Union of Opposites

In essence, human nature is constituted by a union of opposites and by a set of paradoxes, and as a result, the expectation on the part of some for perfect “behavior” even though it is unclear what a conception of perfect behavior would even look like in reality is outlandish. What does “perfect behavior” even look like in their imagination when we first and foremost live in an imperfect world? Moreover, certain people need to get challenged and offended as a check and balance to their abuse of freedom and power. Are we expected to be passive, one-dimensional, lifeless, and silent robots who do not react to the injustices that happen around us? As Arnold Toynbee wrote:

“Human nature is, in truth, a union of opposites that are not only incongruous but are contrary and conflicting; the spiritual and the physical; the divine and the animal; consciousness and subconsciousness; intellectual power and moral and physical weakness; unselfishness and self-centredness; saintliness and sinfulness; unlimited capacities and limited strength and time; in short, greatness and wretchedness: grandeur et misère. But the paradox does not end here. The conflicting elements in Human Nature are not only united there; they are inseparable from one another.”

Thus, if the opposites are inseparable, then what is this expectation of “perfect behavior” by some people? It follows that wretchedness is involved in virtually everything about a modern human being. And is it even up to us that we believe in what we ultimately believe in? 

It is perhaps because of this narrow worldview that China has risen as an alternative to Washington in recent years, and it is an alternative that is tailored specifically for those who are tired of people in Western capitals who cannot go beyond the limits of their narrow-mindedness. Emmanuel Macron’s recent trip to China, for instance, demonstrates three different factors of international affairs which are important but are often contended and disputed. For one, Macron’s visit to China demonstrates that China is now an alternative to Washington for those who are seeking a different and independent path in the international system. Second, Macron’s visit demonstrates the basic divide that exists in the outlook between Western peoples. Macron even criticized American foreign policy, which is a novel development in some ways. And third, this aforementioned divide between Western peoples proves that the West is not a monolith and that people in the West have different opinions and worldviews just like anywhere else in the world. 

Given that Macron’s visit to China elucidates the three basic and overarching themes of international affairs, the recent intel leak out of Washington contains nothing that is surprising or shocking. It is no surprise that Washington spies on its allies. And it is no surprise that Ukraine is a lost cause. And it is also no surprise that there are cracks in the U.S.-Israel relationship. It affirms to a certain extent the claim that “open intelligence is good enough.” 

There are also economic and social problems which leaders and policymakers have to reckon with, and for these problems there are no easy solutions as mentioned before. As one economist argued, the choice at the moment is between lower interest rates but high inflation on one hand, and higher interest rates, lower inflation, but a recession. However, the economic problems are secondary to the social crisis and the conundrum of finding a way to control the trifecta of greed, fearmongering and warmongering, and stupidity. At first, no one realizes the impact that greed, fear mongering, warmongering, and stupidity can have over the long run. Perhaps the solutions to the economic problems are readier than the solutions to the social crisis, and economics are driven to a large extent by political and social factors.

The rise of China and growing demand are secondary to the issue of polarization and social fragmentation which is plaguing the international system at the moment. In sum, polarization and social fragmentation are the overriding factor of international affairs at the moment. There is the conundrum of how one can even justify controlling and regulating the greed, fearmongering, warmongering, and stupidity of others when the people whom we have in power at the moment are as greedy, corrupt, and stupid as anyone else. The question of how it is even possible to regulate greed, war, and stupidity is a question that has vexed philosophers and intellectuals for centuries. But to be out of touch with regular people, which is a common attribute and quality of those who are in power and are in the public sphere, can only make the conundrum and crisis worse. And if we take history as a guide, in the 1930’s for instance, polarization and social fragmentation was the precursor to the economic downturn. In turn, the polarization and social fragmentation combined with the economic downturn were the precursor to a global war which killed 60 million people throughout the globe. 

Polarization and social fragmentation could also lead to a permanent turn in the United States towards Christian fundamentalism and right-wing power, even though it is highly unlikely that such a permanent turn was the intent of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the United States. All of it amounts to a result or an outcome of the basic failures of the system over the course of the last few decades, and as a result and as we have done over the last few years, one has to look into how and why the system failed and how the system can be rectified in order to overcome the conundrum and the social crisis which is underpinned first and foremost by the dangerous and precarious conditions of polarization and social fragmentation which could lead to something quite disastrous and profound sometime in the future.

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