The Most Dangerous Idea?

January 21, 2010 at 6:28 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

On Monday I tuned into public radio in the midst of a speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have no idea when or to what audience he was talking. King had just completed a humorous anecdote about Japan, illustrating that all places are geographically connected into one world. He then emphasized that technology has made all places in our modern world more connected than they have ever been (and think of how much more we are connected 50 years after King’s time).

Then the Reverend went smoothly into making his ultimate point: not only is every place part of one globe, all humanity is part of one “brotherhood.” And because of that oneness, everyone deserves the opportunity for a decent life.

There my train of thought veered onto a sidetrack where it remained for several hours. I thought of the roster of those who had taught the essential oneness of humanity and that we must treat each other kindly. But more than that, probably because this mental journey started with MLK, I thought of the ones like him, who because of their growing number of followers actually looked like they could really turn the world around, and were struck down by assassination: Ghandi, Jesus, John Lennon, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X (in his later years). So passive resistance, the Peace Corps, treating our neighbor as ourselves, all those ideas survived but the ideas and momentum that should have followed were lost.

I now believe if a leader did come along who genuinely worked toward compassion, fairness, and understanding, and they started to influence a significant number of people- they would be killed. I’m embarrassed to be so cynical. But honestly, do you think that, too?

I don’t see such a pattern of death for those who preach intolerance, division, greed, or even brushing ones teeth after every meal. The pundits will tell you this pattern is just coincidence, that there is no conspiracy involved. Well, it sure looks like one. And why would such a long-range, long-lasting conspiracy exist? Maybe its because presenting the idea of oneness (and all its accompanying virtues like tolerance, selflessness, etc.) is the most dangerous idea of all. And who does it endanger? Why, those who profit from keeping the majority of humanity down, of course.

And the only suitable label I can come up with for those who keep humanity down is: “evil.” But it seems so old-fashioned and smacks of those yucky fundamentalists.

In the past couple years I have sometimes half-seriously joked that I didn’t believe in evil until George W. Bush became President. Until then my contemporary American experience was that evil was something from the history books, like Stalin or Caligula, or something far-away on the other side of the world, like “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Other bad people and situations were caused by ignorance or misunderstandings- just a temporary lack of good or difference of opinion, but not active “evil.”

And meanwhile, through the decades I saw so many good leaders drop like flies. And each loss made the world a little worse for the majority of humanity and a little better for a tiny, elite minority. Finally, as the evil has closed-in, I can no longer deny it. And the only thing any of us can do about it is to practice peace, love, and understanding on a personal basis while we await a leader who will work to make things better. And when they show-up let’s hope we can keep them safe.


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