Robert F. Kennedy once said we need to “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” The quote seems so right for these times. Lately we see the worst in people (those who destroyed the economy and brutal police) and the best in people (brave, peaceful protesters and the advocates of democracy). This seems to be a time to build up the best and have the worst fall away.
You’d think after all these years of human life on the planet, the species would have evolved beyond war and cruelty. Since our beginnings, the human race has repeatedly been involved in war and we have often been led by anti-democratic authoritarians. Will we as a species never outgrow this?
If we wanted to set aside a moment to imagine there is something to the idea of predestination, we could play with the idea that in the cosmic scheme of things, this present generation was born when it was for the purpose of standing up to today’s tyrants. At least we can safely think it’s lucky that such a courageous, ethical generation came into the world when it did to grow up and speak with one voice at just the time when the world needed them most.
To continue playing with the predestination scenario, throughout history there have been generations with clusters of like-minded people who made an exceptional impact on the world. In this country alone, some examples include the generation that started the American Revolution (Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, etc.); the generation that produced the Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau and other members of the lyceum movement) with their challenges to traditional thinking and their anti-war and abolitionist views; the generation that came of age just before the 1960s and produced heroes to go up against the Vietnam War and racism (people such as Daniel Ellsberg, who revealed the Pentagon Papers, and Martin Luther King who led the civil rights movement).
At those times in history, as is true today, it wasn’t just the “leaders” of movements who made a positive difference, but the many people whose names aren’t well-known today, but who joined the groundswell and changed the world for the better.
This little rant of mine doesn’t cover every detail that should be discussed. My fantasy that predestination is a possibility isn’t provable and isn’t about science, but about poetry. It’s just for fun, a what if? Imagine.
The Occupy protesters are another generation making a big impact on the world by bravely and intelligently challenging the status quo with exceptional thoughtfulness. I hope this movement goes a long way toward taming the savageness of man and making more gentle the life of this world. It’s about time the human race evolved toward what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” Surely it has to happen someday, and really has to happen soon if we want the earth to survive. The planet and the people here can’t take much more abuse. Imagine all the people living life in peace.