What’s Wrong with the World?

EmPulse for Week of April 4, 2011

What’s Wrong with the World?

In mid-1907, the Times of London invited a number of eminent philosophers and writers of the day to contribute their thoughts on the question—“What’s Wrong with the World?” A brief contribution was quickly penned by one of the most celebrated writers of the day—

Dear Sir:

Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’

I am.

Yours truly,

G.K. Chesterton

What a bold, all-encompassing admission. He did not try to pass the buck, deflect, skirt the issue, shade the truth, or place the blame somewhere else. He merely admitted his culpability in the collective corruption of the moral conscience of his culture. He was to blame. Of course, the inference extended far beyond his terse retort. Chesterton implied quite clearly that we all are at the core of what’s wrong. Either through inaction or passive aggressive behavior, we all stand in the dock for our role in the wretchedness of our civilization.

Understand that this undoing of our social order is not merely about a loss of moral consciousness. It encompasses a span from the loss of manners, courtesy, simple decorum, and civility to a respect for basic human decency, an honorable regard for human life, and the understanding that we each have a responsibility to make this small planet a better, safer place for future generations.

So why is it that so many of us have such a difficult time acknowledging our own botch-ups in life? Are we so insecure that we must be right all the time? Are we not allowed to forget something important a little too often? When was the last time you remember being perfect? My last time was in late April, 1987. Since then, not so perfect. But I have honed my skilled in apologizing, in admitting when I am wrong. Not to my surprise, people have been actually appreciative of these endeavors. Maybe I’ve learned something?

Still, our world feels like it’s going to hell in a hand-basket. Social niceties, like opening a door for a lady, have been supplanted by some dumb idea of equality. [Although why women would ever want to be equal to men still eludes me. What a step down!] The world at large seems torn into rifts of East & West, intentional racial/ethnic inequity, Islamic tribal rivalries (Sunni/Shiite/Sufi), and conflicting terrorist ideologies; not to mention the inevitable decline of Western economic rule giving way to emerging Chinese supremacy. These early decades of the Twenty-first Century are not witness to mere paradigm shifts: we are reshaping the future before it has yet to be formed.

You can view these times as catastrophic, calamitous, collapses of the world as we’ve know it. For so it is. But it is also a time for us to rise to the occasion to make a difference. We do not have to be perfect; we just have to act on our convictions of what is right, and good, and decent. I leave you with a quote from one of G. K Chesterton’s most collegial adversaries—

This is the – true joy in life, the being used for a purpose… being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

– George Bernard Shaw

Have a nice week.


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