Monday, April 15, 2013

What Bertrand Russell Said

By JccKeith

“It would now be technically possible to unify the world, abolish war and poverty altogether, if men desired their own happiness more than the misery of their enemies.”

-Bertrand Russell

I whole heartedly agree that unification of people all the world over would bring about the end of wars, of destruction and of famine, poverty, even hatred.  The problem becomes then, how do you unify people who are so vastly different?

How important are our differences in culture, beliefs and location?  Does our separation from each other’s locals create differences that cannot be bridged?  Does where we live influence what we believe?  Does it influence our social situations?  Does it alter our sympathetic natures towards others?

As individuals, we all have our own unique aspects.  Each of us is different from everyone else.  No two people are exactly the same, even twins.  At what point do we draw the line between what is an acceptable difference from others and what is not acceptable.  By this I mean, what level of differences would be universally accepted?  Would it be alright for everyone to continue to practice their own religions?  Would it be alright for everyone to continue to practice their own choices in clothing?  What about personal hatreds of those who are a different color, different sex, different preferences in life? 

Can humanity as a whole truly be united?  If we did consider ourselves united as a species, would we still need separate nations?  Would we need separate governments, religions, families, etc?  Or would we all see ourselves as members of one universal nation and one large extended family?  Should we see ourselves as members of a single unit?  Or would this detract from our individuality?

All of these larger questions lead to one single question.  What defines individuality?  What aspects of our character, of our personal choices, our belief systems and our behaviors are truly necessary to consider ourselves individuals?  The answer, as are all of the other answers to the previous questions, is based on personal opinion.  It is not an across the board kind of thing.  Each person will answer the questions differently.  Some might have the same overall consensus that humanity should be united. They will still disagree on just how deeply the unification goes into the lives of the individuals.

One final set of thoughts on Russell’s statement is the idea of knowledge of oneself.  A person cannot truly belong to any group if they do not know who they really are.  They might participate in a group or want to belong to the group but a real commitment cannot be made until they are sure they belong.  It is also true that knowing oneself, identifying oneself as an individual is what allows people to dislike those not of their kind.  It allows people to identify others as well. 

Russell says that unity would be possible if men desired their own happiness more than the misery of their enemies.  I would argue that this is not why there is a lack of unity among humankind.  Desiring the misery of others more than your own happiness is not the problem.  It does happen but it is not what prevents unity.  Even unity among all of humankind would not stop enmity. 

People would still have enemies.  It is a part of human nature to do those things which lead to having enemies.  People hurt other people, even when they have every intention not to, it still happens.  People lie, they cheat, they steal and these cause enemies.  People hate those not like them in the smallest of ways and this hatred makes them feel they have enemies in those they hate.

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