I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
If everything continues as it is going now, we can liquidate ourselves in this century.
(Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal)
Our choice is the end of us or the end of nuclear weapons; the human race or nuclear weapons.
(Nobel Peace Laureate)
As the sun sets slowly in the western sky of 2018, we are confident that in 2019, it will rise again in the eastern sky, to herald in the New Year and perhaps a new dawn of hope for mankind. In the exciting countdown we contemplate the joy of Christmas, hear children’s laughter and compose fleeting New Year resolutions. It is a time of miracles and a time when the world wants for a miracle. We feel a surge of hope and goodwill to all men as east meets west in wisdom and the three wise men enter Bethlehem in humility and humbleness to witness a lowly and miraculous birth. A star led the way to a stable and to the cradle of Christ. A new star of hope is now needed to lead our world away from the brink of ruin.
As a boy, I still recall the resolutions made to change myself and to change the world, pledges signed in the name of abstinence from drinking alcoholic beverages and the thrill of expectation and hope at Christmastide. In my teens with WWII over, I was moved by an expression of promise to do everything and for as long as I could for the betterment of mankind. It still moves me to wish health and prosperity to all. My hope is that we will sign many more pledges and make mindful resolutions and that our children and grandchildren will be nurtured in the warm light of peace, in all the years to come. It is good to trust.
However, we cannot close the door on pessimism. A significant part of humanity does not have the luxury to eat well, to feel secure or to celebrate. Limited nutrition, malnutrition and famine exist in many parts of our world with much of it a result of misdistribution and corruption. Mankind can benefit from an inclusive society with no child left behind. Childhood should be better protected and societal preparedness strengthened for the protection of all life. Instead children are used as cheap labor, forced into homelessness, starved, maimed, sold and killed in many parts of our world. To hold climate change and global warming in check the window of opportunity is now less than a decade; nuclear weapon stockpiles, colossal and small are itching for release and anti-itch agreements are being scrapped, any 3rd World War will end within one hour, while humanity is held in the scourge of social dementia. We need philosophy! We need its application in our daily lives.
Our earth is being lost, its capacity to sustain life drained and we are fearful of a potential and horrendous setback to life with the universal implication of a nuclear holocaust. We are treading a world where in the dawn’s early light flags may not be seen, where marche on, marche on does not ensure victory, where vowing to thee my country may not be uplifting and where freedom or death is no longer a choice. The chimes of unity and justice of loyalty, wine and song are falling silent; no more open spaces for living, for dreams; no more forests and fields spread out before us. To unite under one [world] flag, one [universal] dream, seems like a pipe dream. Even so, if we are to turn our world around and away from ruin, we must remain optimistic and focused. The United Nations needs transformation and reinforcement. We have little else going for us!
As 2018 ebbs away a planetary mishap can deliberately, accidentally, naturally occur, a button can be pressed, a missile launched. Humanity has lost its bearings, waylaid by greed and stupidity, battered by rocks of unreason and unchecked by politicians, lawyers or academics. Genocide occurs in the Yemen, Leprosy is found in South Sudan; the promise of the European Union has never been fulfilled and Greece has been sacrificed by politics as usual and by the international community. We live in a world of ill distributed plenty with much waste. We live on a planet of incredible beauty threatened by climate change, environmental break down and overwhelming pollution. We live in a world of enriching cultures impoverished by social dementia and other delusions. We need a transformed academia and a universal rule of law. We need other countries and other politicians.
It is good to be an optimist, better by far to be an informed optimist. In the Musical, 1776, Benjamin Franklin was portrayed as a humorous optimist. We need both optimism and humor. 1776 gave me an opportunity to pop a cork and dance to the right, never to the left as I played Robert Livingston returning home to New York to celebrate birth in the family, while Thomas Jefferson feverishly penned the Declaration of Independence. In an uncertain world, Jefferson gave a new nation an enduring vision that has inspired our world, ever since. Peering out into his world he was sure of the self-evident truths and inalienable rights of man, created in equality, in life, liberty and free to pursue happiness. At the same time he was unsure of any dedicated listeners as in the course of human events they can fall complacent. So with raised voice to the theatre audience he asked, is anybody there?
This significant question has had a reverberating endurance and is now a concern taken up by the World Philosophical Forum (WPF). It was founded in Greece by Igor Kondrashin a Russian philosopher and now has 55 branches, worldwide. It was supported by UNESCO (Irena Bokova) and by the United Nations (Ban Ki-moon). In its 10 years of life the WPF has produced statements calling for war to be declared illegal, for crimes against nature to be equated with crimes against humanity and it has appealed to all fighting parties in the Middle East to abandon the fields of carnage, sit at the negotiating table in Delphi and sign an unconditional peace treaty in the old parliament in Athens. Greece.
The WPF demands an end to the accumulating misery of man, the indiscriminate killing of civilians in bloody conflicts and the senseless loss of migrants in the Mediterranean. WPF says in the shadow of a nuclear nightmare doing nothing is not an option; not for government, not for the international community and not for high profile citizens.
Thankfully, much of mankind can still enjoy life, celebrate New Year, in Scotland, in Europe, in Time Square and can still await with wonder the birth of something new. The world wants peace, a global peace anchored in rationality, in freedom and human rights and cemented by a political system of multicultural democracy.
This is a time of and for joy. It is still the time of Scrooge with his great potential for change and change he does. It is a time for singing and for Marley’s ghost of nostalgic past Christmases, for the present precarious Christmas with its dilemmas as well as for all future and uncertain Christmases. We still need those three wise men with their wisdom of simple gifts. We still need to remove the sign, No room at the inn.
This is a season to reflect on the past and look to the future in the comfort of hope and with quiet resolution. New Year Resolutions have circled the globe since Babylon. On the first day of the month of the year, Romans looked back while looking forward. In 18th century Europe, New Year became watch night a time for religious reflection. Watchman what of the night? Midnight! And all is well! But is it?
Several decades ago the Soviet satellite tracking system registered an incoming cluster of 5 missiles. Some minutes later Stanislav Petrov decided it was a false alarm. Retaliation was ruled out. Ban Ki-moon characterized Petrov’s decision, enormously courageous. The well functioning Soviet satellite technology recorded signals easily but wrongly identified as incoming missiles. His gut response told him that America was unlikely to send in so few missiles. In retrospect the radar blips were verified as artifacts, a result of reflected sunlight from clouds. Standard operating procedures would have resulted in a message sent up the chain of command to the Kremlin. There a button might have been pushed as a response to a falsely interpreted missile attack on the Soviet Union by America. That was in 1983.
The World Philosophical Forum and its Greek Branch wish season’s greetings to the readers of Wall Street International. We are trusting that 2019 will imbue humanity with wisdom, reason, morality, justice and responsibility, as encouraged by Audrey Azoulay. The Director General of UNESCO sees philosophy as a bastion against the narrowing of opinions and the narrowing of minds to which I add and it is a practical tool to help humanity find ways to peace. We wish for all children a meaningful life, for mankind to embrace a true sentiment of goodwill to all men and for reason to prevail throughout the world, in the spirit of Greek Classical Philosophy.
[Turn Back the Clock. The world waits anxiously for] (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 2019, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Official Bulletin on the celebration of the World Philosophy Day 2018 in Malaysia
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol