In response to your January 16 column, I decided to write this short piece to provide a starting point for a solution to the bleak, yet correct picture that you painted of today’s United States. In fact, the whole wide world could also be included in this. We are definitely headed towards ‘hell in a handbasket’ if we don’t start a conversation between all opposing parties. That must begin with putting aside the lies and start sharing the truth.
Our conversation must open up an inquiry into the human condition at a very crucial period in our existence. An ever accelerating technological development has brought about enormous new possibilities for a creative and happy life. At the same time this development is threatening our civilization and indeed, perhaps the human race and our world with total destruction. Our conversation must be aimed at making more than a mere comment on the present state of affairs. Its purpose must sketch out the deeper causes underlying this cultural, economic, environmental and social crisis and to bring out further lines of inquiry that might lead to its resolution with workable solutions.
Our conversation must explore the connection between the technological and the psychological development of humanity. We must look at the social and material conditions in societies at different stages of development. From Stone Age tribes in South America; peasant farmers in South Asia and Africa enclosed in a medieval way of life; adults and children caught up in a fight for survival in the Industrial Revolution taking place in the developing world and the complex life of people in some of the most technologically-advanced communities in Europe and America. We need to also review the daily lives of a whole cross section of our human race, bringing out the economic problems that infect our patterns of daily living and threaten to destroy our future. In our talks, we must also remember the fundamental similarity of human beings, irrespective of the technological age to which they belong.
People are similar not only in their basic drives and urges, but also in their fears and anxiety, which has multiplied exponentially along with the growth of technology. A resulting all-encompassing disturbance of the orderly operation of the brain and mind contributes to the general crisis we are discussing. We must call attention to how the current crisis is sustained and exacerbated by a basic and pervasive disharmony between intellect and emotions that has been growing since very early times. This disharmony is mirrored in our personal relationships, in relationships between governments and in our relationship with nature. In our existence within this disharmony, many of us in the modern world have felt a sense of loss – of missing something, in spite of our great technological gains, which should have made us feel that our existence has been enriched, rather than impoverished.
Indeed, for both rich and poor, existence is dominated by an ever growing current of problems, most of which seem to have no real or lasting solutions. Clearly, we have not touched the deeper causes of our troubles. The main point of our conversation must be that the ultimate source of these problems is thought itself, the very thing we are most proud of as a civilization and therefore the one thing that is hidden because of our failure seriously to engage with its actual working in our individual lives and in societal life. This engagement must be reviewed in some depth in our conversation. We must invite others to join the conversation, go on with it, not only by themselves, but with all others who are interested in it. If such a conversation spreads out among humanity like a wild-fire, it could give rise to a fundamental change of consciousness, giving rise to a more harmonious and free way of life.
Let’s start this conversation among the readers of the Italian Tribune and hopefully it will extend to the citizens of the whole wide world.