The Time is Now
If the rapid advance of technology tells us anything it is this: humanity must evolve to embrace the responsibility of its own rational nature or we will destroy ourselves – one way or another. (No need here to list the threats we are facing; from weapons of mass destruction to climate change, we know them well.) The fingers of unwarranted greed are well planted in them all. The solution lies in strengthening our own long recognized ideals in order to combat them.
With that important priority in mind, let’s consider the words spoken by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides to better understand what is happening today:
“Practically the whole of the Hellenic world was convulsed, with rival parties in every state – democratic leaders trying to bring in the Athenians, and oligarchs trying to bring in the Spartans…
“To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfit for action.
“Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect… As a result… there was a general deterioration of character throughout the Greek world. The plain way of looking at things, which is so much the mark of a noble nature, was regarded as a ridiculous quality and soon ceased to exist. Society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.”
Thucydides was the man who recognized that people go to war for the following reasons: “honor, fear and interest,” another thing to keep in mind as we blur the motivation that includes each of them.
The enlightened world of ancient Greece eventually fell due to regional bickering that fostered animosity and disunity, and no ambitious leader who deftly worked the crowd could be trusted.
We have a chance to avoid this. We have the knowledge and the capacity to learn from the past and make better choices while we still can.