18-min Talk by Ray, May 27 (reposted at popular request)
Earlier speakers at the on-line Schiller Institute international conference “The Insanity of Politicians Threatens Nuclear War” took an informative but somewhat traditional approach, so I decided it might be time for what Germans call eine Denkpause, a pause to think about ‘what fools we mortals be’.
I suggested giving some thought to broader questions: Might there be another way? Why can’t we all just get along?
To put some gravitas behind this approach, I called on a bunch of old friends — an unlikely congeries of ‘Denkers’, who influence my own thinking.
To set the tone, I borrowed an insight from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; namely, human connections are what matter most; that it is only with the heart, not just the eye, that one can see rightly; that most adults have difficulty doing this. And I added the reality that people with little pigment in their skin still tend to see themselves as exceptional.
Included among the dramatis personae I enlisted to expand de Saint-Exupery’s insight:
— Presidents Biden, to Xi, to Putin
— Humanist Kurt Vonnegut, to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount
— Daniel Berrigan, to Theilhard de Chardin
Concluding, I chose a line from Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy written in 1785, at the same time our Founders were declaring — like Schiller — that all men are created equal. Even then, of course, with their limited vision (and crass economic interest in preserving slavery, plus the subordination of women), the Founders’ declarations and behavior were far from inclusive.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent speech on China yesterday reminds us that, in the view of Washington and the U.S.-led White West, people of color who comprise some three-quarters of the world’s population are, in effect, still not deemed to be “brothers” (or sisters) of whites today.
Ironically, the way that the “world correlation of forces” has evolved, the White West has become “exceptional” indeed — but in a wholly new and detrimental way. Hubris-tinged exceptionalism has reduced the lily-white West to a distinct minority — a minority that, short of nuclear war, is no longer able to work its will on the rest of the world, as was the case ‘back in the day’.
President Biden needs to invite into the room some adults able to see this, and to tell him how exceptionally (no pun intended) dangerous it would be to proceed as though nothing has changed.
In any case, Schiller (and Beethoven) had the right idea:
Alle Menschen werden Brüder — All men are brothers
(from An die Freude)
Let it be so.
The full Schiller Institute conference can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/8Dt9D_D_U4U