The other night I posed to some good friends a rather seemingly depressing philosophical question.
I discussed that fundamentally all problematic issues in humanity can be traced back to a very simple point of origin… the struggle for power.
Take for example the entire gun debate. The essential point of concern regarding either side of the gun debate revolves around how people mitigate their feelings of power vs. powerlessness.
Some people feel powerless to protect themselves from gun violence, provided guns or semi-automatic rifles are readily available to the American public. By removing these items, it would represent a way in which one was able to regain some power to offset the feeling of powerlessness they presently feel.
Conversely, on the opposite side, is a group of people who feel that possessing firearms provide them a degree of power over the powerlessness of becoming a victim to those who unlawfully or tyrannically possess guns. The entire crux of the Second Amendment is based on this principle of “power to the people.”
Now, the gun debate is just one of a virtually limitless number of social or cultural issues that all come back to the focal point of power.
For example, racism in effect is merely the desire to exercise power over others. Even implicit racism emerges in the unconscious fear that one must lose some personal power in order to provide power to others that are dissimilar. To some degree this is indeed accurate. White America has exercised a degree of privileged power stemming from its historical origins over non-white persons. Given this fact, universal equality indeed does mean a loss of hierarchal power.
If this was not at least implicitly understood, then any concerns about inequality wouldn’t be perceived with such angst or avoidance. Essentially, defensiveness, at a minimum, relates to an implicit understanding that universal equality does not presently exist. The facts to support this are more than readily available and can be easily demonstrated. However, this understanding will require one to be willing to examine these facts. Unfortunately, it is often much easier to simply dismiss, rather than accept an alternative reality may indeed exist.
Of course, racism, inequality, or any other topic related to issues that fracture society, are much more palatable if people realized they all come back to one simple source or origin.
The human desire and struggle for power.
Race, in and of itself is merely a confounding variable, yet intrinsically no one single race is inherently responsible. Rather, it is merely the race of the people who are in power at the time a civilization is established.
Interestingly, this is a concept that Malcolm X recognized shortly before his death. He had spent his entire public life discussing Black nationalism or separatism, and at times describing White people as the devil. However, in the last few months before his death, Malcolm X publicly said that he began to reconsider his support for black nationalism after visiting Africa and meeting with northern African revolutionaries who, to all appearances, were white. Two days before his death, Malcolm X said that during his pilgrimage to Mecca, he was “awakened to the dangers of racism,” and he “realized racism isn't just a black and white problem.”
Essentially, what Malcolm X said, is that his journeys outside of the confines of America, made him realize that the struggle for power over people was not inherently drawn along racial lines. The significance of Malcolm X’s personal revelation is extreme, considering that the bulk of his life he had supported Black nationalism by violence if necessary.
Eventually, the philosophical question I posed to my friends was, "can anyone point to any one instance in all of human being's 32,000-year history, in which the struggle, desire, or lust for power did not exist in civilizations? Is there a point in which peace or equality has ever really occurred?”
Once you realize that the answer to that question, as far as I can tell, is no, then what is the purpose of pursuing peace and unity? Can it not be said that the most prominent freedom fighters or pursuers of peace all died young, at the hands of the impossibility of peace?” Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, etc.
Profoundly, it can be said that the struggle for power is inherently human and therefore peace cannot exist. This is actually a theme that is prominent throughout all major religions of the world. Universal peace and assentation to a higher consciousness come when human beings are wiped out… a revelation, “End of Days” type event.
This suggests that even God knows that human beings are incapable of peace and therefore must eventually be wiped out.
Now, I proposed this question to some of the most beautifully diverse and intelligent people I know. However, I already had an answer to what appears to be nothing but a very depressive reality in existence.
The answer, I’ll share…
One of my favorite television shows growing up was a show called Quantum Leap. Tragically, the show only aired for five seasons. Honestly, the fact that fact that Keeping up with the Kardashians just had its fourteenth season premiere on October 1st and Quantum Leap was canceled after only five seasons, is almost enough to make me pray to God just to go ahead and send the big asteroid our way.
The show starred Scott Bakula who played Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who has become trapped in the past during a top-secret time travel program. Dr. Beckett leaps throughout time taking the place of other people to correct historical mistakes. His partner is Admiral Al Calavicci, who appears to Sam as a hologram from his current era of time.
The show’s opening narration explains “Trapped in the past, Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home."
Part of the show’s intrigue was that Dr. Beckett had no control over the person he leaped into as he traveled through time-space. Essentially, every episode started with Dr. Beckett trying to figure out whose life he had assumed and then trying to figure out what mistake had been made in order to correct some wrong in our historical past.
And they canceled it after only five seasons! I know, right?!?!
Now, Quantum Leap isn’t exclusive with the theme of time travel to correct past mistakes. In fact, virtually every other similar TV show or movie revolves around this exact same concept. In the widely popular movie, “Back to the Future,” Michael J Fox’s character Marty Mcfly inadvertently goes back in time to 1955 and ends up correcting several instances in the past. Eventually, Marty’s influence on the past changes his family’s entire life in his present time. Something Mcfly discovers when he eventually returns to 1985.
Now, beyond the most awesome television show you’ve ever heard of, there exists a very deep underlying theme. A theme that represents a peek into our collective consciousness and inherent human psychology.
“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit our own errors.”
- Ludwig Van Beethoven
In his quote, Beethoven was referencing an individuals detest at admitting their own mistakes. Now, as insufferable as this indeed may be, it is even more detestable to acknowledge and try to overcome humanity’s collective mistakes.
Ultimately, the entire premise of Quantum Leap or any other genre of media that involves time travel, all revolves around that same theme. It is the concept that having the ability to go back in time and correct past mistakes can help positively influence our current way of life.
What the “time travel to correct the past” theme says about all of us collectively, is that we believe the only way to positively influence our cultural present or future, is to fix the mistakes of the past. If you really think about this in context, that is a fairly remarkable defeatist attitude we all voluntarily agree to accept.
Interestingly, we have this view in regards to humanity as a whole. However, we don't believe this when it comes to us as individuals.
We don’t raise our kids to believe they cannot overcome their mistakes. We try at all cost to avoid living our lives under the precedent that our past mistakes define who we are now. If we did, the moment we failed a test in school, we mind as well just drop out and start working rough tricks at a boat ramp somewhere, because there is no recovery from that.
There are several significant obstacles that we throw up which give us this fallacious belief that we cannot overcome the mistakes of our past.
For one thing, we don’t believe we can conquer our historical errors because we don’t even acknowledge they ever occurred. I mean we go to great lengths to provide a revisionist historical record that suits us best. We do this in virtually every aspect of our lives.
Now, should we be faced with the reality of our historical gaffes, we will often negate the great extent in which these events will linger and have lasting social impacts. In fact, our suggestion when these lasting impacts, such as slavery, are mentioned we rebuttal with, “Yeah, but that happened a long time ago. That has no impact on today.”
We are willing to argue and hate our fellow Americans over the definitiveness of the United States’ 241-year-old constitutional documentation and its impact on the nation today. However, slavery ended 152-years ago and those social impacts…well, they’re done! We’re good. Nothing hanging around from that or the fact that civil rights are only 53-years-old. Nope… all is well universally across the nation.
Lastly, we have a self-inflicted obstacle in believing it is utterly futile because though I may be willing to acknowledge and overcome past mistakes, no one else is and everybody is just assholes.
Well, no offense but you’re a person. You’re a member of society, right? So what makes you so special you can be willing to accept, understand, and fix for today, while no one else can? Have you ever wondered if the approach of “You’re an idiot, you’re a bigot, you’re never going to change,” might have a tad bit of influence over other’s willingness to believe in the same?
Collectively, we all just decide to agree that the only way we can make our today or tomorrow better is to go back in time and never make a mistake in the first place.
At the end of the day, this is unrealistic and the stuff that fictional books, TV shows, and movies are made of.
If you, yourself are capable of learning and bettering from your mistakes, then why can’t the entire body of humanity do the same? Bear in mind, I’m actually talking about starting on a smaller scale as well. Maybe, start with your Facebook friends and work your way out from there.
I mean, no wonder we all need, guns, boats, cars, money, or privilege to feel powerful. We all willingly agree to be powerless over our entire future and existence.
We have the incessant need to maintain power or exert it over each other because we all willingly sign up to be completely powerless as a collective to change. We’re trying to fill a void of power with stuff that can never actually satisfy what we want. We’re powerless because we choose to believe, collectively we are very weak.
Which brings me to the answer to the philosophical question I presented...
So why even bother if at no point in history can be shown where a different existence lacking this struggle for power ever existed?
Because we have tomorrow that’s why.
Why would human beings have tomorrow if the potential to be better than today didn’t exist? I don’t mean individually, I mean collectively as people. Why do human beings have tomorrows if yesterday is all we can ever be? Why bother having a retirement plan. Why even try to have a savings account. Don’t even think about planning a vacation in the future. What’s the point if the people we were yesterday is all we will ever be?
Yet we do have tomorrow, don’t we? We do have another day that extends beyond the last.
So the real reason we pursue a better future is not based on our failed past, rather it is to learn from those failures and then try to succeed.
That’s true power.
Real unbridled power is the power that anything can be achieved. Say that’s idealistic or impossible… well, good job! That makes you no more powerful than everyone else that came before you.
Ultimately, as frustrating as it may feel, as impossible as it may seem, we have tomorrow and that is why we should never give up hope for a better tomorrow, today.
Choose to be a good person and work for a better tomorrow today and good news, there are only but two outcomes.
You fail and die knowing you lived a virtuous experience that was centered on the belief of everything good in life. If you happen to subscribe to any of the world’s various religions, this would mean that in death you will receive a reward.
Or a giant asteroid gets hurled at earth because its season 25, and Keeping up with the Kardashians is still going strong. In that case, you either get opinion A. I just described, or you’ve lived life so virtuously, you get to survive Ala-Noah-style, inside a Great Ark.
Honestly, there isn’t any real drawback to not being bound by our past failures. Rather, power comes from believing the day after tomorrow will come, and it will be better than today.