<BACK> <HOME> <NEXT>
SEMINARY (con'd) AND THE COMING WAR (WORLD WAR II)
A TURNING POINT
It was during the summer of 1937, when I had some time to read the papers and listen to the radio, as well as read a few books of my own choosing, that I became convinced the human race was headed toward another world war. This realization raised the question in my mind, "Why?"
In trying to find an answer to that question, in the storehouse of my knowledge, I began, for the first time, to comprehend how ignorant I was of the world in which I lived. I didn't have a ghost of an idea what the forces were that were making another world war inevitable.
I went back over the pages of my memory records, searching for some clues that might suggest an answer to the question: "Why another world war?" I found there no hints of another war, but hopes of world peace. For example:
1. I found in my memory records of 1918 the often-repeated purpose of World War I - "The war to end war to make the world safe for democracy." That purpose was so widely and often repeated that even a very ignorant eight year old boy, of north Alabama, heard it so many times that he never forgot it.
2. I recalled hearing, during the early twenties, and reading more than once, the notion expressed that human beings were now too sensible to get, ever again, involved in another war: that war was a stupid practice of the human past, but was now unthinkable as a means of solving disputes between human beings.
3. I remembered the League of Nations, the peace conferences and peace treaties, and the Kellogg Peace Pact of the twenties and early thirties, which we discussed and debated in my high school civic classes. I discovered that all I had been taught and remembered was what the people and leaders of the nations had been trying to do to make the world safe from war and safe for democracy; that such was the desire and intention of my father's generation. Yet, the cold fact confronting me in the summer of 1937 was that what they actually did was plunged the world into the worse economic depression of record, installed at the head of a number of countries absolute dictators, and started the fires of another world war that was to prove to be the most destructive war of history
The facts I found in the tiny storehouse of my knowledge, as I reflected on them, gave rise to this question: "Why were the results of the efforts of my father's generation just the opposite of what would have been consistent with their desires and intentions?" My personal crash course to find an answer to that question revealed no satisfactory answer on the surface of recent history and current events. Slowly I came to the conclusion that the answer to my question must be hidden somewhere in the basic assumptions on which my father's generation set out to abolish war and make the world safe for democracy, only to end up making the world safe for dictators and war inevitable.
The decision to look for an answer to my questions, among those mental tools we call basic assumptions, proved to be a very important turning point in my life. It set me on a course of study that continues still, after forty-eight years. The story of this long and meandering course of study, and its confusing and uncertain results, are scrambled in the verbiage of the sermons, letter and articles I have written since 1937.
BASIC ASSUMPTIONS DEFINED
Since the study of "basic assumptions" has been the major preoccupation of my mental endeavors during the last half of my life, I must here try to explain what I mean by the phrase, "basic assumption." A basic assumption is any idea, notion or belief that is acted upon as true. In the mental activity we call arithmetic, one plus one equals two is a basic assumption. That belief is so fixed in our minds as true that we can work all our arithmetic problems without the need to stop and ask, or to figure out what the answer is to the problem of one plus one, for the answer has already become an unconscious tool of our minds.
Thus, any idea, notion or belief becomes a basic assumption, be it true or false, when it plays the same role in a thinking process as the idea that one + one = two plays in the thinking process of working an arithmetic problem. Suppose a first year student gets the idea that one + one = three. In working his arithmetic problem he does his adding and subtracting based on that assumption. The results would obviously be something other than the answer given at the back of the book - not because he made a mistake in his adding or subtracting, but because he started out on a false assumption.
In 1937 that was the conclusion I reached concerning the efforts of my father's generation to make the world safe from war and safe for democracy - the results of their efforts made the world unsafe for democracy and world war two inevitable, because they began their basic assumptions were false and inconsistent with the objective of their endeavors. That conclusion forced me to begin asking questions about ideas, notions and beliefs that I had heretofore assumed to be as true and valid as one + one = two. I started with the idea of democracy.
What did my father's generation assume democracy to be? What kind of society did they have in mind when they spoke of making the world safe for democracy? Was it their assumption that democracy was a human society wherein all people were equally free to have a voice in making and implementing the laws and policies of their society? Was the democracy of their vision a society that would be equally good to everyone who might have a life to live - a society wherein everyone would have an equal opportunity to work, eat and play? Would the society they called democracy make it possible for everyone to live a life free of want and from the fear of one another, to the extent, that war would become unthinkable?
In my search for answers to such questions I found little to suggest that they had in mind a democracy that would be little, if any, better than the democracy practiced in these United States, where, in many of the states, Black people did not have the freedom ever to register to vote - a democracy wherein want, or the fear of want, is an inescapable reality for the vast majority of the people of every race and clan - a democracy wherein people are forced to compete with each other for bread, and/or for special privileges, that violence, or the fear of it, is never far from anyone.
The results of the efforts of my father's generation made it obvious that they wanted (?) world peace and freedom on impossible terms. Embedded in their assumption of democracy were the seeds of war and degrees of servitude that rendered them incapable of creating a peaceful world society with equal freedom for all. In my search to find the defects in their assumption of democracy, I discovered that the defects of their assumption were nurtured by roots which feed upon ideas, beliefs and feelings that are as old as the oldest known civilization - some of then, no doubt, came with out human ancestors when they crawled out of the wilderness of our non-human past.
I could not have written the next few pages in 1937 - could not have even begun to do so until a dozen or more years later, after I had searched through thousands of pages of the history of human life, thought and civilization. It is necessary, however, that I jump ahead and record here a brief sketch of the human adventure as I see it, after forty years of trying to identify and understand the assumptions on which we have built our system of thought, customs and civilizations. I have found that the assumptions about democracy held by my father's generation were, like a star in the heavens, interrelated with a whole galaxy of assumptions. The idea of democracy, just as everything else, came slowly into the world, and brought, deeply embedded within it, some of the undemocratic notions of our human past.
We don't know when human creatures made their debut on this earthly stage. Just as all other creatures they too, no doubt, arrived by a very slow process, even tough Dr. John Lightfoot (1602-1675), an eminent Hebrew scholar, and Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, contented that heaven, earth and man were created on October 23rd, 4004 B.C., at nine o'clock in the morning. (see History of the Welfare of Science and Theology in Christendom, by Andrew Dickson White).
The latest I have heard is that evidence has been found, if I remember correctly, to suggest that human like creatures were living on the earth as early as three or four million years ago. However, other than a few bones and artifacts we have little else to tell us about our human past until as late as some seven or eight thousand years ago. By then our fore parents were already living in large organized societies, which we refer to as ancient civilizations, such as the ones in China, India, the Middle East and in Egypt. Before these large civilized societies emerged the evidence we have suggest that human beings lived together in tribal units, somewhat like the American Indians lived before our "Christian" forefathers came and killed most of them, robbed them of their best land and herded the few survivors into concentration camps called reservations. It must be said that these tribal units were often fighting one another over some disputed territorial rights or just to rob and plunder one another.
Before the warring tribes emerged it seems that our ancestors lived in family clans, between which there were violent feuds, more or less constantly. The story of Cain and Abel would suggest that a brother killed his brother in the first human family on this earth. Be that as it may, the hard facts we have of our human past tell us, in no uncertain terms, that we have a long record of being mean and cruel to one another - that the human race is a violent species of life on this earth.
All human societies, from the least to the greatest, from a society of two people to such large national societies like the United States, Russia and China, are made possible through the cooperation of the people involved. Cooperation is not the question. There can be no society without it. The question is, on what terms do the people involved cooperate?
Among the older and larger human societies of record is the ancient civilization of Egypt. We have a better record of history of ancient Egypt than we have of those of China, the Middle East and India. On what terms did the people of Egypt cooperate to create a large civilization some 5000 years ago and maintain it for thousands of years? Recorded history suggests the ancient civilization of Egypt was slowly created by stronger tribes conquering weaker tribes. Each conquest increasing the military power and control over the natural resources until the final conquering tribe had the military and economic power to force all the tribes of the Nile Valley to cooperate on terms dictated by the conquering tribe. What was the nature of those terms? The records tell us that the terms for cooperation were that of masters and slaves, organized in a pecking order that left the toiling masses at the bottom, on a level of absolute slavery, or nearly so.
What were the ground rules of cooperation in other ancient civilizations? The caste system in India suggests they were hardly better than the master/slave rules of Egypt. Until well into the 20th century the cast system rigidly held the people of India on some level of servitude, condemning a large mass of them to the level of untouchables.
For six or more thousand years such were the prevailing rules of cooperation for the civilizations of our heritage. As far as I know the idea of cooperation suggest in the term democracy was never even heard in public until about the middle of the first century B.C. If I remember correctly the term was first used by the utopian writers of the Greek civilization.
No one knows how old the cluster of ideas and dreams are that inspired Plato to think out loud of a society of free people wherein each citizen could have a voice in deciding on what rules they would cooperate. We do know that during the two thousand years, between one thousand B.C. and one Thousand A.D., the founders of the major religions of the world lived and their teachings were recorded in the sacred books of the religions they inspired - Confucius of China, Buddha and the Hindu sages of India, The Hebrew prophets, Jesus and Mohammed of the near east.
In the sacred books that tell their story and report their teachings we find that all of them spoke and dreamed of a human society wherein the ground rules of cooperation would be those summed up in such sayings as "Love your neighbor as you do yourself" and "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Micah's dream, for example: "Nations shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not life up a sword against nations; neither shall they learn way any more. Every woman shall sit under her vine and every man under his fig tree and none shall make them afraid. - Micah 4: 3-4
Here for the first time, as far as I know, such ideas of equality are discussed out loud in public. Here in the first century B.C. we find, for the first time, some organized contention that human beings should treat each other as equals; that the ground rules of cooperation in a human society should provide and protect the right of everyone to an equal opportunity to work, to eat and to play - to share equally in all the responsibilities, privileges and rewards of the society which their cooperation help to create and maintain.
What kind of impact did such ideas and terms of cooperation have on the way our ancestors, of the first century B.C., thought, felt, believed and judged? Remember, generation after generation, for six thousand years they had been conditioned to think, feel, believe and judge according to the rules of a master/slave mentality.
Plato, for example, when he wrote his famous book about his dream of a society of free citizens, did not count all the people of Greece among his free citizens. He left the masses of slaves in Greece as they were. No, he did not include the women in his dream society of free citizens. Plato's vision of a free society of free people was still seriously blurred by the basic assumptions of his inherited master-slave mentality. The best he could do was to dream of a small island of equally free men at the top of the old pecking order who had equal voices in determining the terms of cooperation in Greek society.
Since Plato's time the major religions of the world have had their children, generation after generation, to memorize the Golden Rule, which sums up the ground rules for a peaceful and democratic society; poems, songs, utopian novels and other books of every description, without end, have been written, extolling the virtues of democracy.
After more than two thousand years of debating the pros and cons of democracy, the founding fathers of these United States, met to declare their independence from the British and announced their intention to create a human society of free citizens - a democracy. They began with this noble and inspiring affirmation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Then they sat down and wrote a constitution - the ground rules for a society of, not "all men born equal", but only of all white men. Silently they chose not to count Black men as men "born equal." They left them where they were, in the bondage of servitude. Nor did they include any women among the "born equal". Women could not vote and did not have rights equal to that of white men. This the founding fathers did, seemingly, without being aware of the contradictions in their great affirmation - "All men are created equal" - and their actions, which denied Black men and all Women equal status with white men. How could they justify their actions? They did so by the silent persuasion of the basic assumptions of the master/slave mentality that had been handed down to them, generation after generation, for thousands of years.
It is by such old assumptions that we, today, unconsciously, or otherwise, condone or tolerate and perpetuate all the inequities in our society. Every denial of equal opportunity to work, to eat and to play in our society today is, and can only be justified by arguments that rest on assumptions of the age-old master-slave mentality of our human past. These old master/slave assumptions are still the major agents that set the temper of our minds; that still dictate the actual rules by which we cooperate, even in this society of ours.
You don't think so? You will, if you dare to examine the basic assumptions of your mind that enable you to condone or tolerate the cruel inequities in our society, to which you are daily exposed, it you watch, and or read the news, or reflect upon what you have experienced or seen all around you. You will be further convinced if you will sufficiently reflect on what has happened in the human world during the last twenty-five hundred years - since the cluster of ideas, beliefs and values, summed up in the Golden Rule, first began to contend, in public, that they were the ground rules for a peaceful and democratic human community. Let us begin at the present and go backward. Consider the purposed military budget of the United States for 1986. Three hundred and five billion dollars! Pause! Think! 305,000,000,000 dollars; mass starvation in Africa; millions unemployed in these United States; soup kitchens - the last hope for thousands who are desperately poor; civil war in South America; war in the Near East; world wide terrorism; Vietnam War; Korean War; World War Two; 6,000,000 Jews massacred; the use of atomic weapons; World wide depression of the thirties; World War One; The Civil War in the United States, resulting in the legal abolition of slavery, but left the Black people in a state of bondage for another hundred years that was in some cases worse than legal bondage; The American Revolutionary War: The slaughter and robbery of the American Indians and the plight of the survivors.
If you will read the chronological index of a good history book of the last twenty-five hundred years, you will see that civil wars, wars of conquest, slavery, famine and massacre to have been more and more the accepted way of life. I have just finished going over sixty-three pages of the chronological index of the last two volumes of H. C. Well's Outline of History. Here are just a few of the events listed in that index and the date of the event:
1780 Beginning of slavery in the United States
1798-1807 Napoleonic Wars that involved most of the states of Europe, Russia and Egypt
1659 Peace between Spain and France ending the war that started in 1635
1639-1659 Sever other wars listed
1641 Massacre of the English in Ireland
1572 Massacre of the Huguenots
1529 Protestantism forced upon Norway
1529 Turks besieged Vienna
1527 Pillage of Rome by German troops
1524 Moslems began a "Holy War" against Portugal
1520 Beginning of importation of slaves from West Africa
1515-1544 Wars between France and Charles V
1492 Jews expelled from Spain
1453 End of the "Hundred Years War
1443 Beginning of a century of disasters, famine and rebellion in Japan
1323 Renewed civil war in the Low Countries
1100-1300 The Crusades - almost constant war between Christians and Moslems
600-1000 Moslem wars of conquest.
During the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman empires during the first centuries of BC and AD war, pillage, massacre and the slave trade were the major activities of governments. Here are a few of the items in the chronological index of those two thousand years:
655 A.D. Rome captured and pillaged
337-351 A.D. Wars of concession
220 A.D. End of 400 years of internal strife in China
73 B.C. Uprising of seventy thousand slaves in Italy
100 B.C. Rome slave trade at its peak: daily sales of ten thousand slaves not unusual
149 B.C. Third Punic war started
201 B.C. End of second Punic war
264 B.C. First Punic war started
A careful reading of the morning papers is enough to remind us the basic ground rules that dictate how people today cooperate to create and maintain their national communities, and how those communities cooperate with one another, are essentially the same ground rules of cooperation that prevailed in the human communities of twenty-five hundred years ago - rules of cooperation that make war, crime, poverty, starvation amid potential plenty, inevitable. They are the same rules of cooperation, only slightly modified, that were dictated by the basic assumptions of the master-slave mentality that prevailed in the ancient civilizations of eight thousand years ago.
The new mentality, nurtured by the basic assumptions of the Golden Rule, that began to surface twenty-five hundred years ago, has been able, to some degree, to temper with mercy the way of life that is still dictated by the old master/slave mentality. There are now, for example, medical and Red Cross units attached to armies to minister to war casualties. Even merciful international laws on how to treat war prisoners have been agreed to. There is evidence that those laws are not always lived up to. They do, never the less, decrease, a tiny bit, the brutality of war. But the old mentality that makes war an indigenous part of the human world still remains the undisputed dictator of our minds.
The "new mentality" has also sponsored many programs of charity to ease the pain of poverty - aid to mothers with dependent children, Medicaid for the helpless poor, Medicare and social security for the old. These, along with many other programs of charity - soup kitchens, Christmas packages, aid to victims of famine - all these do prevent some of the poor from starving to death, and make living in poverty a little less painful. Yet, this "new mentality" has not been able to diminish the power of the old mentality to dictate the rules of cooperation that make poverty or the fear of poverty a reality in the life of nearly everyone who may have a life to live.
Why have the basic assumptions of this new vision of democracy - a society of equals - been unable, during the last twenty-five hundred years, to diminish, significantly, the power of the old master/slave mentality to dictate the basic rules of cooperation in human societies? I suggest one reason is the fact that the old master/slave mentality had a 5000 year head start over the new mentality, inspired by the basic assumptions of the Golden Rule. When this new mentality emerged, hardly more than a dream of a few religious fanatics, the old master/slave mentality had been, for six thousand years, dictating human values, fears, hopes, beliefs and the rules by which they had to cooperate with one another in human societies We have to admit that was a huge advantage, when we are reminded of how slow basic beliefs, values, customs and traditions change.
Another reason the new Golden Rule mentality has made such a poor showing against the old one is this: There has never been an organized and persistent effort, of any significance, to advocate and attempt to create a human society, in which the rules of cooperation would be dictated by the basic assumptions of the Golden Rule - love and equality. Those assumptions were the heart of the ethical teachings of the prophets of the first centuries (B.C.-A.D.), who inspired the beginnings of the major religions of the world. Yet, the people, of not one of those religious movements, ever seriously attempted to make those basic assumptions the actual economic ground rules of cooperation in a human society.
Christianity for example: The Kingdom of God - the society of love and equality - of which the Christians speak, is not of this world - nor for this earthly life of flesh and blood, but rather for a life hoped for, after death, in a place called heaven. It is only in heaven that the Christians hope to find freedom from war and freedom from want: only in heaven do they expect everyone to be able to sit under "his vine and under her fig tree, and none shall make them afraid."
As it has been with the Christians so has it been with the people of the other major religions of humankind. They too have offered no hope for a better life in this world, no better than a life of unfulfilled hopes, plagued by wars and rumors of wars, by poverty and want. No, all that the people of the great religions hope to do for life on earth is to make it bearable and a little less painful, through deeds of mercy and kindness, and by holding out a hope for something better in another life after death.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a movement began that came to be known as the age of reason or enlightenment. No longer able to believe in another life after death, and inspired by the new and better means of communication, transportation and production, some philosophers, poets and a few ministers began to express the faith and hope that the earth is the place for paradise: that it is here that we may "mold and make" a better life for ourselves. This new earthly faith and hope inspired some significant reforms. For example, it inspired the abolition of legal slavery throughout the world.
Even World War One was unable to crush this new earthly faith and hope. For it was this faith that inspired my father's generation to declare that World War I was the war that would end all war and make the world safe for democracy. Even during World War II we could still hear echoes of that faith in the words of Roosevelt and Churchill - "freedom from fear and freedom from want."
However, the depression of the thirties, World War II, The Cold War, The Atomic Arms Race, The Korean and The Vietnam Wars, and wide spread poverty and famine - these disastrous human events, of our generation, have mortally wounded the faith of the enlightenment, the faith that dared to hope this earth could be transformed into a paradise, where human beings could live together without fear of war, without fear of want. The following examples will suggest just how sick that faith is in our time.
In 1950 or 51, I read an old list of beliefs published by the American Unitarian Association - beliefs to which most Unitarians could subscribe at the time they were published. One of those beliefs was this: "We believe in the progress of man - onward and upward forever." Not long thereafter I read a revised list of Unitarian beliefs. The belief was not included on the revised list.
Miguel De Unamuno, the best know and widely read philosopher and writer of modern Spain, confessed that he had not been to Mass for decades; that he did not believe there was another life after death. However he admitted that the people he admired most were the priests and nuns, who also did not believe, yet continued to help the poor people of Spain to believe there was a better life to hope for in a beautiful place called Heaven.
Why did he take such a position? Because, he said, that the living conditions of the poor were so unbearable they could not stand to live without some hope for a better life after death. (See Unamuno's book, Tragic Sense of Life, and the book Spain, by Nikos Kazantzakis, pp 174-176). Here was a very sincere, intelligent and sensitive man, a man of great sympathy, saying, in substance, that nothing can be done to improve, significantly, the life of the poor on this earth, and even to make their earthly life bearable they have to have some kind of hope for a better life after this one.
W. T. Stace, for years a professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, published, in the early fifties, a philosophical poem, under the title, The Gate of Silence. The last part of the poem is given the sub-title, "The Sermon in the Desert." In a simple, but profound and compelling way, the preacher presents the case for human love. However little and frail such love may be, he contends, if there is to be a better human life on this earth, human beings will have to learn to live together by the rules of cooperation dictated by the basic assumptions of human love. Toward the end of his argument we read these lines:
Man stands at the crossroads.
Man stands in peril of his life,
Because the ancient lights have gone out, and no other light cometh from the sky.
And this then is the final question for Man:
Can he learn to follow the good,
Can he learn to put away hate,
Can he learn to follow and live out to the end that saying of the Blessed One,
"Hate ceases through love?"
If man can do these things, he shall live,
His soul that is now sick shall be healed.
But if not he shall perish.
The preacher dismissed the congregation, and when they had all departed, leaving him all alone, we are told the preacher wept, for he was not at all sure the people could do what he had said must be done. As the sun slowly sank below the desert horizon, the preacher departed with "a great wondering in his heart."
No, we can no longer affirm, with the confidence of my father's generation, that "we believe in the progress of man, onward and upward forever," or, affirm this war is the war that will "end war and make the world safe for democracy."
We now know, or must learn, that if such great dreams and hopes are ever to be realized, there must be a more profound mental revolution take place inside us than the one that occurred in the minds and hearts of people of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It must be a revolution in our minds and hearts capable of freeing us from the domination of the old master/slave mentality, and creating in its place the love-equality mentality - the basic assumptions of which has been summed up in the Golden Rule. Nothing less can give human love a chance to fully express itself, down on the city street "where cross the crowded ways of life."
Is there such a revolution brewing? If there is it is mostly a silent one, as far as I know. The one person, who has done the kind of thinking and feeling that might give us an intellectual and ethical foundation for such a mental revolution has, so far, unfortunately, been ignored.
In his book, The Philosophy of Civilization, published in 1923, Albert Schweitzer recorded the basic assumptions of his philosophy. I believe those basic assumptions of his thinking, if sufficiently understood, by enough people, could inspire the beginnings of a mental revolution, inclusive and profound enough, to make the love-equality mentality the compelling arbitrator in human society. The tragedy is, his great book remains mostly unknown and unread. I went through high school, college and seminary, after that book was published, without even hearing a word about Schweitzer or his work. I did not hear about Schweitzer until 1948. I know of no university in the world today that offers a course of study in the philosophy of Schweitzer. In my book that is an unpardonable sin on the part of the intellectual community.
Most people, who know of Schweitzer, remember and admire him for his charity work in Africa, not for his intellectual work - work that might make for a mental revolution that could so alter the ground rules of human cooperation that such charity work would no longer be necessary. That is if enough people could be persuaded to make a serious study of his greatest book - The Philosophy of Civilization. Schweitzer's intellectual work tells us, in no uncertain terms, that charity hand outs are not enough: that something more profound and revolutionary than charity is necessary if there is to be a human world of peace and freedom for everyone to work, to eat and to play.
Yes, I know the question: Is such a revolution possible, "human nature being what it is?" I have heard that phrase hundreds of times, used as the final argument that nothing better can be done. I have heard old people, young people, rich people, poor people, educated people, uneducated people, men and women, use that phrase to stop further discussion of any subject that seems to be suggesting something other than the old assumptions of tradition.
Before we accept the verdict of that phrase here, I ask you to answer, for yourself, this question: What is your human nature? When you look inside, what kind of human nature do you find? If you think you need some hints of what to look for, I suggest you read, a dozen or more times, Carl Sandburg's short poem Wilderness. In my search for an answer to that question, I found the hints in that little poem to be most helpful. When I look inside myself and have the courage not to look away, I have to agree with Sandburg that my human nature has something in common with a large number of the animals of my wilderness ancestors, including the wolf, the sly fox, who "circles and loops and double-crosses," and the lazy hog.
Yes, I find in my human nature attitudes, feelings, desires, ideas and values that could make me capable of enjoying being a master in a master/slave society. Also, I find assets in my human nature that could enable me to endure, with hate, being a slave in a master/slave society, such as having a faint hope of being lucky on a long shot, or finding a winning lottery ticket that would make it possible to buy my freedom and thus be in a position to force others to be my slave. BUT, DAMN IT, THAT IS NOT ALL OF MY HUMAN NATURE!
As Sandburg said, "I got something else." There is this other part of my human nature. It is that part that shamed me for the way I treated an opossum, when I was only five years old. It is that part of my human nature that recognizes the basic assumptions of the Golden Rule as the most civilized rules for human cooperation. It is that part of my human nature forever challenging me to say yes to a love/equality mentality and no to a master-slave mentality.
What this love/equality mentality asks of me can be simply stated, but what it asks is profoundly revolutionary when judged by what the master/slave mentality condones or tolerates. This "something else" mentality of my human nature tells me to ask from society no more for my dependable cooperation than I ask for the dependable cooperation of everyone. However timid, or cowardly, this part of my nature may be, it is, nevertheless, a part of my human nature. And I do not believe my human nature is any different from yours. There is this "something else" of our common human nature. However retarded it may be, I believe it is the advanced cry of human life on this earth.
Will this advanced cry of our human nature ever be able to assert itself and dictate the ground rules for human cooperation? I do not know. I do not believe anyone can know. As Nikos Kazantzakis has said: "Don't ask." Just do your best to heed and to follow this advanced cry of our human nature. Or to state it in the words of Jesus, which are equally as revolutionary. "Take up thy cross and follow me."
Before returning to 1937 to resume recording some of the events of my life, I want to leave with you, for your consideration, two underlying beliefs that are logically and ethically consistent with the advanced cry of our human nature. One of them is the subject of a book published in 1879 - Progress and Poverty, by Henry George. Henry George's book is a convincing argument that it is the human community that gives a plot of land its rental value. The Dutch gave $24.00 for Manhattan Island when they settled there in 1626. The rental value of the land of that Island today would, perhaps, be billions of dollars a year. What gave the land of that Island its increased value are not those who, by chance, hold the title to the land, but the human community that grew up on it and around it. Erase the human community of greater New York City from the map and the rental value of the land of Manhattan Island, regardless of who holds the title to the land, will drop to a level relative to the $24.00 the Dutch paid for it. Therefore, Henry George concluded that the rent paid for the use of land should be paid to the human community that gives it its rental value, not to those who may hold a title to it.
The other underlying belief, I ask you to think about, is only an addition to the one Henry George brought to our attention a hundred years ago. The twin brother to his idea is this: the human community gives your talents and skills their exchange value. Alone in a desert, or in a fertile field, forest, or wherever, be your talents and skills what they may be they are only worth what help they may be to you in finding, growing or making the necessities for existence and the pleasure you might get out of your other use of them. But it takes a human community to give your talents and skills their monetary exchange values.
Suppose you are a doctor and I am a dishwasher in a large hotel. Let us assume both of us are equally dependable and conscientious in our work performance. The people's health, in our community, is dependent, in part, on how well each of us does his work. You have acquired the knowledge and skill to help people get well when they are sick, or to do a roto-rooter job for an old man that enables him to see a little better. I have acquired the knowledge and skill to wash dishes so they will be clean of contagious germs. My work helps prevent the people of our community from getting sick. Both of our jobs are essential to the good health and welfare of the people of the community. Since it is the community that gives the work of each of us its exchange value, should the community give one of us more for his dependable cooperation than it give to the other for his dependable cooperation?. I realize the idea being suggested here is very revolutionary, when it is judged by the prevailing rules of our society by which we reward people for their dependable cooperation that makes the human community possible. I also realize that the old rules, by which we reward people for their cooperation, continue to breed war and poverty and all the ills that go with them, just as they have been doing for ages.
I am convinced, if there is an alternative to the old mentality - our old ways of thinking - that breeds war and poverty, it must be a mentality that is consistent with some part of our human endowment - a mentality that is an expression of an inherent part of our human nature. I believe the alternative mentality that is so rooted in our human heritage and nature, is the love/equality mentality, the basic assumptions of which have been summed up in the Golden Rule of the ethical teachings of the major religions of the world is, indeed, the advanced cry of our human nature, to which we may choose to say yes or no.
As Sandburg has said: "I am the keeper of the zoo. I say yes and no." We are, indeed, the ones who must choose which cry of our human nature, to which we will say yes and to which we will say no.
Our human nature does offer us a choice between the drummers of war and poverty, and the flutists (pipe dreamers) of peace and plenty.
"Behold, I have set before you life and good, and death and evil, therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live." - Deut. 30: 15-19
<BACK> <HOME> <NEXT>