Introduction to the forthcoming book: WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST
Who is the “we” in this book’s title, “What We’re Up Against”?
First, the “we” is us citizens of the United States in this time of darkness and danger in America. We face a national crisis as profound as any in our history (with the exception of the crisis over slavery in the middle of the 19th century). The crisis is manifesting in the ugliness and dysfunction in our political arena, but the problems go far deeper than politics.
Second, the “we” is humankind, with its increasingly powerful system of civilization on this planet. History continues to accelerate toward an outcome that, looking to the centuries to come, increasingly congregates toward the extremes of catastrophe or utopia, with the middle ground of “muddle through” affording less and less viable space.
In both cases, the prospects, while far from hopeless, are deeply worrisome.
In America, the developments of the past more than a decade have greatly increased the probability that the nation in the future will be one where the many are dominated by the few, the mass of the population will be “informed” by propaganda masquerading as news, and the government will exploit rather than serve the people.
Part of the crisis is that many of us are blind to the nature of the force we are up against, and as a result of this blindness we are failing to respond appropriately to protect what has been best about America.
Meanwhile, for humankind as a whole, it is far from clear whether this experiment that life-on-earth is conducting with this new form of a living system — civilization — will turn out well or badly.
Our global civilization is already on a course toward environmental disruption of a serious and perhaps catastrophic magnitude. Our species — with the exponential growth of our numbers, the take-off in the power of human technology, and the demands on the planet from the unprecedented levels of affluence in much of the world — has become a bull in the biospheric china shop.
To this danger is added that still posed by the age of nuclear weapons, a danger magnified by the continued levels of disorder in the international system and the ever-present possibilities of war.
If we as a species had a better understanding of the forces at work — both constructive and destructive — in the system of human civilization, we would be more capable of guiding civilization’s evolution toward the better outcome.
What are we up against? This book will show that there is a meaningful sense in which the answer is the same for both senses of “we.” Much that is the same is required for both the immediate crisis in the United States and for the long-term challenge facing human civilization.
Of these two important dramas, it is the crisis in the United States that must be our most urgent concern– for two reasons.
First, the American crisis is the more acute. Less than a generation ago, the balance of power between constructive and destructive forces was significantly more positive than it has become. The disorder in civilization generally is as old as history. Acute pathologies require the most urgent attention.
Second, for the foreseeable future, a positive course for civilization as a whole depends on having a United States that is governed by a positive, constructive spirit. For three generations now, with all our nation’s missteps, the role of America in leading human civilization forward has been indispensable. And there is no sign of another source of leadership available if the United States should continue to become more part of the problem and less part of the solution.
If America cannot shift greater power back to the nation’s better elements, the chances will be greatly diminished that humankind will be able to navigate successfully through the perils it faces, and to achieve a more humane, viable, and just civilization in the future.
The choice to focus on the American crisis, however, by no means implies a neglect of the long-term challenge facing civilization. As this book will demonstrate, understanding what we are up against in America leads directly into understanding the essential challenge humankind has faced for some 10,000 years, every since our species took the unprecedented step of creating an altogether new kind of living system on earth.
Our crisis fits into a bigger picture. The destructive force that’s been degrading America in recent years leads is part of a drama that is central to the human story: I will present here a secular, rational, and empirical understanding of a dynamic at the heart of the civilized human world, one that warrants being called, “the battle between good and evil.”
I will show how the lack of an understanding of this dynamic — a rejection among many intelligent, secular Americans of the whole idea of good versus evil — has been an important part of why the forces of destruction have gained such power. There is a battle between the forces of wholeness and those of brokenness, and the stakes in that battle could not be higher.
Will American democracy survive and revive, or will we continue to move down the road to plutocracy? Will the lie continue so often to defeat the truth in our national discourse, or will the founders vision of a healthy “marketplace of ideas” prevail? Will the divisions among groups or factions of Americans continue to widen, or will the bases for cooperation and common purpose be rebuilt?
Favorable answers to those questions depend upon our understanding what it is that we our up against– a force that fosters injustice, that deals in deception, that employs a strategy of divide and conquer, etc. etc. One despicable choice after another.
And understanding that force — how it works in the human world to spread its pattern of brokenness, how it gains power, how it originally arose — will illuminate the meaning of the human saga, and the fundamental challenge we as a species confront.
Will humankind learn to live in harmony with the biosphere on which we all depend for our survival? Will our kind manage to create a world in which disputes are settled peaceably and justly? Will humanity create an order that reliably serves human fulfillment? Or will the forces of brokenness in war, in ecological destruction, in cultures hostile to human needs, lead to misery, to a dark age, or even to extinction?
This book will provide an answer the question, “What are we up against?” that is targeted to address the questions, “What’s gone wrong in America and how can it be set right?”
And to present a truth that can work as a weapon for the battle that today must be fought and must be won in the American power system.