Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011
An Era of Danger to All Humanity
by Richard Falk
Time is running out for those dedicated to a more peaceful and just world. Ever since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, prospects for a better future have been globally overridden by resurgent greed reinforced with militarism. Unfortunately, the United States has led the way, first with the mindless promotion of an opportunistic and predatory globalization of finance capital during the Clinton years, followed by a promiscuous embrace of perpetual war as the neoconservative response to the September 11 attack during the long Bush II presidency, and after this by a disheartening Obama leadership that has effectively demobilized its youth base of support by insisting on too many continuities with a discredited inheritance while managing to evoke the fury of the president's inevitable reactionary opposition. Karl Rove's electoral pedagogy should have at least taught the Democrats not to alienate their base! The most vibrant political forces in the country currently belong to the Far Right, bringing to the surface the worst forms of American nativism and racism, mainly expressed via Islamophobia and growing hostility to immigrants, especially from south of the border. The phony storm over the building of an Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero and the popularity of the Arizona law targeting Hispanics without proper credentials are emblematic of the political climate.
Yet we know, or should know, that we are entering an era of fragility and danger for the whole of humanity. The drama of climate change is being allowed to inch toward catastrophe without the political will in Washington or among the citizenry to convert a robust scientific consensus into a policy consensus that moves this country and the world toward a necessary low-carbon economy. Despite the absence of any strategic conflict in the world, there is a refusal to explore the possibility of ridding the world of nuclear weaponry, and even Obama's visionary endorsement of a world without nuclear weapons signaled his political detachment with the damning admission that such an outcome might not happen in his lifetime. If not now, when? Are we waiting for a new Cold War or World War III? There is no reason to defer such aspirations for a better, more decent world except to succumb to the self-defeating Beltway mantra that the only way forward is to acknowledge that change is impossible.
It is true that the collapse of the Soviet Union, spun effectively as the discrediting of socialism, and the manipulation of the media to make any show of empathy for the poor and vulnerable a sign of ideological depravity, has made the task of healing and transforming more formidable. Political renewal has also been thwarted by the reductive understanding of religion as either Islamic extremism or some variant of Christian evangelism. Such lines of interpretation have been given a peculiarly lethal turn in the setting of the Israel/Palestine conflict, engendering a blind eye to both Israeli criminality and Palestinian suffering. The challenge to all of us then is to look at this reality with eyes wide open and dedicate ourselves to a way of being that is radically different: a present and a future being given concrete contours in the work of Tikkun; expressing the vital need for a forum open to progressive, compassionate thinking; reminding each other that the Jewish legacy is to be aligned with justice, not power; and putting in place the elements of a vibrant community that affirms the human community as a spiritual reality capable of transcending the particularities of religion, race, and nation without denigrating such identities if properly connected with love, peace, and justice. Will this be enough? We cannot know until we engage fully with an undaunted optimism of the will! But we do know that without such engagement, the gathering storm clouds are ominous.
Richard Falk is UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine
and research professor of global studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
Source Citation: Falk, Richard. 2011. An Era of Danger to All Humanity. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive.