As terrible a notion as it is, I can live with the idea of us choosing to end all human life on Earth. It is, after all, our choice to make. What I cannot abide is us choosing extinction for other species. Totally not our call. If one were to be a moral purist, we have no right to build roads that cause traffic fatalities of animals, either. We may, in our arrogance, rationalize such things but we cannot justify them. At the very least, we ought to do our best to minimize the harm we cause to other living things.
Likewise, I have no objection to western powers engaging in another war that kills tens of millions of their own. But as in previous world wars, only infinitely more so, the European countries leave no portion of the world’s population unaffected by their choices. Again, this is indefensible.
All lofty and noble beliefs of a just war vanish in the light of these truths. Sorry, Thomas Aquinas, your Just War Theory holds no water in the 21st Century. One cannot claim war is justifiable when it demands the lives of those who have no interest in it.
Europeans and their former colonies even now wish to believe they are the moral leaders of the world, the vanguard that is leading the rest of the world into a brighter future. For a brief time — after European kings ceased to chop off the limbs of disobedient Congolese, after Americans ceased the slaughter of Native Americans following the Wounded Knee Massacre, and after the English finally acceded to self-rule in India, that belief might have found an audience. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, it seemed that the West’s desire to prove itself to be anything other than a group of imperialists that wished to suck the resources and the right of self-rule from non-European people simply vanished. They never even managed to clean the slime of their former sins off them, never emerged more than a few inches from the mire of their sordid past before retreating to their former ways. They wish to claim through force what they cannot claim through any moral appeal. This is what their twisted tongues refer to as “Rules-based Order”.
They want to rule the world, and they will go to any lengths to achieve that goal. And should they find this goal beyond their reach, they might just go to any lengths to ensure that nobody else is able to, either.
Many will claim that these are the only two options available to us, that we must either rule the world or be ruled by others. All the lofty talk of the last hundred years we now find to be empty rhetoric. Co-existence and rule through democratic means were just talking points made by our leaders when they served their purpose, to be discarded when they were not.
We literally cannot imagine a world not led by white, western Europeans. There can be no path forward in the eyes of westerners than those blazed by US. The more our own nations devolve into authoritarianism, censorship, and surveillance states, the more we become convinced that our way and our way alone is the one hope for humanity.
God knows I don’t want to live in China, although I have very little information on what it is like to live in China, and much of that is likely propaganda. That is not what I’m saying at all. That is the kind of binary thinking and false dichotomy that I see as the problem. It is the kind of thinking that is embraced by the west as its institutions fail and its standing in the world diminishes. To embrace such a philosophy, comforting as it may be to the status quo, is to embrace a stone when we are drowning.
We have abandoned our nobler ambitions. Rather than attempt to reclaim them and thus be a leader that others might want to follow, we are now at war with those who are demonstrating their own achievements and successes. No doubt much of it is built upon less than noble or democratic foundations, but we too soon forget how our own societies have been built upon exploitation of people both within our own nations and across the world. And the successes of all nations thus far have been built on the exploitation of our planet. There are no innocents, which makes those who engage in finger-pointing so morally repulsive.
Let us admit the flaws in our own culture so that we are able to speak to the flaws of other cultures without revealing ourselves to be shameless hypocrites. Let us admit that we are all flawed nations so that we might find ways to build a global community in which such flaws can be worked on rather than defended or denied. We can be a force for meaningful change and progress, but not with the conviction that we have the right to lead through force. We are still working through the trauma resulting from such behavior in the past. It is up to us to break that cycle, or suffer the inevitable consequences for us failing to do so.
We are all of us, individuals and nations, responsible for who we are and what we do. We can’t fix others until we fix ourselves, and we have our work cut out for us.