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Just as it appears we are nearing the end of this pandemic, the bugles of war are sounding in Ukraine. What is it about our species that makes conflict seem like such a forgone conclusion? Is it something ancient in our amygdala or is it something more recent?
We have so many societal problems to fix, but the positive news is that we have fixed many of them in the past 200 years (vaccines for polio and smallpox, farming techniques able to feed the world, the increased availability of education for women around the world, abolition of slavery and apartheid (mostly) and the ever-improving technology helping to connect the world and create renewable energy).
So big problems have been resolved in the past and big problems will be resolved going forward. But it will take will power and it will take people like you and I to help spread the word that science is real, culture wars are being invented by extremists in the media (and the bots that keep the flames alive), and all that most people in the world want is a way to shelter, feed, and clothe themselves and their families (and, if possible, find a way to satisfaction and happiness).
So help to spread these words. Stop listening to the talking heads trying to create fear and anger. Turn off the opinion "news" on Fox and MSNBC. Don’t separate into political tribes. See fellow humans as your tribe. See if you can help move American politics back to where I always believed it to be: Both major parties want the best for the country, they just have differing ideas on how (neither want to destroy our country – they live here!). Get rid of the extremists in both parties who only perform for their base and create hatred for the other side rather than creating actual policy; vote them out of office.
If you believe that none of this is possible, don’t lose hope, take action. Taking action (of any sort) helps to quell the feeling of hopelessness. Write a letter to your member of congress or your local paper, donate time or money to a worthy cause, back a political candidate that only uses clean money and treats people with respect, become a political candidate that only uses clean money and treats people with respect, teach young children about science and true history and how to respect others, help an old lady (or old man) cross the street, speak up when you see moments of injustice or cruelty. There is so much each of us can do to at least provide a glimmer of hope, not only for society, but for ourselves.
And remember these wise words from Eleanor Roosevelt:
“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”
…and also these words from Jewel: “In the end, only kindness matters.”