The End of the World as We Know It
By Tony Candela
Unlike the R.E.M. song of 1987, a catchy tune that expresses worry about the future of Mother Earth and may have inspired Billy Joel’s 1989 geo-political ditty, “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, I have a hard time joking that I feel fine. I recently read an editorial stating that we may be reaching the end of globalism, a notion that seemed quite the salvation of the world in the 1990s. We thought that with the Cold War having ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the increasing speed and power of the internet on our doorstep, that we would all somehow learn to get along and become so inter-dependent, we could not and would never destroy each other. Instead, humans appear to be driven by something called the thymotic desires, the need to be seen, respected, and appreciated. People who have the impression that they are unseen, disrespected and unappreciated become enraged, resentful and vengeful. The first sign of these desires delivered to us Americans was the striking of the World Trade Centers and other targets on 9-1-1. Many of us, dazzled by the manifest destiny we thought was our globalist leadership role, were stunned. Some of us had the strength to ask ‘Why do they hate us?’ I recall being one of them. al-Qaeda had no problem verbalizing why they hated us. American imperialism and, in their eyes, unbridled materialism and loss of morality were at the core. Many people today wrestle with which is better for the human condition, the individualistic respect for autonomy and self-fulfillment championed by democratic societies of the West or the more controlled and less chaotic autocratic approaches of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and China to mane a few. The number of autocracies is growing. We even have internal splits like what is currently going on in France which will have a crucial election very soon and, of course, our own Trumpian nationalistic divide here in the U.S.
I have always been interested in what this says about basic human nature. Why at a basic human level do thymotic desires reign so powerful? I may be stuck in my own logic-loop, but I keep returning to a form of Darwinian self-preservation as the fundamental explanation. If this is so, then humans will never escape their own self-interests. There will always be tension between the left and the right, and we will be forever in the struggle. For now, it seems like we are in grave danger of shucking off some basic assumptions about how societies should work and succumbing, nation by nation to the lure of controlled autocracy. But as with many, I think even this will come back to bite us. If the thymotic desires do indeed reign high on our list of basic human needs, sooner or later people will rebel against the controls that place limits on their lives and aspirations. The worry is that autocratic leaders will do what we’ve seen them do all too often; they will snuff out the rebellion and force their people to lead lives of “quiet desperation”. Will we fight to preserve our basic right to choose our own paths or will be let the forces of autocracy roll over us because we fear death more than we do the chains that will surely bind us? The case of our halfway approach to the current Ukraine crisis appears to illustrate this push-pull. Perhaps we are truly ambivalent. Our internal Trumpian nationalistic split would seem to indicate that many Americans long for autocracy. Sooner or later, in my view, we will come to regret our ambivalence. The thymotic desires will rise up and we will realize that we have been instruments of our own demise. The human promise of high-achievement, moral high ground, and self-respect will have slipped away. Perhaps we cannot predict the future as well as we once thought we could, but maybe we can at least analyze what is happening to us with greater insight.
Anthony R. Candela, Author
Saying aloud what should not remain silent.
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Tony Candela has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor, supervisor, manager consultant and administrator for more than 40 years in the field of blindness and visual impairment. His work has included promoting literacy and employment of blind persons and a special interest in enhancing the career preparation of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field. He is a “retired” athlete, loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar. Read more at