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Humanity’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

By Hany H. Makhlouf, Ph.D.

GuyanaJournal, April 2016

        Along with the startling technological advances that have been contributing positively to productivity and the quality of life throughout the world, the people in many parts of the world are sadly suffering from many self-inflicted wounds that are devastating some nations, and destroying lives and property, as we see happening these days in places like Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and many other countries.  These painful self-inflicted wounds include, in addition to  breaking national bonds, a growing spread of hatred towards peoples who are racially or ethnically  different; violent conflicts and proxy wars which end up with many losers and no actual winners; adherence to rigid,  non-compromising, and “all-or-nothing” attitudes that stand in the way of  fair conflict resolution; institutional racism and  glass ceilings; economic and political repression and  exploitation of the weak and the poor due to excessive greed  and corruption in high places; disregard for the environment and the future of our planet; discriminatory and unfair penal systems; distortion and manipulation of  facts and events for gaining at the expense of vulnerable groups; disguised discrimination; double standards of morality; and treating every opportunity as a zero-sum game in which there can be only one winner, and the rest can be losers.

     These are global self-inflicted wounds that vary only in details from one country and one society to another, speak poorly of the state of humanity in the 21st century. It is important to ask, however: To what extent is this sad reality new? None of these attitudes and behaviors is really new, but they indicate that humanity is not progressing enough toward solutions of old problems, attitudes, and sickening behaviors that caused immense problems throughout history. Making things worse is that technological advances, despite their benefits, have facilitated the travel of problems and their impact from one society to another. The world now is so interconnected and interdependent that a problem, or a social ill, in one country is likely to travel fast to the others. Even hate travels, and gets to be manifested in unpredictable and disturbing behavior. Technological advances have also made the instruments of violence, hate and war more lethal and destructive. So, is there hope for a better future for humanity? There probably is, and it may require universal reforms in what we teach in schools, starting with the first grade. Children need to learn early in life that the welfare of all peoples is indivisible, and that competition—which is healthy—should not include mutually destructive, war-like, or “winning at any cost” kinds of activities.

Hany H. Makhlouf is Professor at University of the District of Columbia.