As we watch the end of one world order (the one originated at Versailles in 1919 and modified at Dumbarton Oaks, Bretton Wood, and San Francisco three-quarters-of-a-century ago) unravel and disintegrate, our collective reactions resemble those of bewildered and injured children, focused on their relentless hunger, unwilling or unable to grow up and take responsibility for their own needs. We see this on all sides and everywhere. It is embodied in the current election, in the movements of protest and dissent, from every point of the political compass, that lack an encompassing view of the horizon or an acknowledgement of the deeper interconnections between our present problems and the deepest questions of our existence. Pope Francis, to a lesser extent Bernie Sanders, and others have recently tried to make clear the connections in our problems and solutions, each within the limitations of their belief systems and hindered by the reductionist monoculture that has penetrated even the arts, humanities, and religion. They have made some inroads into our collective consciousness and against our institutionalized inertia, though it is too soon to tell if their effects will persist and expand, or wither and die.
The threats we have to face today are much larger and more complex than those with which we struggled in the world wars. Those were horrible enough and existential to one culture or another, but amenable to military solutions. Those we have today go far beyond and require solutions affecting every aspect of life, in fact requiring a contemplation of who and what we are, a worldwide questioning more profound than we or our religions have undertaken previously. They are existential threats to humanity and life itself. In our elections and politics, both here and abroad, we choose too often to ignore them, to focus on lesser issues, dog-whistle issues, in isolation. We focus on petty quarrels between this politician and that one as they struggle for the scraps at the table. The apparent chaos of this election, the violence in our society, the dangerous instability of the international scene, the storms and droughts, are foretastes of what may happen. They are not tokens of the end times envisioned by the Bible or Quran, awaited so expectantly by millions or billions, and which have served so many politicians in the past forty years as an excuse for inaction; they are the harbingers of our new reality, our new normal. We must refocus our attention and our energies. We must come to an understanding of who we are and would be, and we must act on it, or we will not survive - not just the United States, but the world.