We have discovered how to prevent heart attacks but not war. We can send astronauts to the moon and bring them back, but we can’t bring our armies home. Is there a way to begin all over and make the Twenty- First Century the first century of the New World of Tomorrow?
In 1988, a leading American publication asked five cartoonists to comment on how to save the 21st century from its great problems.
The author of Pogo came up with a unique answer. His cartoon story was cast in the guise of a new motion picture production. The title was “How to Bail Out the 21st Century”. On the set, the directors discuss the picture’s approach.
Pogo asks, “Ya gonna show how to save what’s left of this noble ex-spearment?” The directors advise, “We go back! Start over the 1900’s.” Another character chimes in by saying, “We knock off World War I.”
“But,” retorts Pogo, “ya also must get rid of the reasons for World War I; better start the century in 1850.” The actors, directors and producers keep going further and further back through history. But each problem has a cause still further back in the reaches of history.
Finally, the director summons Pogo to sit on a rock with Miss Hephzibah. He tells Snavely the snake to get in front of them with a temptation apple. The director darts behind the camera and shouts, “Roll ‘em. My angle is the 21st century begins in the Garden of E.” But before he can finish the word “Eden,” Miss Hephzibah, alias Eve, takes an umbrella to the snake’s head and demolished the apple.
“Cut! Cut! That ain’t in the script,” shouts the director. “Keep it in!” his assistant vociferously interrupts, “that’s the bran’ new head-start angel you been after.”
Pogo’s creator had hit upon a most profound insight into the why’s of today’s chaotic world. Simply stated: We need to start all over from scratch!
We stand in the 21st century, at the end of six thousand years of recorded history, with two alternatives. Either a new era of solutions will be ushered in, or we face the ultimate apocalyptic nightmare. We must have answers as never before, solutions to the world’s problems: war, famine, family chaos, disease, insurrection, crime, poverty, economic woes, urban chaos and emotional problems.
But before you get turned off about “another one of these doomsday approach articles,” read on. There will be no cataloging of the obvious here. However, we will refer to the irony behind the problems of our day and explain why we need a fresh “Garden of Eden” beginning.
You and I live in an aware generation. We are all too conscious of the perplexities plaguing our world. An incessant barrage of bad news bombards our senses through television, newspapers, magazines and the internet.
Even our music reflects the yearning we have for a Garden of Eden, unspoiled by the serpent’s temptation. Listen to the words of one popular song: “He ain’t heavy he’s my brother his welfare is my concern. No burden is to heavy to bear; we’ll get there. If I’m laden at all, I’m laden with sadness that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness of love for one another.”
Car bumpers use to read “Make Love Not War.” Now someone had a point there. If we say love is an outgoing concern, a love-thy-neighbor-as thyself concept, then we certainly do need to make love and not war.
But how? Perhaps a fresh start would put us on the right path. “If only I could live my life over again, I’d do such and such,” we often muse. We yearn for a fresh start, to get to some unspoiled beginning and have at it all over again. Perhaps without realizing it, this desire has made America a nation of crusaders.
Many are beating a path back to nature, rejecting the evil of everything from mass technology to food additives. Meanwhile, on the health scene, a natural food and supplements pandemic is causing a revolution in eating habits among large numbers of people.
There are long-standing animosities between nations; deeply rooted cultural habits; complex and intricate social problems. The root causes of some of these difficulties are hundreds-- thousands of years old as Pogo and the “Bail Out” cast found out.
Yet we must find the exit in the problem more than confuses and befuddles us. We must hack through to the causes, to a “let’s begin all over again” guiding set of principles.
Although humanity has always been faced with war, famine, excesses of religion, illiteracy, sickness and social problems, it has the possibility of starting all over from scratch in our day. This is the paradox of our age. We stand on the brink of cosmoscide and worldwide social upheaval. But we also stand on the threshold of a new world a new solution to age-old dilemmas.
Let’s take a brief look at this new Garden of Eden opportunity open in our time.
Science, for example, has made great progress in discovering the knowledge of how to solve many problems. But man has all too-often not recognized or applied right knowledge. Where he has applied it, a dramatic reversal has often occurred.
In the area of health, sanitation regulations have wiped out many diseases. Today, we know more about the cause of heart disease than ever before. If an individual follows the advice of getting proper exercise, eating a balanced diet and following a sane lifestyle, he can avoid heart disease.
In the social field, many breakthroughs in understanding have occurred. We know, for example, a good bit about why marriages fail. Through intensive practical and theoretical study, the causes of a number of social dilemmas are available in journals, consulting agencies and mass magazines.
The individual can find help in learning how to cope with neuroses; how to develop skills leading to productive employment; how to solve personal financial problems. There are even societies devoted to studying the causes of war and the ways to peace. The United Nations, weak as it is, at least affords an opportunity for statesmen to come together and air their grievances.
We lack only one unifying factor to put all the pieces together. Only one input needs to be plugged in to send the solution throughout our world.
Perhaps we can best understand this dimension by alluding to the common radio. We can turn the radio on and tune ourselves in to a certain wavelength. On the wavelength may be a song or a broadcast which causes us to react in a certain manner.
And so it is that human beings throughout their lives are tuned in to certain wavelengths in their environment. The output of these wavelengths shapes and molds the hearers’ thinking. Most human minds are cluttered with distorted information and wrong thinking as a result of this input. Nations and groups of people also wrestle with the historical input in their social world. This often enslaves them.
This is why we need a new, fresh start to begin again without preconceived ideas, hatreds, and cultural patterns. We need to recapture true values by attuning ourselves to a new knowledge station. The point is basis, but it needs further clarification.
Let’s understand how humanity has been swayed by the broadcasting of its environment. We can do this by imagining the life history of two human beings. Both knew nothing at birth. Both were sweet and innocent babies. One of these babies grew up to be a responsible member of his society, not perfect, but what one might call a decent human being.
The other learned to fear, and to hate. By age 16 he was a totally turned-off individual. He lashed out at nation, society, and symbols of authority. By age 20 he had committed his first murder. He was a hardened criminal, with no hope of being rehabilitated. What made the two babies become Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde counterparts? Merely the sum total of experiences which entered their minds. In the case of the criminal, the knowledge input twisted the mind into ugly distortion.
Nations are merely the sum total of individuals. And tragically, nations often display a Hyde-like attitude. A baby born in mainland China knows nothing at birth. But it is taught to hate Americans. A generation of Americans were themselves taught to hate Japanese. Each was a victim of his environment, of the teaching which reached his mind from birth. Each was an intellectual and emotional slave. But each assumed he possessed right knowledge.
Back in the 70s there was an American television show that was the most talked about program to ever air. It was called “All in the Family.” Archie Bunker, the lead player, is cast in the role of a sort of establishment bigot. But Archie was not a bigot. He was merely ignorant; he does not know what he does not know. So is this true of most of humanity and it lies at the cause of war, poverty, race bigotry, religious ignorance, and social strife.
We, of course, must not excuse the frailty of the human mind. A common clichι’ clearly points out that we are, after all, our own worst enemy: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
We may know intellectually why marriages fail and what it takes to make them successful. But knowledge of itself is not sufficient. There must be will and desire to change, to use that knowledge. That is a function of the human mind.
But let’s put this obvious point aside and concentrate on our environment input. There is so much wrong “knowledge” in this world that it clouds what is right and good. Whole nations are enslaved by religious and social taboos, or by economic systems that have obviously gaping flaws.
We still have nation-states that are swayed by the feelings of nationalism. This spirit of nationalism fills the air waves of a nation, molding the thinking of its citizens to the point of sometimes driving them to the madness of war with their neighbors. This is not inborn but learned behavior and it is dangerous behavior.
Today in the 21st century, the grave imperfections in our world environment and in the thinking of man threaten to usher in cosmoscide. On the other hand, incredible outpourings of knowledge could help map out the roads we must take to avert ultimate horror.
In fact, the very existence of the ultimate annihilation threat is forcing humanity to the knowledge that we must live in peace or die in war.
What is our course to peace? We must begin afresh. We must put aside the selfish concepts of nationalism or social bigotry. We must institute in their place a Garden of Eden simplicity to unshackle our minds from the chains of 6,000 years of human history, a history that has built a house of fears, hatreds, misknowledge. We need to recapture the way that will lead us to world peace and social harmony.
This means rejecting all that is false and literally starting all over again. We must bridge the generation gap, the religious gap, the political gap. We must reject the wrong attitudes that divide us. That is how the 21st century can be bailed out. We either accomplish these aims or our survivors will have the opportunity to start anew in a world which has been pushed over the precipice to utter destruction.
But how can we accomplish the mind-cleansing that humanity needs, given the realities of our world today? Who is going to slip into the minds, so to speak, of the seven billion human beings and re-program them? We must admit that in the current configuration of today’s world, the answer to the question: How to bail out the 21st century must remain, by human standards, Mission: Impossible and Solution: Unknown. No human possesses the power to propel us from here to Pogo’s Garden of Eden.
But there is hope if we are willing to accept a new and unique solution to the problem. This article has stressed the need for a mind-scrubbing, an opportunity to toss in the cards and deal a new hand. But to deal a new hand with the same old cards is not enough. We can put together only so many card configurations from the same deck. All the existing configurations in the form of religious, social and political systems have been tried and found wanting. We need a new deck of cards which do not yet exist.
In Pogo’s Garden of Eden, the God of Adam and Eve is pictured as a Great Educator. In teaching the couple, this Educator told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
But Adam and Eve ate of that tree. Man has also been eating of this forbidden tree, living with imperfect knowledge a combination of good and bad guidance. Today, although we have much understanding of world and social issues, full understanding resides in no man or nation. There are only bits and pieces scattered over the world floor.
And like Adam, mankind has rejected that other vital tree, the tree of life. Man as never before desperately needs to partake of this tree. Man needs the new spirit, that new dimension to his thinking which the tree symbolically provides.
And man needs the guidance of the Great Educator (whose instruction was rejected by Adam and Eve) in how to acquire the wisdom to rule himself and humanity. Armed with this new spiritual dimension of mind, and led by the wise and just leadership of the Great Educator, man can return to an Eden-like condition. But this time the return will be with a greater understanding of his responsibility so that he can, if he so chooses, remain untempted by the serpent’s guile. Only then will man be able to bail out the 21st century and usher in the New World to come.