Beyond Good and Evil

Our experience with the coronavirus pandemic made us aware that there are several existential threats to humanity. Arguably, the most severe of them all is climate change, which has yet to pass to its fullest extent. Many of the world’s top influencers such as Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are now discussing the potential of a climate change disaster which is much more severe than what we have experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. I wrote a brief and simple article about climate change during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, and what I noticed when I looked back at the essay is that all the major existential threats to humanity (climate change, disease, poverty, ignorance, and violence) are interlinked. What underlies all these existential threats is human cognition and behavior. If we want to change our societies and the world for the better, we must first change the way we behave and think.

                 Atonement and repentance are always within reach. “To get lost is to learn the way,” as suggested by an African proverb. Moreover, in both the Afro-Islamic and Chinese civilizations, the basic underlying principles (“Tariqa” and “Tao”) translate into the same thing, namely, “the way” towards individual and global order, which in turn leads to overall harmony with the natural order. There is a natural order which reflects the cosmic order, and individual order is the sine qua non of the natural order. Conforming to the natural order – which reflects the cosmic order – is the perennial human struggle. As the Prophet Muhammad said: “One’s internal struggle is greater than the external struggle.”

                 No one disputes America’s greatness. Becoming a major power is no easy feat. Those of us who live and were born and raised in the United States have been afforded several opportunities and resources for personal development, which takes education, health, and economic prosperity into account. But few could deny that the weapons and war manufacturing on the part of our government must slow down lest we destroy all prospects of economic and social viability at home and abroad. “Be the change you wish to see” may seem like a cliché expression, but it is not cliché at all. Many of us in both broader society and government have yet to overcome the greed, selfishness, hedonistic tendencies, and inclination towards drama and war mongering, which inhibits us from making a positive impact on our communities and societies.

First, we must overcome these character flaws. It is only after overcoming these character flaws when we can rightfully claim the moral authority to call for change and reform on the part of others. It is thus hard to deny that beneath the façade of morality and self-righteousness is unbridled greed, selfishness, lust, and bloodthirst. To suggest otherwise would be a lie after the proof that has accumulated which exposes what lies beneath the façade and self-righteousness. Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Libya were all slaughtered at the altar of realpolitik. One cannot deny that realpolitik – whereby military and corporate interests dominate government and thus the approach towards the rest of the world – is essentially the American and Western weltanschauung.

                 Because realpolitik is the American and Western weltanschauung, it is realpolitik which shapes the political and social climate on a global scale, given that it is one’s weltanschauung which shapes social reality. Although China is now copying from the American and Western textbook and is demonstrating its own form of hegemonic behavior in Southeast Asia, China’s hegemonic behavior pales in comparison to what the United States did in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Libya. China has not resorted to regime change and violence based on a false pretext yet. Rather, China seeks hegemony and influence largely through “dollar diplomacy,” whereas the United States has blatantly violated international rules and norms to exercise military hegemony over others. Thus, China’s hegemonic behavior pales in comparison to what the United States has done in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Libya over the last two decades. One cannot compare apples to oranges.

                 Challenging the narrative put forth by one’s government and propaganda outlets is both difficult and risky for anyone who sets out on such and endeavor, no matter where one lives. Moreover, those who challenge the predominant narrative – which is often shaped by the majority – are in the minority. But being in the minority does not mean one is misguided or wrong. Sigmund Freud wrote: “I learned early to know the lot of standing in opposition and being placed under a ban by the ‘compact majority.’ Thus, the ground was laid for a certain independence of judgment.” This ‘liberal majority’ to borrow from Ibsen – or rather, the pseudo-liberal majority – has shaped the narrative through both government channels and through propaganda outlets.

When the prevailing weltanschauung is shaped by realpolitik, liberalism becomes pseudo-liberalism. Capital, energy, libido, and life are then suctioned off towards a handful of military and corporate figureheads at the expense of everyone else. Once a society’s capital, energy, libido, and life are completely suctioned off by a couple of military and corporate figureheads, all of it is then directed towards death and destruction by virtue of hegemony-rivalry. All it takes is a perusal of Modern European history (World War I, World War II, Cold War) to reach this conclusion. Now, we are on course for hegemony-rivalry and thus death and destruction with China.

                 In the end, one can only convey the message. Whether governments and societies heed the message that is conveyed by the messengers is another issue. Rarely do governments and societies heed the call of the messengers. Several messengers have been persecuted and killed in the past for merely speaking their minds and for addressing the transgressions committed by those in positions of power. It often takes a natural disaster to realize that we had strayed off the right path and that we should have heeded the message.

But at that point, it is too late. Coronavirus was merely a prelude to what could come down the road. Nevertheless, one derives peace of mind (“ataraxia”) and personal satisfaction from conveying the message and doing the right thing. Putting knowledge into action renders immense rewards, one of which is ‘psychic income.’ “Those who convey the truth shall receive all that they desire.” Whether governments and societies heed the message is another matter. But fortunately, the onus is no longer on the conveyors of the message to do what needs to be done. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

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