This commentary is entitled simply: “How to Save the World.” It began as an exercise in how to avoid Armageddon in the Middle East, and was first written on May 15, 2001, and saved until now in hope it would improve with time.
Step One. First you have to move one foot, either to the right or the left. Just one foot away from the rigid position you’ve always taken (or the other guy has always taken) to expose what could not be seen before. It happened to me, having stood rock still for too many years, until life moved me that one foot and — virtually in an instant – I could see around the pillar that had always been in my path. Before me was a new world, chockablock with possibilities hitherto hidden.
Step Two. Respond, don’t react. First we must subdue the physics of the situation: that every action need not be met with an equal and opposite reaction. It means, when confronted with a new life situation, that a jerking of the knee should not precede a knitting of the brow. We must first take the time to think: Why is this new thing happening? What is the motive behind it? How can I respond, not react, knowing that to react is to strike back, while to respond is to give back.
Step Three. That all components of the Middle East conundrum must learn how to make peace, as well as to live in it. And at the same time, learn how to live without war, which has become an absorbing preoccupation as well as a habit. By “learn how to” I may mean simply go to school. More on that subject when we’ve examined it in greater depth. Anyone seeing a connection with this point of view and the ongoing controversy over an international agreement to dissuade Iran from pursuing its potential nuclear ambitions is welcome to do so, although that is not the intended point of departure, which has a far wider focus.
Here’s an irony for you. Or think of it as a fable. I have always held as a seminal principle that secrecy is the bane of the universe, the ultimate cause of misunderstanding between persons individually and peoples universally. It is, of course, simultaneously at war with transparency, the fundamental currency of trust. Never more than today, when all of the world’s nations – large and small — are trying to play their cards close to the chest, a practice that cyberspace makes increasingly impossible. Each day’s headlines tell us that one hacker or another nation has just stolen by the millions or billions what others have tried so diligently to keep to and for themselves, largely just because, or from habit. Or, if we’re a government, by the convenience of classifying to keep presumably from those we hold as enemies or want to make sure they stay that way.
You can tell where these sentiments are leading, but few would be prepared to follow into a world where all secrets were revealed at once rather than – almost inevitably – one at a time. But perhaps a century at a time? Beginning, say, with the 18th or 19th?. The resultant flood might well occupy scholars, historians and politicians for decades, and inform all publics immeasurably. Best of all, it might inculcate a new habit of telling it as it is, to the advancement of civilization everywhere. Truth would be a new commodity in world exchange and hackers would have to turn elsewhere for wherewithal.
Eventually? Not now?
Editor’s Note: This commentary could have been written upside down, and perhaps should have been – to emphasize the virtue of transparency rather than the onus of secrecy. Feel free to read it that way.