An Elder’s View

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.

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

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