We live in a world of extremes.  Whether it is a product of our psychological inability to deal with cognitive dissonance or some attempt to simplify our thoughts into easy to follow dichotomies, we just can’t resist our epic game of labeling our realities.  As a result, we develop awkward concepts and buzzwords which, as they become more and more commonplace within our collective discourse, only force our thoughts and words to diverge farther and farther from true reality.  We throw words around like democracy, peace, war, terrorism, fascism, freedom, development, capitalism, socialism, conservatism, and liberalism as if they were iron clad absolutes without ever giving a second thought to the varying degrees of which they exist and interact within our world.  We use them solely as an intellectual crutch to portray complex ideas which we lack the time, insight, or motivation to investigate fully…

It goes almost without saying that in a complex and deeply interconnected society, this is an inherently dangerous way of looking at things.  Our world and our ecosystem is not created on absolutes and extremes but on the balance of complicated life-sustaining and social forces at work to create a uniquely ecological reality that has existed in dynamic equilibrium since the dawning of life on our tiny blue spec in the Milky Way Galaxy.  Yet by constantly pulling our intellectual endeavors towards the extremes I fear we may find ourselves quickly losing that necessary balance which has so beautifully sustained us for so long.  All of our realities and truths exist within a scale and their position is determined in large part by our chosen unit of measurement and our chosen perspective.  Yet we make claims like democracy is freedom and totalitarianism is slavery without even considering this unit of measurement or perspective.  We say that we are good and they are evil without investigating further what makes us good or why we must destroy those who are evil…

In the end, no concept exists in this world without the presence of its opposite.  There is no yin without a yang.  There is no freedom without slavery.  There is no war without a concept of peace.  There is no capitalism without a complementary and competing concept of socialism.  There is no terrorism without a war on it and a security establishment designed to fight it…

So what is there for us to do?  How do we collectively tune down our rhetoric and start bringing it back into balance?  How do we push ourselves from the extremes and bring our society back to its natural dynamic equilibrium?  How do we break our echo-chamber of party politics, multi-million dollar think tanks, a corporate media designed to market and sell a product, and a defense establishment basing its existence on never-ending war?  And how do we come together as a new global society and plot the next evolutions of the human race?

While I have no advice at this time for the latter stages of these enduring questions, our first steps appear to be simple enough.  Since all of our extreme ideologies are inherently connected all we need to do is destroy one and we will naturally destroy its opposite bringing both much closer to their natural state of equilibrium.  If you want to destroy war simply destroy your empty and half-hearted concept of peace, a peace which appears to be just as violent and inequitable and is based on an ever expanding and necessary security establishment.  If you want to destroy terrorism, end your war on it and it will naturally revert back to its former manifestation of non-state orchestrated violence which can be dealt with at a much lower level than global war.  If you want to destroy crime, stop criminalizing it and locking up the poor and desperate of your society while focusing on the root causes of your social problems.  If you want to destroy radical socialism, simply stop proselytizing the virtues of radical capitalism and their ability to create massive amounts of wealth solely for the lucky, extremely talented, or well-endowed.  While reality does not always directly follow discourse, few unsustainable realities are altered by approaching your problems with the same logic and rhetoric you used when creating them in the first place…

Ultimately as a society and as a human civilization, we need to find a way to make peace with duality.  We need to embrace our cognitive dissonance for what it is, that voice inside our heads constantly reminding us that we are not looking at the entire picture of reality from every relevant perspective.  And we need to approach our collective discourse with a much more critical and investigative eye.  I know not what the future may bring or what new challenges or new realities we may pass on to the next generation.  But I do know that while we may currently live in the world of extremes, we need not build an extreme world…balance is everything…



26 APR 2012, 1130(L), Sharana, Paktika, Afghanistan


About briangdonnelly

I'm pretty much a random traveler and free thinker. Right now I live and work with the Army in North Carolina. I grew up in Missouri but am from the northeast US and have traveled a lot with the Army and life in general so I can't say I really have a "home" except where I chose to catch a few hours or rack each day. Overall, life is pretty awesome and I'm looking forward to changing the world. Hit me up if you care... Peace, Brian
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