Those who are familiar with world history know plenty about the conquests and endeavors in the past to assert national and empirical dominance of people groups, geographical areas and financial systems. From the Mongols, to the Vikings, the Safavids, the Conquistadors, the settlers of the Western United States, the Romans, the USSR and so forth, history is full of stories of contention for power. Often when we hear of these stories they come along with tales of atrocities and outright wrongs as far as how they left and treated the land, customs and culture of the people they met along the way. When I hear of these things, I usually have thoughts about the ignorance of the perpetrators, the carelessness of what they did and their slights to even the most basic of moral virtues. Whatever your faith or political standing, it should be clear that many of these “power-grabs” ended up with less than desirable results.
The thought that follows for myself is less centered on those at the forefront of these movements. It’s “What in the world are the people behind the scenes thinking? Can’t they see the decimation that is occuring? Why do they allow it? And why do they support it?” I think the answer lies in the fact that it’s easier to turn a blind eye when the gain is for yourself and “your people” (whether that be a national, religions, or domestic identification). At least, more so than the proposition that they simply do not have enough influence or power to do anything. Likely, they are both factors, but I really believe the first reason rings truer in most cases.
Changing gears a bit, there are a lot of people in this world who are “on top”. People who have money, people who have influence, people who have power, etc. And the thing is, they’re striving for more. Why? Not because they want to use their resources to help those that need it. Because they want more. But, frankly, once you get to a very basic certain level, more no longer equates to happiness or fulfillment. In fact, as a goal, the pursuit of more in a selfish context never ends and just gets more and more tangled and complex along the way. It’s been proven in many studies that once certain basic needs are met, no matter how much money people make there really is not much difference in happiness at all. There’s a plateau. And it really is not very high up. But we still have a world of people struggling well beneath this plateau, struggling to live. To survive. And then on the other side, we have people who have a dangerous “give me more” mentality. A mentality that says they they are entitled to vast amounts of possessions. The book “Deep Economy” puts it well when it describes this mentality with a simple anecdote, “Two beers made me feel good, so ten will make me feel five times better.” But it doesn’t work that way.
A couple days ago an American fighter jet crashed in rebel held, eastern Libya due to a mechanical problem. The pilots both ejected. Both landed safely, hid and were eventually safe and flown out. But that isn’t the whole story. One pilot (the two were separated) was taken in and given water and juice by Hamid Moussa el-Amruni and his family. They also brought out a doctor to see him. Soon after, an American jet flew over and strafed the same field, also dropping two 500 lb. bombs. Hamid was shot, and has shrapnel wounds in his legs and back and is now using a broomstick as a crutch so that he can walk. His farmland and house are pockmarked from the shrapnel and the blasts. His response? “They bombed us randomly to bring the mercenaries out, because they wanted to rescue the pilot. Then they pulled out the pilot but we understand (why they did this). We thank the forces of the coalition, the United States and France.” He thanked them and understood that what had happened was an accident. I didn’t put this up to comment on the United States’ involvement in Libya or foreign affairs or to make a statement about military procedure. I put this up because this man has the right attitude. He understands that life is not fair. He understands that mistakes happen. He understands that the past is the past. But most of all, he is willing to value others as much as himself. He could have been enraged with what happened. But instead, he looked past his present situation and what it meant for him, and saw what the whole of what it meant for his people and was thankful. Thankful.
That’s all I want to say. We need to take a look at what we are doing, how we are living, our attitudes, our possessions, our livelihoods and that of the rest of the world and evaluate our priorities. I’m not asking anyone to be perfect, none of us are. But some of us, myself included, are much farther away than we should be. Take a look at Earth and how sustainable our treatment of it is. Take a look at the inequality that is prevalent in our world. Check out the Gini Coefficient in your country. Look at your countries bureaucratic and economic policies. Look at the effectiveness of the world’s educational systems. Take a long hard look at our planet. And then do something. Many of these “systems” are directly influenced by our attitudes, choices, and values whether we like it or not. We are in a place of influence. An array of changes on a worldwide level may begin to take place simply because of everyday people like us making fundamental decisions to examine our faith, what we value and invest our time in and how we treat and respect others near and far away. The effects of these decisions must be shown in our lives. This is how we change things.