Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

I will be 78 years old tomorrow. Seventy eight years of joy and laughter, disappointment and despair. That’s a long time. When I was born there was no penicillin,  no radar, no birth control pills, no television, no jet planes, no atom bombs, no desk top computers… The list goes on and on.

Looked at one way, mankind has made huge strides. The store of human knowledge expands exponentially. We know so much about so many things. We have figured out how to control my diabetes, for example, and how to treat my brother’s throat cancer… Doctors routinely do heart and liver transplants, reattach severed limbs, and perform many other operations that are nothing short of miraculous.

But while we have become amazingly advanced technologically, in many ways I have watched the human race slip backwards.

Throughout the world people are at one another’s throats, unable to agree, incapable of resolving disputes intelligently. They are still dropping bombs on one another, and all our progress has only made the bombs more devastating…

In America, an inoffensive black teenager is gunned down in a gated Florida community, and no charges are brought against the shooter.  Meanwhile, despite the election of the country’s first back president – possibly even because of it – the number of white supremacist groups is increasing at an alarming rate. Militia groups are popping up as never before.

And while ethnic and sexual minorities are gaining acceptance in some areas, in others xenophobia and homophobia are raging.

Unexpectedly, demagogues  are trying to beat back the civil rights won at such cost a generation ago, and fiercely battling women’s rights, threatening to revolke their ownership of their own bodies. Especially throughout the South and in rural areas, these politicians are inexplicably popular. Even with some women.

You might think that the expansion of religious teaching and philosophical thought would provide the foundation for peace. But it seems the opposite is true. Religion divides instead of uniting us. Philosophy causes conflict instead of harmony. The same science that brought us miraculous medicines and surgery illuminates the way to unprecedented destruction and death.

You might think we would have become more tolerant, more understanding, more accepting of conflicting opinions. You might thnk we would have evolved to the point where disputes can be resolved without resorting to violence, where war would be a relic of the distant past. You would thnk the missile silos with their deadly warheads would have vanished from the face of the earth. Instead, more nations are trying to join the nuclear club.

You might think that with expanded knowledge would come deeper understanding, that we would by now have grasped the futility of greed, that we would have discovered  the joy of loving and sharing. But, to the contary, the exhilaration of depredation seems more prevalent every day. The intoxicated crowd prays to the statue of a golden calf (photo above), and Baal rises triumphant over the vision of a weeping Christ.

Looking back on those 78 years, it seems to me that for every two steps forward we make, we slip a step back. And I’m not sure it isn’t the other way around.