Opinion: Has the world gone mad?

POSTED: 07/22/14 1:48 PM

On July 17 192 Dutch, 44 Malaysians (among them 15 crewmembers), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, a New Zealander and a Canadian perished in the airplane disaster in the Ukraine with flight MH17 of Malaysian Airlines. I know one of those passengers: a 39-year old woman who was on her way with her husband and son to her vacation destination. It is one of those moments in your life that you do not know what to say while a dull and sad feeling overcome you.

The world has gone mad. This and similar reactions were all over the Internet. Understandable. Still, I wonder whether this is really true. Has indeed so much changed between now and, say, ten centuries before the beginning of our era? We like to talk about a process of civilization that has taken place over the centuries and that has brought us where we are today, but slavery existed then and it still exists. Wars were waged and we are still doing that. Greed runs like a red thread through our history. Large differences between poor and rich people are also a constant. Murder, torture, physical violence, theft, deception and countless other examples are also of all times.

Civilization is a process of development whereby we assume that we are going from less (lower) to more (higher): a culture of higher standing for instance, or constantly improving manners. Of course, there are all kinds of developments in the field of for instance science and technology, whereby we have risen above the primitive stadium (a relative concept). But did humankind bring itself to a higher level throughout the ages?

Are freedom, equality, justice, human dignity and solidarity so much better than centuries ago? For certain groups this is doubtless true but for a large part of the world population not at all. For many the earth has been an unpleasant place to live in during all those centuries.

One is busy surviving while the other is busy building an $80 million yacht. One is tortured, while the other has a stress attack because there are so many dresses in the walk-in closet that making a choice is near impossible. In one place water is wasted and food is thrown away in large quantities, while there are poignant shortages in other places. And so on.

Every day people suffer and die due to choices other people make. That has been going on for centuries. The world went mad ….. a long time ago.

Karel Frielink


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