EthicsDaily.com Article

Here’s a link to an article I wrote re: the recent turmoil in Egypt.  It was published on EthicsDaily.com on Friday, February 11, 2011.  It was shortened a bit before publication, so what follows is the full article I submitted.

According to a recent MSNBC report, recent turmoil in Egypt and the uncertainty of its future leadership structure has given rise to concerns regarding Egypt’s development of weapons of mass destruction.  Reasons for the growing anxiety are many, but a key issue is the possibility of an Egyptian withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty first signed in 1968.

It seems that the future of the Middle East is anything but certain with Egypt in turmoil. I believe it is fair to say that the future of humanity is anything but certain with the possibility of an arms race comparable to that of the Cold War.  The uncertainty of the present is only heightened by the fact that few world leaders will seriously consider a course other than a continued proliferation of arms.

Ironically, many believe the threat of war and violence is the only way to limit war and violence—a mindset most clearly formulated in the Cold War era doctrine of mutually assured destruction.  Advocates of this view assert that we must rely on “responsible” nations to possess the very weapons that threaten our destruction to discourage the use of these weapons by “irresponsible” nations and thus maintain peace.  Recent events in Egypt have revealed that this distinction is precarious at best, and (as others have noted) the acronym (M.A.D.) only heightens the dark irony of an ideology that believes we must move to the precipice of destruction in order to avoid it.

In the 1970s, René Girard set forth his controversial theory in which he suggests that human society originated in a mimetic conflict that ultimately united the community against a common enemy (a scapegoat).  Girard believes that since humanity now recognizes the scapegoat as an innocent victim of collective violence, this mechanism that once controlled human violence has been removed.  Thus, he posits, “The definitive renunciation of violence, without any second thoughts, will become the condition sine qua non for the survival of humanity itself” (Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, 137).   Regardless of the merit one assigns to his theory, it appears that human history has progressed to a point where we must heed his conclusions.

With the advent of the nuclear age, violence has crossed all boundaries and threatened the existence of the entire world.  When turmoil in one country produces fear of nuclear war (even in the very the leaders who believe the development and possession of weapons of mass destruction is essential to maintaining peace), perhaps it is time to find a better way.

The blame can no longer be placed onto any particular nation or group or leader.  In Girard’s terminology, there are no longer any scapegoats to save us.  Our precarious reality must be owned by all of humanity, because predominance of the belief that violence can be contained by the threat of a more violent response has led us to the tension-filled world in which we live.

With Girard, I believe we have reached a point at which humanity must find a non-violent way to resolve conflicts or witness a slide into limitless violence that ends in the death of us all.  We are, indeed, standing at the proverbial crossroads.  If we choose to maintain our present course—relying on violence to contain violence—I believe the end can only be ruin and destruction.

Alfred Nobel’s life was changed when he read his own obituary, mistakenly published in a local newspaper, which read, “The merchant of death is dead.”  As a result, he vowed to leave a better legacy behind.  What it will take for humanity to have a similar repentance?

What will it take for us to recognize that violence can never bring lasting peace, but only a temporary cessation that results in greater violence in the end? What will it take for us to listen to the prophets of peace who call us to find a better way?

What will it take for us to heed Jesus’ warning: “If you live by the sword you will die by the sword” (Mt. 26.52)?  What will it take for us to remember the proverb we learned as children: “You reap what you sow”?

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