Tuesday, January 01, 2008


This is my first post for 2008. People typically have hopes and good wishes for a new year, and I certainly have those; however, numerous topics have been swirling about within my head since I started writing again last week, and this is what I've selected - extremism.

In many ways, the 21st Century has begun as a time of extremism. We're witnessing a growth in strength of all sorts of extremists in the world: religious, political, and nationalist among the most prominent. Islamic extremists have grabbed a major share of the headlines, but we shouldn't overlook the historic importance of the others.

To the religious extremists I have to say that your actions demonstrate the flaws of your beliefs. You jihadists who kill randomly with no regard for human life are not doing holy acts - you are the worst kind of murderers, and are despicable people who rain discredit upon your professed religion. You politicians who act "according to god's will" (yes George, including you) use the cloak of godliness to violate basic principles of humanity, wreaking havoc within your own jurisdictions and beyond. Those of you who find it acceptable to violate the human rights of others (women, homosexuals, "the other") because "the bible says it is so" go beyond acceptable in meddling where you shouldn't.

To you political extremists, both here in the USA and abroad, history will show you for what you truly are. Your use of fear and hate have brought ruin to many millions of human lives and whole societies. You care not what methods you employ to advance your extremism; you lie and cheat and pose enemies and call names - anything and everything to advance your extremist agendas.

To nationalists, at all levels, your short-sightedness poses doom for humankind. Included here are local, tribal, regional and national identifications that promote unity and hatred against "the others" because they are not you. These concepts of identification belong in the dustbin of history.

There are many unifying themes in the world today, important discussions and actions that we, as humankind, need to have. But you extremists are bent on preventing unification because your way is the only way. Can we humans get beyond primitivism? By this I mean the self-centered identifications and agendas that keep us at each others throats. On the scale of history, these are petty, meaningless things that serve no purpose for the future. Listen to the news - understand the world. Humanity has changed the physical nature of our planet's climate; we have overgrown our capacity to feed ourselves; we are rapidly losing the best and most valuable parts of the natural world out of greed; and we continue to kill each other for reasons that are beyond comprehension.

I dream of a time of great change - a global epiphany if you will - during which humankind comes to its senses and truly understands the concepts of cooperation, sustainability, respect and yes, love. Unfortunately, I know that this is most likely just a dream.

Happy New Year.


  1. For the sake of full disclosure, this is Sherry, Paul's wife; so you might think I am simply agreeing with my husband, because he is my husband. If you know us, you will understand this is not so. I frequently differ on specifics, but this essay says it all.

    I fervently pray that humankind will heed this message. Unless we focus on our commonality, our need to steward the life support system, our planet earth, and our mutual benefit in making peace and justice, we will lose everything, and that we'll do together!

    Thank you Paul!

  2. As a professional in the area of corporate citizenship, I am hopeful that the "global epiphany" is happening. There are problems--the growing population means more tension and more conflict over resources and belief systems, the escalation of war and weaponry means there is more at stake in political struggles, and the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor means more power is concentrated among the few rather than among the many.

    In a climate like this, the way to a healthy world is through the powerful giving up some of their power to the masses. To have peace, the USA must give up some of its standing as the solitary superpower and allow smaller nations to gain stature, wealth, and a stronger voice.

    In short, give the extremists less to be extreme about by keeping them from being disenfranchised in the first place.

    I see this happening in corporate America and in companies around the world. Is there a long way to go yet? Certainly, but corporations are paying more attention to the needs and voices of their workforces, and more and more the new executives are just as beholden to a moral standard as they are to a balance sheet. Plus, they tend to have a more democratic (with a small "d") mindset.

    So, I have hope for the future. I do not think we're in an age of extremism... I think we're in an age of democracy because with the internet and instant communication, every group no matter how small has a voice. Thus, the fringe elements are no longer suppressed by the mainstream. It's when the extremists realize that they can use that to promote their messages more effectively than they can use a car bomb--that's when we'll have a very interesting society indeed.

  3. Good thoughts pjd - I tend to let my cynicism run away with me. I think there is a great struggle or tension building re: the global trends you mentioned: resources, weaponry, etc. A recent article by Naomi Klein (in The Nation, I think) reported on the level of venture capital investment in two major market sectors: green (alternative fuels, etc.) and garrisons (private security firms, etc.). Last year, the investment in garrison grew much more than the growth in green investment by venture capital. This perhaps indicates that the wealthy aren't very likely to just give up some of what they have.

  4. I wonder if that jump in garrison investing is due to the creation of the Homeland Security department and the billions it's spending?