Sunday, May 6, 2007

Best of the Best?

Many people in the United States believe that we have the best of all governments, economic systems, and approaches to religion and social issues. In short, we are God’s gift to the world. Because of our greatness, we have an obligation to make the rest of the world like us. Anyone who chooses to deviate from our way of doing things is either ignorant, sick, or a criminal; and must be treated accordingly. I can’t say with certainty that they are wrong, but I believe they have an obligation to challenge their beliefs.

There is ample reason to do this. For one thing, the United States and its cultural characteristics have only existed for a tiny fraction of human history; and we are relative youngsters compared to others currently sharing the planet with us. While we may have evolved from other systems, gaining from their successes and learning from their mistakes, our present configuration has not withstood adequate testing on its own.

Also, the huge gains in human population and welfare achieved in our country’s lifetime were not achieved solely by us; they were the result of a collective effort among all peoples of the world. These gains are directly rooted the discovery of cheap energy sources, the development of science and technology (whose major groundwork was done in other countries), and industrial development that was triggered by international conflicts whose other participants were not far behind us.

Furthermore, all of the gains that have occurred in the present blip in the record of civilization could easily be erased if we do not restrain the greed-driven growth that our country has been at the forefront of facilitating. With oil running out and pollution overwhelming the biosphere and climate systems, we don’t have a lot of time left to change our way of life, the very thing we hold up as one our greatest “gifts.”

In short, we are a part of the world, and it is a part of us. If we can accept this fact of existence and acquire the humility necessary to work with others to collectively improve the lot of humanity and other species, we may yet demonstrate great value to the world. We must realize that our individual and collective importance is intrinsic in everyone, because everyone is needed to define humanity and ensure its long term survival.

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