The Centre Will Hold. It Has To.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.

-William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

 

 

To a large extent, this blog has been an exercise in finding reasons to be hopeful about humanity. I’ve written about finding perspective even during periods of death and loss, about finding commonality even during times of war, about reconciliation after conflict, about the evolutionary unity of humanity, about the logic of cooperation, about altruism in other species, about the complexity and flexibility of human biology and behavior, and the fact that we are not fated to war and conflict. I even tried to cling to the idea of truth at a time when some are promoting discord and confusion.

I have to admit that it’s hard to find much of that optimism right now. As a kid, I used to think that the world would always get better. Previous generations were racist, held slaves, and committed genocides, but they did those things out of ignorance. My generation was more enlightened, integrated, and tolerant. Then as a young adult, gay people started to gain more acceptance, and it seemed like progress was inevitable. With the rise of the Internet, I thought greater connection would mean wider sharing of views and greater empathy and tolerance, that those anonymous strangers “over there” would become real people who weren’t all that different from ourselves. I thought the best ideas and truth would rise to the top. It seemed inevitable.

Now I think I was profoundly naïve. I see a world succumbing to division and the intentional, cynical fomenting of hatred. I see people putting selfish interests that hurt the many for the benefit of a few. I see cruelty and malice being portrayed as virtues. I see vulnerable people being disregarded, left out in the cold, and painted as the scum of the world. Children are being thrown in camps.

Powerful people don’t relinquish their privileges easily, and they often prioritize private profits over the greater good. They sometimes deem people expendable, including entire groups of people. Now I see the Internet as not inherently bad or good, but a tool that can be manipulated, either bringing people together or splitting them apart. White supremacist movements, including neo-Nazis are growing around the US and Europe. Inequality has grown. It is all pretty depressing. I haven’t given up hope completely, but things seem pretty bleak right now. Keep fighting the good fight, everyone.

samwise

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Centre Will Hold. It Has To.

  1. I agree there are quite a few problems today — some quite serious and unprecedented in human history, such as the threat of thermonuclear war.

    Like you, I thought the internet would bring us together and I have been disappointed to find it both brings people together and divides them too. And a few years earlier, it occurred to me that every generation starts off promising, then ends up more or less the same as the generations before it.

    Yet, I still have hope. Mainly, it’s founded on my belief that the majority of people are more or less decent. Certainly not everyone. But I do believe a majority are. Even in 2016, the majority did not vote for the current president.

    I do not think a victory for our side is inevitable, but I think our chances are good, albeit not excellent.

    • I agree. I think people are more or less decent. I think we have an evolutionary history of being a social species, and come equipped with a basic sense of how to live in a group. There is a certain logic to it as well. Versions of the golden rule have arisen independently in several places, probably because people figured out that it is much easier to live in a society surrounded by decent people. Therefore it makes sense that we should be an example of decency ourselves. But our perceptions of others can be modified, based on real or misleading information, which can make us feel that decency is in short supply.

  2. What if the only hope that is possible is through facing harsh truths. Optimism, when it sugar-coats reality, can be dangerous and damaging. Hope isn’t about what merely makes us feel good but what draws us toward the greater good. There is nothing easy or safe about hope. It’s the most radical attitude one can take, sometimes leading to reform but at other times to revolution.

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