The anticlimactic resolution to the attempt at another mass murder of innocent victims who happened to be headed to the United States by airplane reminds us what an unsafe world we live in.
In my lifetime there have been few respites from this feeling. When I was a young child we were embroiled in a full-scale war, and our daddies were all missing from our lives while they fought it. Planes were a threat, and periodically the grown-ups turned out the lights, hung blankets over the windows, and we all hid under the furniture for maybe an hour or so, hoping the blackout would keep us out of harm's way.
When that particular war was over, there was an uneasy peace known as The Cold War, in which we were certain that the Russians, governed by madmen, were going to attack our country at any time. Then in 1950 came the Korean War, which we didn't understand, followed by a period of prosperity and the overarching feeling that we really were in some kind of war with Russia. School children were drilled in how to hide when a bomb was dropped -- get under the desk, that'll save you -- and people built fallout shelters and equipped them with food to last for a year. That gave them a feeling of security...or did it?
Russia designed a workable rocket that was named Sputnik. This proved to us their superiority in math and science, and changed the emphasis and curriculum in American schools for generations. We put our efforts in a space program that outshone their wildest dreams, and held back true education (learning for its own sake) in favor of creating an image of technological prowess and pressuring children to be more and more like miniature adults -- terrified and competition-driven rather than curious, open and creative.
A friend recently asked me to address the subject of the "beehive" of mankind, the order of life, suggesting the inevitable progress we are making (sometimes in spite of ourselves) in improving the human race and its contribution to the planet. I'm sorry that I just don't see it that way. Looking at the larger picture, it seems to me that ancient Greece and Rome were probably more civilized, even deprived as they were of technology. Certainly the planet itself was better off before our superior technological advances provided the means to blow it up at any time, and the erosion of the ozone layer warmed us to the point of melting our magnificent snowcapped peaks.
Mankind has not used his gifts for much more than the destruction of his own past and the earth itself as he went along. War is still the greatest game in the world. We wonder why our leaders have plunged headlong into battle after battle, picking up old wars and using our sons to give their lives in opening old wounds with other nations. Can we not see the obvious – it is because we enjoy it? It is because that feeling of insecurity is a spur to a world of people weaned on competition, anger, hatred and bigotry. We are a busy little beehive indeed, flying about in circles, creating much more than honey. And much less.
We call it progress, we call it growth, but Marietta Johnson and a few other saintly folks like her called it arrested development, and abhored our celebration of it. Spiritual leaders emerge in every age, and we ignore them quite efficiently while we follow the warmongers over the brink to the destruction of civility and wisdom, maybe forever.
In the meantime, I think I'll avoid transatlantic air travel for a while.