Today, I will blog about the dark-side and the future of humanity. As you may have noticed by now, I tend to focus very often on big-scale, long-term, and I also tend to group together past/present/future. These are some of the things that sometimes keeps me up at night as I contemplate what is our destiny. Here I must note what I define destiny as – destiny is not written in the distant stars many light-years away or by somebody/something/some being with magical powers, but written by our thoughts, actions, and how we live our lives on our home planet.
Before starting, I must note something else. This blog entry goes into a dark side of humans that we tend to avoid thinking about or talking about as much as we can. I can’t always stick to only topics and ideas that make us look good. Life doesn’t always flow in a way where the good people always win and evil people always lose or where we must forget about our human nature, our actions through the ages, and who we are at the end of day. That only happens in fairy tales and our dreams.
Also know that I’m not saying all humans are like this – it is more of a generalization of humans throughout history. I will try to find something positive in all this.
One of the things that scares the crap out of me is what we humans are capable of when at our worst. We leave behind destruction, death, ashes in our wake more than any other species of animal to ever exist on Earth. When you look back through recorded history, for every Mahatma Gandhi’s, you have just as many Adolph Hitler’s. In fact, I would argue that we have had significantly fewer leaders of peace than destruction. Are we, as a species, more destructive than helpful to life as a whole? What can we learn that history has to teach us? Even if we learn from history, can we change our destructive nature?
What is the future of humanity? Will our destructive nature lead to our demise? I’m not afraid of death itself – only the death of the species where you leave nothing behind to potential life-forms that may come searching for life on planet Earth. Destruction of our species helps nobody, but only helps to hurt everybody.
More than anything, I cheer for the human race to exist far into the future. We each won’t be here and alive individually, but I want our future descendants of our species to be here. We are the building blocks to our future.
Perhaps we are just average when it comes to destruction or we are far better/worse in that aspect than other complex living things like us. As much as I want to look at it in terms of the universe, I obviously have no other advanced life-form to compare us to. Thus, I have no choice but to compare us to ourselves. This would usually be a big no-no in most things you analyze as you cannot put things into perspective if you are only comparing things to themselves.
The Drake equation was devised by astrophysicist Frank Drake in 1961. This equation tries to estimate the number of extraterrestrial life, much like ours, in our Milky Way galaxy. I will create a blog entry on this in the future, but for now, just focus on the last component of the equation “L”.
The ‘L’ tries to estimate how long an advanced life can send out communication signals. Essentially, it’s how long an advanced species exists on average before they go extinct. That is the hardest thing of all to estimate because some species may exist for hundreds of thousands of years while some may drive themselves into extinction quickly.
They may go extinct for any number of reasons both natural or otherwise: killing themselves through wars, asteroids, drying out resources on their home-planet, black-holes, artificial intelligence, viruses & disease, genetic vulnerabilities that could destroy the DNA, out of control population growth, global warming, nearby supernova, lack of genetic variability due to extreme in-breeding, refusing to accept change over time, gamma-ray bursts, wasting too many resources, sun dying, intergalactic warfare (if 2 alien species are near each other), I can go on and on.
We have no way of estimating ‘L’ as we obviously only know ourselves (for now anyways). Many of the natural reasons are out of our control, but man-made ones due to destructive reasons are not.
Merchants of Death
It is very easy to look back through history to find examples & instances of destruction. One can easily go through a list of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, and every other crazy dictator. Unfortunately, that would not do justice as we are more destructive in other ways. It’s one thing to kill millions, but something else when you collectively make choices that impacts and damages the livelihood of almost every single human on Earth for countless number of generations and centuries beyond reckon.
When you consider the number of other animal/plant species we have driven into extinction over perhaps the last 50,000 years (before that, we lived & co-existed closely with nature but not since) and how close we have come to extinction ourselves & will continue to down the road, we come full circle to defining how truly destructive we are. When you change the entire landscape for every living thing on Earth through your own doing for as far as we can see into the future, that’s the greatest destruction in pure impact.
Every generation had their own issues to deal with that fester from our own (human) doing. Climate change is the defining issue of our time and my generation. The generation before mine had to deal with the danger of Soviet Union & United States erupting into nuclear warfare. The generation before that had to deal with Communism beginning to spread quickly though Asia, South America, other regions (USA specifically had to deal with Korean War and later the Vietnam War & other crisis around the world with communism spreading in 50s and 60s). Before that was the fascist Nazis, holocaust in Europe & imperial Japan causing havoc in the Pacific. Before that was global economic collapse and World War 1. Imperialism was another issue throughout the early 1900’s. That only covers the 20th century.
The common connection in all this is a thirst for destruction. We humans have been the merchants of death throughout history.
Why is it problematic & What Can we Learn?
I wish to state a personal example here..
When I was a kid in 6th grade, they didn’t teach about the holocaust specifically because I assume they felt it was too early to teach about something so dark. I knew something was up in the 1941-1944 period that was extremely dark based on the World War 2 books I used to read & it was very briefly mentioned in class, but I had no idea about the severity of it as there were no specific lessons in any of my classes. I never took the time to research it. It was not something that was discussed in depth until High School (9th or 10th grade), and I was always baffled by it.
Once in 6th grade as a 12-year old kid, I made a joke about Hitler (ignorant joke). I told my teacher something crazy about Hitler being an inspirational guy that I wouldn’t mind meeting. I saw the expression on my teacher’s face change instantly of something that looked like pity; he walked up to me and said quietly “That is not a nice thing to say. Never say that again especially not around somebody Jewish.” Then he just walked away. That is when I became very curious about what truly happened and why he mentioned Jewish people specifically. I later asked him, but I didn’t get much except that the Holocaust was a scary time in human history. I decided to Google up on my own to read specifics about the holocaust, and I saw images that I would never forget. Without getting too graphic, I saw stuff that was of horror. I felt sick to my stomach. I started to wonder why wasn’t I taught about this, and I felt ashamed about what I had said even though it was a joke out of ignorance.
It was not until the end of 7th grade that my class read ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ that talked about the Holocaust, and we read Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ in 9th grade. 7th grade! If I didn’t do research on my own outside of class and read so many books (not to tout my own horn, but I don’t think most students read books outside of class back then), I wouldn’t know any of the specifics of the Holocaust until the end of 7th grade. Even then, the exact information was not gone into specifics with images and details until halfway through 9th grade history class. Of course, I had Google at my disposal, and I could have easily picked up books on Holocaust from the public library in Elementary school if I truly wanted to.
Obviously, the reasoning is to not rush into such dark topics with kids just beginning to learn about the history and human life – people are worried it might do more harm than good to show kids images of thousands of bodies dumped in open pits, the ovens where they were cremated alive, shower heads that were gas vents to kill, men starved to death, and massacred in a genocide. It’s too graphic and horror beyond anything. As for other stuff.. None of my classes (until High School electives and college) taught about how humans have been hunting animals that have ivory and rare furs into extinction or how many forests are cut down or burnt down annually to fulfill our greed – some areas are so poor that desperate people have no choice but to cut down trees & sell wood just to feed their children. What about the fact that many companies dump toxic chemicals into rivers? Or the dangerous levels that coal and oil mining are at? None of this is new news, but it is not part of school curriculum until the later years.
I don’t believe in hiding stuff even if it’s to protect a kid’s innocence and understanding of the world. I want even kids to learn about how destructive we humans have been through the ages and still are. Events like the holocaust should be taught about in Elementary school regardless of how dark it may be. People enabled that to happen and have enabled such events to happen throughout recorded history again and again and again out of complacency & not speaking out. The day you lose is the day that you have nothing to say against an injustice taking place in front of your very eyes.
We learn about how easily people can be convinced to commit horrendous crimes through targeted propaganda that Hitler used to convince people to join up and support the Nazi party as Germany’s savior. Group mentality (groupthink) and behavior can be easily goaded into committing crimes against humanity.
Every kid must know that the world is not a perfect fairy tale with angels everywhere. Humans are far from perfect as each and every one of us is vulnerable. There is a dark side to each and every one of us. I want kids to understand that – kids are not stupid by any means! When you teach about the dangers starting from childhood, we might be better prepared so something like the Holocaust or even something smaller doesn’t happen ever again. That’s the power of education!
Can Humans Bank on Others Saving Us?
If you are a gambler, do you put your money on the chance that if we screw things up, somebody or something will come save us?
I fully understand that people believe in godly beings, and some even believe that an alien species will come save us like in Star Trek. Then again, Star Trek also introduces us to the concept of ‘prime directive’ where a more advanced species cannot disturb or interfere with a lesser advanced primitive species. The Vulkuns had a hands-off policy where they would not communicate or make their presence known to an alien species until the alien species developed some form of light-speed space-travel. You don’t want to change an entire species to the point that they rely on you or that you impose your own values, technologies, changes on them to the point that you bring their demise through your doing. If they’re heading towards their doom through their own doing, they are clearly not ready to meet a significantly more advanced species. It’s not your job to change a species by bypassing natural development. It could also lead to cultural shock among the lesser advanced species, which could lead to inner-conflicts and more destruction to change their entire lifestyle. I’m assuming a more advanced space-faring species than us would know all this.
(note: I apologize for getting too graphic in this paragraph but the point must be made) As far as godly beings go, if nobody/nothing was there to save people during the Holocaust where millions of innocent women/children were gassed in huge showers after their clothes and hair were removed and burned alive in massive ovens, how can we bet on being saved by external beings? Groups like gypsies, people with physical/mental disabilities, others were thrown in as well. Men were forced to do labor work to death while getting minimal or no food & were getting beat with belts & ropes by the Nazis. If they refused, they would get shot in the back of their heads and thrown into huge burial pits. Many of these people in these extermination camps were religious, and prayed until the moment they were massacred. If there was no god to save those people, then I don’t believe there is any god coming to save us if we mess things up. Do note that I’m not saying god does or doesn’t exist – that’s an entirely separate philosophical discussion I will not get into on this blog.
I believe there is no one to come save us if we make a huge blunder. We are on our own. Therefore, every decision we make MATTERS and COUNTS!
Can We Bet on the Future of Humanity?
What can we take away from all this?
I believe the only ones that can save us is ourselves. We must learn from our mistakes. We must be honest and open-book. Transparency is key. We cannot hide certain things from kids no matter how scary it may be. As far as the Holocaust goes, Germany is still trying to grasp the consequences of WW2 and the Holocaust 70 years later. It’s not something you can forget or move on from. That’s just one event; there are so many other destructive events and things we humans do to damage our livelihood with no regard for the consequences.
While the world may not be a fairly tale, I believe it’s about being informed enough to be able to make informed decisions individually. It is very easy to get complacent throughout our lives and skip over things that matter, such as understanding the importance of education or how not to fall prey to different types of propaganda. Deforestation, toxic chemical dumping, animal hunting into extinction, poverty, disease, rise in CO2 in our atmosphere due to our actions, melting ice-caps – these are things that we must fight against. I know it’s easier said than done, but we need to be determined and never be discouraged into doing what is right.
At the end of the day, I have high hopes that humanity can and will overcome these issues. Remember, we are not living only for today, but also the future. The future generations do matter, especially if our decisions today directly impact them negatively & their livelihood. Yes, we can bet on our future, but it must start today. Merchants of death can become merchants of life, if we choose to.