous as Mark Twain.
After a 14,000 mile journey to a fateful appointment he hadn't made, still uncertain of the exact whereabouts of that trip's objective and appearing unannounced at Twain's Elmira, New York home the young British stranger spent two welcoming hours with Twain; in Kipling's later unrelated poetic words, '...they had looked each other between the eyes and there they found no fault, they have taken the Oath of the Brother in Blood on leavened bread and salt, they have taken the Oath of Brother in Blood on fire and fresh sod...on the hilt and haft of the knife and the Wondrous Names of God!'
These portentous words are from Kipling's strangely predictive 'Ballad of East & West' which, with a few editorial tweaks, may we read 'bread & salt' as shared experience, 'fire and sod' as Twain's hearth and his shared tobacco and the 'knife' as their mighty pens as bloodless swords. It is precisely because the present status quo routinely confines recollection of this poignant poem to its most misdirecting phrase---'Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet...'--that such a meeting of so well-traveled minds is salient in this assessment of our collective future now well-launched upon a turbulent millennial 'see'.
And, so, by dint of that melding, fertilization may likely have been had for the powerful futuristic words of glad contradiction only a handful of words further on: '...there is neither East nor West, Border nor Breed, nor Birth when two strong men stared face to face, though they come from the ends of the Earth!' These twain did so meet and thusly, it is posited, did presage this, our extant Age, itself wobbling betwixt two 'isms'---Millenialism & Terror.
Another 'strong' Britisher in the following century (itself the a furthering prelude to our new millenium) Alan Watts brought ancient Eastern thought to the modern West (as did the Americans Emerson & Thoreau via Transcendental-ism), succinctly capturing for it the zeitgeist of that deepest thinking: '...[derived from] that primary consciousness--the basic mind which KNOWS reality--rather than ideas [i.e., mere beliefs] about it...' Ever wedging itself between these extremes of Heaven and Hel(l)[sinki, that city where peace has been oft pursued and sometimes found) this global self-awareness is emergent from this unnecessary adversity fomented largely by IDEAS of seeming adversaries. EMPHASIS/BRACKETS SUPPLIED.
As Nietzsche hammered onto tortured paper, beyond good and evil lies a third way, that which may be best seen as 'only humane' versus 'only human', given the most uniform and predominant instinct of kindness extended by two-leggers unto those creatures endowed with four or more. [See: Eric Blair, a.k.a. George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' for a vengeful political twist to this inexplicable dichotomy].
Leaving it to others to academically (and, therefore, impractically) argue over the failures and/or successes of human-ism's Renaissance and its Age of Reason's so-called Enlightenment, it is simply represented here that the best fruits of that (otherwise) overrated 'Reason'--scientific method and high-technologies--serve to buttress the foundation now being laid for this Citizenship of Earth, and not mere retrograde nation-states. One need only casually observe televised daily acts of cruel diffidence to reasonable behavior to cynically conclude that if 'all the world's a stage', it's stuck in abject adolescence. Even the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato (deemed by his subsequent peers as the one to whom they were mere footnotes in human history) sanctioned the 'noble lie' in his 'Republic', asserting with a presumed straight face that a kind of caste system was inborn, the deities having fashioned us from the Earth, with most getting more bronze than gold. He argues that a true lie corrupts the very IDEA of what it describes whereas the language lie only disrupts an idea's IMITATION, say the Orwellian 'war is peace'----the idea 'war' stays the same, just the way it's portrayed, spoken of, is bogus, like a bad painting where the subject is fundamentally unchanged; hence, the lie of language is permissible, indeed, necessary, as much of the populace is unable to handle the raw truth. Is it any wonder that democracy, derived from such thinking, is deemed the worst form of governance... except for all others. Plato, it may be said, is guilty of over-thinking, a major premise of this appraisal of what may augment if not supplant reason in this newest Age.
Ironic outcomes, then, must be expected as that early renaissance's greatest poet Dante, the doctrinaire Christian did ironically enlist the most pagan of Roman antiquity's poets, Virgil as his guide in avoiding devilish wayward paths. So, likewise, have 21st century seers with portentous, even biblical-seeming names such as Job(s) embrace The Beatles Apple Corps Ltd.'s music and soundtracked the coming of this Age's messiahs via once condemned beat and rock poets with names betokening the rocky road rolling out ahead---Kerouac, Lennon (not Lenin), Jagger, et. al.
Such sympathy for the (perceived) Devil has thusly proved far more harmonious than harmful, despite our collective parents reasoned disapproval. As sagaciously observed by our literally Western Mr. Twain: "History may not repeat, but it rhymes." Poets, alas, more than welcome to this reasoning(?) 'whirled', as James Joyce, its most literate chronicler named it so percipiently. Fittingly, Jagger has admitted to having virtually lifted entire passages from the song 'Sympathy for the Devil' out of M. Bulgakov's masterwork, 'The Master & Margarita'. Equally compelling is the fact that while the Russian author, born two years after Kipling met Twain, was a White Russian and opponent of the Bolshevik 'Reds', even Stalin admired his satirical plays--sympathy from the devil, it might be said. And through his adoptive poetic song Jagger has given memorable thematic voice to the premise advanced here, i.e., that despite free will, humans have too often by habitual default chosen to behave unreasonably while having had the means to know better, through rational thought.
A few signal examples may reprove skeptic-ism's habit, and serve as signposts on that admittedly rocky-seeming pathway stretching out as far as we may so far see, as its underlayment bears the depth of time-tested wisdom of the human(e) limbic system itself whose 'heart' is most complementary to underachieving Reason, given that this heart/gut complex possesses more neurons per cubic centimeter than the overtaxed human brain. [see: www.heartmath.com]
: Norrmalmstorg, Sweden, 1973--a notorious criminal takes bank workers hostage; one of his demands, the later unsubstantiated story says, is for several pop music albums, including The Beatles and The Stones; his later unharmed hostages complained on release that it was Olaf Palme's poor handling of the crisis which had truly endangered their lives, describing their captor as rather humane, even 'lovely'.
: San Francisco, USA, 1974--media heiress Patty Hearst falls in love with an anarchist and participates in a bank robbery on its behalf; she is pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
: Lima, Peru, 1996--a Peruvian psychiatrist is hostaged at the Japanese Ambassador's residence; he reads to his captors, one of whom he later calls 'el amigo', urging his lenient punishment after surrender; one of the books read is Colombian writer Gabriel Marques' 'News of a Kidnapping'; realizing that this book is similar in details to their desperate act, the kidnapper in charge remarks: "We're making history..."; in 2011, the former Prime Minister of Iran Mir Hossein Musavi cites this book as descriptive of his captive situation under house arrest in his own country, still in force at this writing.
: Vienna, Austria, 2010--a former kidnapped child of ten (then) sheds tears on learning of the death of her kidnapper; she is quoted: "I find (my reaction) very natural...it's about empathy, communication..."
Skeptics will argue that this very real human(e) phenomenon---here termed 'sympathy for the devil'---is anecdotal nonsense; this same nonsense is part and parcel of the FBI's 2007 Law Enforcement Bulletin, used in hostage situations worldwide. The term 'rationalization', it is suggested, was coined for just such status quo 'thinking'. It is put to you rhetorically: "Why does the 'status quo' have a Latin name?" Indeed. It is this ancient mindset which habitually aims our attention to doom and gloom when characterizing the future--itself, a captive of that dead language's death warrant for even highly plausible change, the sort experienced in these and other situations catalogued briefly here.
In this budding newer Age, then, where the rosebuds are admittedly to be found in rocky earth, thornier than seems tolerable, or survivable, in this Age of Global Citizenship alienation will increasingly describe the state of the nation-state, borderless responsibility springing from Buckminster Fuller's 'heartfelt meets mindful' Spaceship Earth model more and more conducive to an even clearer picture we've had since the first Earth Day in 1970--that of a small blue/green/brown beclouded planet without man-made arbitrary borders.
All that is required for this was uttered in the 19th century by Joseph Kipling: "...strong men (& women)...staring face to face, though they come from the ends of the Earth!" PARENTHESIS SUPPLIED. Be, then, strong, come of Age, strong not merely of arm but of heart, the seat of empathy, our more humane destiny in Global Citizenry's Age.
By way of final tribute to those two strong 'men' of that long-ago interview, below is a heartfelt message they have placed in this writer's heart:
At long last
'We' are here; 'here' is called Earth; sometimes we capitalize it, like I just did. Other times we don't, say when we just want to identify dirt, which is very strange and often confusing since books we call holy devote quite a lot of proverbial verses to basically reducing everything to dirt, which is sometimes-- especially in those books-- called 'dust', a thing we, they say, come from and go back to, also known as 'ashes', something we hope we won't be reduced to before our time at the hands of...'others'.
We, all of us, would probably agree that it would be useful to carefully define some terms...here goes, this is the best 'we've' come up with:
It makes us (a number of 'I's that agree on things) nervous and somehow uneasy to not be able to use all the categorical words we've invented, after much thinking by some really smart-sounding people about the whole business, to describe others, a.k.a., 'them', made up of various worlds inhabited by entities which are at odds with us... 'I' worlders.
All these worlds, strangely enough, agree on one thing: we, sometimes known as us, have many, many names for 'us', and even 'us' or 'we' isn't one of them unless it's a world, sometimes with just two members, which is supposed to be different from another small or large world. This is confusing and sometimes exhausting for any 'world' because it makes it spend a lot of time and energy thinking up things that only it has or does. By the way, the thing called 'they' or 'them' is never 'us' or 'we'.
Back to Earth, with a capital 'e'; it is inhabited by separate mini-worlds of entities (let's call them 'people' for user-friendliness) whose ancestors decided, for one 'reason' or another, to call certain areas of earth (now, here, we use the lower case) countries or nations, where lots of those people get as far away from that earth as possible, ending up in what are called cities where, out of some kind of longing, these same people will do almost anything to have a small patch of it to grow things in, mostly flowers, to remind them of how beautiful and giving the big 'e' Earth is. Some of these people often feel sorry for 'others'---those who live in a world named 'second' or 'third'--- who have no choice and are forced to live close to the earth/dirt, eating whatever it, the dirt, will allow them to grow in it. Still, many people who live in the cities like their food grown only in dirt, without poisoning it with chemicals and things, calling it 'organic'. Many people of big 'e' Earth like to use words like 'organic', which is used to both make them feel closer to the earth, little 'e'--- and to also make them feel smart and well-informed.
This feeling--the one brought about by dirt--- is what people from the world known as 'first' literately call irony which often makes them feel both clever and sad; this sadness is, ironically, mostly caused by these names themselves, things we call things so that we won't get them mixed up with other things, even though, at the risk of being redundant and, well, preachy, our holy books say that in the end this is pretty pointless as they start out and end up the exact same thing (see your local holy man/woman for further details; see, also, any good physics textbook).
And, so, we consider ourselves (though, not necessarily 'others', especially ones without really high-tech machines) intelligent beings and pretty much expect other intelligent beings from other worlds... when they encounter us in one of several possible ways, including close ones of the third kind, to call us Earthlings. But, for some reason we can't explain, except with words like 'sovereign' and 'ancestors', we never call ourselves that, even in science fiction stories---only the scary, hostile-intentioned aliens would use that word. Curiously enough, when a world or worlds on Earth can't seem to get along with others, we call this 'alienation'.
Nevertheless, we, on behalf of the inhabitants of Earth---okay, at least the ones with really advanced machines and economies where stuff we think we want is made cheaply and for small wages---wish to be very clear: we would be so very glad to meet other beings from other...worlds; then we could get to know them and they... 'us.'
Then, finally, at long last, we would no longer be alone.