“Let’s get to the root cause, and fix it.”
This is both the message and plea we are hearing from far and wide, whether in talking about the drug and corruption issues splitting the Olympic movement, or in dealing with the civil strife and terrorist strikes rumbling through this fateful U.S. presidential season.
While issues like performance-enhancing drugs and the corruption of officials overseeing sport are deeply troubling in their own sphere, they are only cracks along the larger, more serious fault lines unsettling the world’s political stability. Today, it seems as if the bonds of civil union have fully given way to the economic and political forces of anger and impersonal retribution.
In this insular world of running the Internet has proven to be such a positive tool, where we see more more high school students running better than ever, because they know now what others like them are doing in training and racing nationwide. Girded with that knowledge their belief in themselves skyrockets and the results are eye-popping.
And yet there are other young men who surf more sinister sites who are also emboldened by what they see and read, but who then turn against their fellow man when armed with new isolating beliefs and a desensitized view of a blighted future.
Societies of men engineered these divides. Or were the shooters of peace officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge along with the Nice and Munich terrorists born that way? It’s either muddy gene pools or a societies-wide virus. Which are we more willing to bet that it is?
And can anyone even remember the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre now? That was weeks ago, an eternity in the mass shooting, terror attack universe we’ve entered.
What has taken hundreds of years to develop creates deep pressure points and bitter memories, on which ever side of the racial/cultural/political divide. So it may well take several hundred more years of leveling jolts, if not another serious convulsion or two, before any successful empathetic resettling takes place.
These problems do not seem amenable to tough talk much less easy answers. No political policy or presidential election will soften the hearts of men. Instead they seem to harden them.
Sadly, this is the ages-old problem of tribalist human beings living in close proximity to one another, jealous, possessive primates who, as the late Christopher Hitchens quipped, “have too small a pre-frontal lobe and too large an adrenal gland”. But they also have unwavering faith in oppositional beliefs, and too easy an access to weapons to redress those cemented convictions.
As long as these tribes existed in relative isolation, and had enough food and shelter to go around, the differences remained manageable. But once too many disparate tribes began to overlap and inhabit too small a space where goods and services became less available and belief systems came into direct contact, the differences began to manifest in increasingly hostile acts.
International sport was one mechanism designed in ancient times – then resurrected into the modern – to relieve the pressure along these human fault lines. But that system, too, has increasingly shown major cracks in its institutional foundation.
In athletics the first rule of thumb is to have realistic expectations from which to develop a working program. It is evident we have yet to make that determination in trying to learn from these incidents, ones both simply sad and others more fully horrific.
When I first visited the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Poland and saw that infamous symbol of man’s intolerance, I didn’t come away with the feeling that this was some historic anomaly. Instead, what struck me clear as a bell was that this death camp was the entropy against which we all must be constantly on guard. After all, the Holocaust was perpetrated by Germans, the very pinnacle of western civilization, birthplace of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Beethoven. If the Germans could bow to the lowest demons that inhabit all our limbic systems, who amongst us is invulnerable?
Everyone wants to know what might be the next steps. Is it the call for more law and order and harsher crack-downs, the prescription of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan? Or is it the lessening of dangerous rhetoric espoused by U.S. President Barack Obama and the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton?
How about getting Superman to spin the earth back in time? Maybe to when there were only 2 or 3 billion people roaming the globe. Because with 7+ billion and growing the only unity is in every sides’ fervent belief that the other side is at fault with no neutral corner left to go to.
“Be fruitful and multiply?” Is that still a working order? If so, it just makes you wonder what was God thinking back on day five in week one (our arrival date)? Because in retrospect, “He moves in mysterious ways” doesnt quite seem to be giving Him His proper due. How, after all, do you fix human nature?