Posts Tagged ‘“The Better Angels of Our Nature”’

Letter From New York 03 06 15 Ranting on a sunny evening…

June 3, 2015

Returning to the office from a series of appointments and meetings, I met with one of the phenomenon of New York City, the partially crazy person we all learn to just ignore. As I exited the 1 line at 28th Street, a very large gentleman came down 7th Avenue carrying huge black nylon bag, swinging at his side. As he strode the Avenue like a colossus, he was not exactly shouting; it was more like braying. He sounded rather like a human imitation of a siren. As I reached my turn at 30th Street, he began to alternate the braying with shouts of “I hate effing everything and everyone!”

No one seemed to really notice him. He just went on his way, slicing through the pedestrian traffic, a human battleship on some kind of mission.

Almost any foray onto the streets of New York means an encounter with at least one person with a loose grip on reality.

The other morning, there was a well-dressed, middle-aged lady on West End Avenue, chattering away. I thought she was speaking to someone while wearing a Jawbone. But she wasn’t. No Jawbone. Just having a merry conversation with her best imaginary friend.

We don’t intervene or do much except to give them as wide a berth as we can. If they’re not doing any harm, they sail on down the streets. Such people are part of the fabric of any metropolitan area. It sometimes causes me to think on the social welfare net we don’t seem to have for these folks.

There are so many human needs all over the world. Hundreds of thousands are facing potential starvation in South Sudan. Migrants are dying while attempting to reach Italy from Africa or from Myanmar to Indonesia. Nepal is in ruins. Heat is killing them by the hundreds in India.

The huge man on 7th Avenue got me thinking about the state of humanity. We spend so much time and money on fighting each other rather than uniting in curing what ails us. Howard Bloom posits that is part of our nature in “The Lucifer Principle.” He’s probably right. But my hope is that we head toward a better future though I’m not banking on it so much right this moment.

Fierce fighting has broken out in Ukraine again. Boko Haram has slaughtered thousands and kidnapped at least hundreds while Amnesty International is claiming the Nigerian Army has managed to kill off at least 7000 and should be investigated for war crimes.

China, Russia and the United States are all jockeying for position. Saudi Arabia and Iran are duking it out to see who is going to be the big kid on the block in the Middle East. Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines along with the U.S. are skittering to keep China from controlling the South China Sea.

But at the end of the day it is all geo-political nonsense that has been going on since the beginning of empires. The Egyptians wanted to be the big guy on the block and they were for a while. So were the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, Alexander had his moment – and it was just a moment – then came the Romans and so on and on and on. All about conquering and crushing.

I must pick up a copy of Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” Today it doesn’t feel like it.

While Mayor DeBlasio proclaims that New York is the safest big city in the country, murder rates have inched up the last two years.

Ah, I am ranting tonight but it’s what is on my mind tonight. And isn’t that what blogs are for? Our individual thoughts and rants and hopes and prayers?

Letter From New York November 25, 2011

November 29, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

My birthday is just past; I was feted to a fair thee well by friends over my birthday weekend, starting on my birthday eve with Lionel and Pierre at Thai Market, followed by a Friday evening dinner at the fabulous Robert on the 9th floor of the Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle, with a stunning view up Broadway, to five hours of haunting the New York Antique Show with my friend Paul, who then took me to dinner, followed by Todd Broder taking me to brunch and so it went on and on and on and I admit I allowed myself to be smothered in all kinds of affection over the weekend, for which I was very grateful.

It is Thanksgiving morning and I am curled on the couch at the cottage with the sun pouring in while glistening off the creek; in the distance are the morning cries of the geese flocks that call the creek home.

These are moments of self-indulgence, of celebratory rejoicing, of placid enjoyment of the time, moments when one can shutter out the harsher realities of our world. This morning, as I perused the digital version of the New York Times, I stumbled upon an article that posits that we, as a human race, are getting nicer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/opinion/kristof-are-we-getting-nicer.html?_r=1&src=tp

When I saw the headline, I raised my eyebrows. How, in the century of 9/11, could we think that the human race is getting “nicer”? But the writer makes a strong case that historically, we are. May it be so. If so, we should be grateful that there may be an evolutionary process happening with mankind that heralds a better age for all.

As I left a breakfast at Pershing Square yesterday, the man with whom I was meeting, paused on the street and commented on how lucky we were to have had a good breakfast in a good restaurant, talking about interesting things. Compared with 99.9% of the world, my life is absolutely magical, which I remind myself of as often as I can as and if we, as a human race, are becoming nicer, then indeed we must be grateful on this Thanksgiving.

It is a good thought; a powerful one that comes at a good time because when we look around we can find reason enough for despairing shakes of the head. Because we are so wired together we learn of every brutal hiccup in the process of the evolution heralded by Mr. Pinker in his book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature” and commented upon by the notable Nicholas Kristoph in his NY Times column today. The Thirty Years War, fought, at least partially, over religion, decimated much of what is now Germany while killing off a third of the population. As grim and stupid as the Iraq war has been, it has not affected that kind of mortality, at least to date.

Some of the thoughts ring true if stunning when thought. “Today’s conservatives are more liberal than yesterday’s liberals.” Yes, let us hope so.

On such a beautiful day, with soft jazz playing, sunlight bursting into the room, with promises of magnificent food in the hours ahead, with the great good company of my friends Larry and Alicia, it is a day to be both thankful and hopeful.

One of the dazzling aspects of human nature is that we as a race do change and against the darkness of our own acts have the capability to hope and to believe in a better future.

I am thankful today. I am hopeful today. May you all have grand and hopeful Thanksgivings as well…