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Moment of Truth: December 17 2016

 The Origin Of Conflict: Part 1, Probably

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

It's important at all times, but especially at such times as these, when tragedy and catastrophe dominate the news, to remember the origins of conflict. Obviously, our understanding of the origins of conflict depend on our point of view. What historical period are we in? Where do we live? What language do we speak? What economic class do we inhabit? What is our social position, and how likely is it to change? And how far back are we willing to go when we look for the origins of conflict?

We might as well begin at the beginning. In the beginning, a spontaneous fluctuation out of nothing created the Big Bang. That may seem to be going a bit farther back than necessary, but maybe not. After all, if we're going to consider root causes, why not consider the root of all roots?

It's a little silly, I guess. Nonetheless, let's see what fruit the tree of silliness bears. We eat the fruit of worse trees every day. Silliness isn't the worst of human crimes.

Immediately after the Big Bang, there was a great deal of heat and expansion. It's possible the heat was so hot it couldn't even be called heat. I'm not even sure what I mean by that but, trust me, odds are there are at least three cosmologists who know what I'm talking about, even if I don't.

Leaving aside heat, then, there was expansion. Expansion, now there's a cause of conflict. And to think it all started with the Big Bang. It's a cosmic principle, expansion. In human terms it's gone by various names: Manifest Destiny, lebensraum, and the popular umbrella, imperialism.

Is it possible that the desire of some groups of humans to control ever larger areas of land can be traced all the way back to the beginning of the universe? No, it's not. See what kind of truth the tree of silliness can bear? We've already debunked a notion that, in the desire to acquire greater territory, humans are channeling a cosmic principle.

The question arises now: why is it even necessary to debunk a doctrine no one holds? I would answer, We've tried debunking doctrines people do hold, and that hasn't worked out at all. We can't even debunk easily disproven lies that the most transparently mendacious people tell. Studies have shown both that people are reluctant to accept new information running counter to their beliefs, and that even when they're open to contrary information, telling them exactly why and how a falsehood is untrue generally has the effect of somehow reinforcing the falsehood. Seems like it's our fate to hold wrong opinions.

Evidence suggests human beings are innately incapable of having their minds changed, and it takes utmost good faith, compassion, empathy and openness to counter the instinct to stick to our ideological guns. And, let's face it, the people whose beliefs are most destructive and therefore most in need of disabusal are not overflowing with good faith, compassion, empathy and openness.

Or to put it the way Yeats did, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." But I think my way is slightly more charitable to "the best."

In any case, I have an idea that this situation might be why we've seen the phrase "we are so fucked" (or its various paraphrases) come into vogue with such ubiquity.

But are we so screwed, fucked, reamed or fisted? Isn't it just abdication to another deterministic theory of human nature to think so? Are we anymore fucked by intellectual intransigence than we are by the expansion of the universe? Probably. I would say, definitely. Still, maybe it's not as bleak as all that.

Then again, I tend to look on the bright side only when things are about to go horribly wrong. So we probably are fucked, at least if we go by my theory of the faultiness of my intuition. Bear in mind, though, that I'm the one who set us on the course of going all the way back to the Big Bang to understand the roots of conflict. Although, come to think of it, that's just more evidence of my bad judgment.

Basically, if we've learned anything, it's not to trust my instincts.

I mean, if we really did things my way, most of human technological effort would be directed toward developing new flavors of gelato.

But would that really be such a bad thing? Would we really miss the internal combustion engine so much if we had flavors of gelato that took us to heights of unimaginable ecstasy? We would if we had to drive a horse and buggy forty miles to get it, I guess.

Once again we're faced with the untrustworthiness of my way of thinking, doing and being. I don't think I'm being unduly harsh on myself when I say, "Don't go by me."

However, I refuse to allow my unreliability as a historical and social philosopher, or whatever it is I'm pretending to be, to stop me from writing with the aim of improving the human condition. It would be typical of me to give up now that I've been proven to be so terrible at it, and if this essay has taught me anything, it's not to do what I usually do, and certainly not to take my own advice. So I'm going to second guess myself here, and persist. It goes against every intuition vibrating in my frame, but I will continue in the coming new year of 2017 to do what I've been such a miserable failure at for over a quarter of a century.

And perhaps in this way I'm no different from humanity at large. We've been trying since recorded history to go on in the face of our utter failure. In fact, failure is the least of our problems. It's our rare successes that trick us into believing there's some great potential in us to aspire to. We wouldn't even bother to fail if success weren't at least a bit plausible.

For every singular Frida Kahlo there are thousands of failed painters. For every Malala Yousafzai there are thousands of women whose educations are aborted by violence. For every Hedy Lamar there are thousands of actors who don't invent frequency hopping. Maybe that's why the population is growing, to increase the odds of one of us achieving something inspirational so the rest of us can sustain the delusion that it's worth struggling on.

And maybe that's why there are so many billions of galaxies filled with so many billions of stars and planets. Maybe on one of those planets they're getting it right, and we'll find out about it someday. Or, here's a scary thought: maybe we're the ones getting right, and this is as right as it can get.

And with that I'll just wish you all the best, and I'll talk your ears off in the new year. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


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