A Post-Apocalyptic New Year's Wish List
Can we start the world anew?
As the world will reputedly end tomorrow – December 21, 2012 – that event may give any of us who might survive the threatened apocalypse a chance for a re-do. With the hope that not only my dear readers but also their internet providers have survived the Mayan cataclysm, I offer some suggestions for the new world, or at least for the new year in the event that the doomsayers find themselves disappointed once again. I'm not sure what doomsday prophets usually do on the day after – that would be an interesting psychological study – but it seems to me that some self-assessment would be in order. The following wish list might help with that, and perhaps not only for disillusioned prophets.
A short-list plea for sanity in the next phase of the human experiment.
Post-apocalyptic Wish no.1: Religious tolerance.
Oh God, how we need this. Hear this, ye religious fanatics of whatever stripe: Acknowledge that you don't know anything about God or of godly rules or commands. You have your opinion about a metaphysical world; others have other opinions. Learn to be humbly uncertain about your own opinion – learn to see it as largely guesswork. Relax and recognize that you may be wrong, and you'll be amazed at how many fewer enemies you will find who need to be killed for the love of God. (Ref: "Theologians, myth, and religious peace.")
Wish no.2: World-wide demilitarization.
We've been through the 20th century and seen the horrid results of military conflict. May the post-apocalyptic year finally see recognition by the world's political leaders that their massively excessive military forces invite arms build-ups everywhere. It is up to President Obama above all, as the leader of the world's most excessive military force, to make his Peace Prize mean something, by leading an effective movement to reduce arms by nations both great and small. There's no end to the social good that can be accomplished with the money saved from wasteful, dangerous, and frankly juvenile military spending. (Ref: "The Disease of Militarism.")
Wish no.3: A fair democracy.
We can start with the United States, where political leaders who are quick to condemn corruption in other countries have made laws that permit themselves to accept money gifts for the promotion of their own careers. That is the very definition of corruption. Let's get private money and the influence of wealth out of our politics and our elections. Until we do we won't have a real democracy. (Ref: "The Rot of Political Campaign Financing.")
Wish no.4: (Some) understanding of economics.
No one really understands economics – economists see it as applied mathematics, when it's really about psychology, which no one understands either. But let us pray that, at the least, political leaders will understand that they can't commit their government to unending social welfare outlays that can't survive either predictable recessions or the even more predictable aging of populations. In the U.S. and in much of Europe, politicians have for several decades secured their election by making economically untenable promises of government benefits that they knew could only be supportable in a fantasy-world. They got the personal benefit of getting elected, and the people are left with a bankrupt state. Those leaders could be tried for treason, or at least for wilful maladministration and fraud. They have essentially carried on a Ponzi scheme with their national budgets.
Wish no.5: Take action on population.
The greatest problem facing the human species is very simply ourselves. There are already too many of us, and the population is still growing uncontrollably. The current world population doubling rate is still as low as 50-odd years, meaning that we could be at a choking 12 billion people by 2050. (The U.N. puts out a more optimistic 9.5-11 billion, but their figures are politically massaged and deserve to be mistrusted.) As practically every difficulty of the human species is exacerbated by our overpopulation, I have found it amazing for decades that it has seemed impossible to convince politicians that we should pay attention to the population problem. Most scientists grasp the seriousness of the problem, but politicians – mostly lawyers – see merely the increase in voters, which must be a good thing. It's really too late to avoid disaster, but we may be still able to affect whether the next decades will lead us to a horrendous or just a very unpleasant disaster. But only if politicians get their heads out of their ... well, out of the sand. (Ref: "On Population.")
There, that's my short list. Happy Holidays, assuming the world hangs on...