Calling all Mathematicians! The following problem is the most important Math problem to solve today. The train of the lessons learned from history is leaving from the East traveling West at so many miles per hour. On the same track, the train of an ever advancing and adulterous technology is leaving from the West traveling East at so many miles per hour. When will these two trains meet? The answer to this question tells us how long we have left on this earth.
From the East starts the train of the lessons learned from History. What are those lessons? Actually, there is only one lesson and that is, as others have said, we have not learned from history. What haven't we learned? Despite the horrors of war, we have not learned how to live without it.
From the West starts the train of technology. This train contains the know-how to make every tool that betters our lives. But this train also carries the WMDs that threaten our existence. It is obvious that technology is advancing because our toys, both tools and weapons, are more powerful. And though we often find comfort in our technological edge over our adversaries, we shouldn't. Why? We should be uncomfortable because our technology today can be someone else's technology tomorrow. That is the adulterous nature of technology.
The only chance we have of avoiding this cataclysmic train collision is to derail one of these trains. Which train should we derail? It cannot be the train of technology. The train of technology is transporting necessary cargo for our survival as well as destructive cargo. Also, past attempts to derail the WMD part of this train have proven to be counterproductive. For example, according to Richard Wilson, a former Chair of the Department of Physics at Harvard, Israel's 1981 bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak seemed to start Saddam's nuclear weapons program rather than halt it (http://www.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/publications/OSIRAK(2)). Our invasion of Iraq is another example where an attempt to selectively derail the train of technology, it was claimed that Iraq was developing WDMs, was counterproductive because terrorism increased afterwards (http://www.motherjones.com/news/featurex/2007/03/iraq_effect_1.html).
So our only hope for survival is to derail the train carrying the lessons learned from history. To do this, we will have to learn History's most important lesson that war does not work. We will have to do so quickly because these two trains could collide at any moment. So, what we really need is a revolution if we are to survive.
What must we change? We must eliminate those factors that start conflicts. The first thing we need to change is our addiction to groupism. Groupism is where we are more loyal to a group than to moral values. We can tell that our country is controlled by groupism when our government supports the same aggressive actions performed by our allies that it condemns when done by our adversaries. A variation of this form of groupism can be seen when Israelis are apathetic to the plight of the Palestinians and yet call for the death of Arabs after innocent Israelis are murdered. Palestinians return the favor when they vow vengeance after their own are killed while they rejoice when Israelis are killed.
Another sign that we are carrying out groupism is when our loyalty to a group limits our choices. Examples of this expression of groupism could be constantly seen in the Cold War when our nation would back all sorts of repressive regimes that were not communistic rather than find an alternative approach. Now groupism also applies to individuals. In 2004, I encountered numerous Kerry voters who agreed more with Nader than Kerry. So why didn't they vote for Nader? It was because they were Democrats. Sure they said that Nader didn't have a chance to win but Nader didn't have a chance to win because too few Democrats were going to break ranks to vote for someone else. This type of groupism shows a preference for power and control over values.
Defeating groupism will be difficult. Groups give us a sense security and significance. Not only that, many of us were raised on groupism. Groupism started for us with rooting for hometown and school sports teams and then it affects how we register to vote. A possible result of this is that we expect our government to rely on groupism too. But unless we are willing to limit our affection and allegiance to any group, our groupism will distract us from promoting equality and will push us into presuming we are superior. If we think we are superior, we will feel entitled and will try to dominate. The result of groupism is that its victims resist control and feel enraged when favoritism trumps fairness and justice.
We must also undo our addiction to materialism. At the worst, our materialism habit causes us to hoard resources and wealth. The more we accumulate for ourselves, the less there is for others. The less there is for others, the more we, or our mercenaries, must dominate so we can keep what we have because the result of our hoarding oppresses the have-nots.
At the least, our materialism becomes an escape from a disturbing world. That is our possessions provide a comfortable cocoon in which to live. When we live in that cocoon, we are shielded from the suffering of have-nots. At this point, a law of physics takes over. That law states that an object that lives in comfort, stays in comfort. People who do not live in comfort, however, are not bound by that law.
If we are to overcome this materialism, then we must prefer to accumulate connections with others to amassing riches. And the most meaningful connections we can accumulate are those that include people in need. In other words, we, as individuals and as a nation, need to put a higher priority on sharing than getting or controlling. If we do more than superficially share, we just might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Finally, we must forsake the all or nothing thinking that says that one is either for us or against us. Though Bush made this approach popular, the origin of this all or nothing thinking goes back to the start of the Cold War. This all or nothing thinking trapped us into deciding to attack leftist regimes rather than work with them. Overthrowing Iran's Parliamentary government in 1953 because it was seen as moving towards Communism when it planned to nationalize oil resources caused a tragic chain reaction of events and failed decisions that we still are suffering through today. Instead of seeing nations or people as being polar opposites, we need to see that all of us are on different locations on the same continuum. The implication here is that we can better avoid or resolve conflicts when we recognize common concerns and values we have with adversaries.
Though we need a revolution today to prevent the two trains from colliding, we do not need a violent revolution that overthrows the government; violence is what we want to eliminate because it will be self-destructive. Rather, we need a revolution that calls on us to change as much as it demands that our government change. And though people will call this kind of revolution naive; if this revolution fails and the two trains meet, then life on earth as we know it will be called utopian.