serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

An Elder’s View

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/20/06

An essay was recently sent to me about the current quagmire in Iraq that drew parallels between the current conflict and WWII. I am 100% in agreement with the author’s conclusion that America and our people fought a righteous war against Hitler and the Japanese. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for the sacrifices and duty of my parents and their generation. I agree with the author’s idea that the Islamic fundamentalist Jihadists are committed to a campaign of world domination and that their tactics leave little to the imagination in terms of their willingness to destroy Western Civilization at any cost. I also agree that, somehow, it is essential that our leaders do whatever they must to protect our people and to the extent possible, our way of life.

The essay’s survey of history and its justification of the Iraq war, however, completely skipped over Korea, Viet Nam, apartheid and almost 65 years of the most dramatic and significant social, technological, political and economic change in the history of mankind. It is not an exaggeration to say we live in a different world. This does not, in any way, discount the value of what we might learn from the past. However, it suggests that if we try to draw parallels too tightly or if we try to make decisions today based on the past (which is more likely), we will most certainly deceive ourselves and, like so many institutions today, self-destruct in our arrogant blindness and insistence on holding onto old notions of power, control and the way the world is ‘supposed to’ work.

This blog is about the aging of the post-WWII generation and challenges each of us to “take responsibility for the mess and clean it up before we die”. Okay, Iraq and the seemingly intractable issues in the Middle East are a mess. The conversation is obviously a lot bigger than a single posting in a blog or even a hundred blogs. What I do say is that it is possible to achieve social and political breakthroughs in circumstances where institutionalized conflict and bigotry seem inevitable and permanent. New paradigms do emerge and prevail all the time. The British Empire gave way to a Commonwealth of sovereign nations, the Cold War ended, the internet is transforming mankind’s relationship to knowledge and information. The rate of change today makes most solutions obsolete before they are even implemented: forecasting models are all but irrelevant, and virtually every mechanism and practice for controlling human beings is breaking down.

The bottom line from my perspective is that if we are going to clean up the mess in the Middle East and in the rest of the world it will not be through force or futile attempts to control. It will come to pass—if it comes to pass—because leaders and others take responsibility for the conflicts and invent a new discourse in which widely diverging and seeming irreconcilable cultures and values can co-exist. A hundred years ago, the Civil Rights movement, women voting and globalization were unthinkable and as impossible to imagine as it is to imagine a safe, peaceful and terrorist-free world today.

Perhaps if enough of us ‘idealistic’ boomers aligned on this possibility and exercised leadership and wisdom in finding ‘as-yet-to-be-created’ means for building relationships with those we cannot understand and, with some justification, mutually fear, then our grandchildren might not need to continue fighting WWII and we could again dream of a world that works for everyone.

The International Coalition of Concerned Mediators is leading one example of innovative thinking. They are circulating a petition that encourages building responsible mechanisms for dialogue and negotiation of differences. Their petition declares:

Given that the world is confronted with real and perceived threats from several international arenas we, the undersigned, urge that citizens of our nations insist their elected and appointed government officials immediately engage in honest, direct and unconditional negotiations with all authorities and powers who can resolve these pending crises in ways that are equitable and practical for all concerned without sacrifice to national sovereignty or security. As citizens of the world and as professional negotiators and mediators we urge that proven conflict resolution processes be employed now.

I invite you to take a moment to visit their site and add your name to their growing list of supporters.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “An Elder’s View”

  1. This is my first time visit at here and i am really pleassant to read
    everthing at one place.

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