On a recent internationally broadcast radio show, the host and I talked about the changes currently ripping apart the fabric of human society. I tended to dwell on the larger picture: the fact that our entire sector of the galaxy is being bombarded by a vast energetic wave (known as the Photon Belt or Galactic Superwave) that is triggering a syndrome of cosmic, global, and local geophysical events on every planet in our solar system, including the Earth. He elected to zoom in on particular human events that made recent headlines. It made for a very interesting discourse. It also underscored one of my greatest realizations about the human condition: what you see depends on where you’re looking from.
I quickly confessed to being apolitical, preferring not to weigh in on either side of any of the issues – not because I am in denial, but because from my vantage point there are no viable political solutions to the global problems that loom above us like a towering tsunami. Then I was asked, “But surely you are outraged by the way our military deals with its prisoners?”
“What a curious question,” I thought. In the fleeting moments before responding, I flashed on Abu Ghraib and U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba’s condemnation of what was done there as “egregious acts and grave breaches of international law” including “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of prisoners. I thought about the flurry of accusations and denials concerning abusive prisoner treatment at Guantanamo, and how the image of America as staunch defender of freedom, democracy, and human rights is being tarnished by the apparent growing gulf between our walk and our talk. I thought, too, about what it must be like to be entrusted with the unpleasant and dangerous task of extracting vital information out of desperate people who would gladly kill and destroy again given the opportunity. What price would have been too high to pay for information that would have averted the destruction of the World Trade Center? The answers depend, as always, on the point from which you view.
In the split second before my considered pause lapsed into the dreaded dead air abhorred on radio, my answer was suddenly clear. “No, I am not outraged by Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Neither am I outraged about the illegal capture of prisoners and hostages (one presumed legal, the other not) by civilized and uncivilized militia throughout the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and everywhere else people resort to violence in defense of their beliefs.
“Nor am I outraged about starvation and genocide in Darfur, or our greed-driven race to denude the planet, wipe out tens of thousands of its life-forms, pollute its seas and air waves, or use a thinly disguised cloak of scientific inquiry as a cover to manipulate the ionosphere or capture Minke whales.
”These are just a few of the countless issues that engender outrage in so many people. Yes, these matters concern me greatly, for they collectively threaten the viability of the human race, but they do not engender outrage.
“Outrage against a problem can never take us past the problem. I remember only too well visiting Jerusalem back in the mid-eighties. People then thought they were living in dangerous times; by today’s standards, that moment in history was almost innocent. There was a popular T-shirt then with a colorful image of a dove above the words “Fighting for Peace Is Like F**king for Virginity.
“It still is.”
Or as Walt Kelly quipped through the mouth of Pogo, his ingenuous cartoon character: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Humanity is choking on its outrage. The most insidious, vitriolic emotion of all, righteous indignation, fuels the outrage spewing forth from religious and political leaders of all stripes. Each believes he or she is entitled – even commanded – to disgorge quantities of venomous invectives in the name of (take your pick): the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, Mein Kampf, the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, the Communist Manifesto, or any other source that claims a particular version of “ultimate truth.”
Surely, there must be a more productive path through this minefield than getting mad and expressing outrage through rallies, emails, and candle-lit vigils. When will the light of a new dawn be bright enough to reveal that no one else on this planet can do our individual work? Rather than combating the negative effects of inequity with our equally negative energies of righteous hatred, we might be better served to shift the points from which we are viewing and see the scope of our dilemma from a fresh perspective. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the USABookNews.com Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.
©2004 – 2020. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.