by Mindo Milerbender
Taking a closer look at the progress of civilisation
is a sobering matter. As I began this item, news was still coming in of
the Christmas Day earthquake in Iran which claimed over 20,000 lives.
We have colonised our planet, but controlling nature
is an illusive goal. There is only so much possible with concrete, steel
and technology, no matter the will. The ocean beds are largely the last
remaining unexplored terrestrial territory.
Control of and the need to understand our own nature
are things that the majority of us are taught, be it in school or by the
rituals of some established tribal law.
Tribal law differs from civilised practice in that
basic survival is of a much higher priority and the fear of possible threats
from strangers often leads to pre-emptive strikes. This can occur independently
of any greed-driven motive, where greed is defined as the urge to own
or control something used by or belonging to others, or the urge to control
someone else to self advantage.
Whether we choose to admit it, we are still very
much caught up in the transition from tribal survival into true civilisation.
That is the nature of progress, be it viewed from a Darwinian or any other
that fact puts the observer in a position of some knowledgeable advantage
regarding just what is going on in wider terms in the world today. It
may not be a wellspring of advantage, but it is still an important one.
None of this of course has or can have any bearing on natural events such
Our world is one of differing layers of human strata.
Though the underlying theme may be common, the view from each strata differs.
Having explored the differences, the common thread is the simple one of
human touch. Like music, it is all embracing and crosses all barriers
of language or creed. Touch remains the same in any language and is something
we all crave, regardless.
Our progress as a species may be as constrained
as the sand in a glass egg timer, but we as individuals have the option
of exercising our own beliefs and feelings and so ultimately our individual
actions can and will affect the whole. Perhaps that is the reality of
Take the day I was sitting on the banks of my local
river spending the day fishing when along came a stranger who set about
telling me that I knew nothing of what I was doing without the benefit
of being aware of what I did know.
It suited this individual's narrow mind to believe
in such a smug self superior position and after fruitlessly attempting
to start any real communication, I began to regard him as a fool whom
I wished would just go away, which he eventually did, none the wiser for
anything other than his own edifice of illusion.
The only rational explanation for such behaviour
is that this individual felt driven by some personal inner agenda or target
to match up to, coupled perhaps by the belief that failing to do so would
leave him somehow insecure or inferior. There was certainly nothing to
gain beyond the confines of his own thought processes by his attitude.
This encounter serves well to illustrate certain
social difficulties as it is by no means as rare an event as might be
Personal agendas can be among the most notorious
to shuck and can be very damaging to self and to others.
CAUSE and EFFECT
Five unemployed young people once walked into a taxi
office in South London and requested a taxi to take them to the local
unemployment exchange a few miles away.
One of the waiting drivers led them to a car and
a short drive later they pull up outside the exchange in a busy south
London street. Before the passengers have time to open the doors and get
out, several uniformed and plain-clothed policemen appear, the driver
is yanked from the taxi, arrested on the spot and bustled to a nearby
police car and quickly whisked away. As the car sped off, the arrested
man has time to see his abandoned fares standing in the street and looking
The taxi-driver never discovered what happened to
them, whether they had to walk back to where they came from or if they
stumped up the cash for another taxi. I know, I was the driver.
I won't explain why it all happened as that is not
relevant. I chose the incident as it perfectly illustrates an aspect of
unknown cause and resulting effect.
The five passengers became caught up in the effects
of a cause into which they had injected no real input. They were simply
innocently and unexpectedly caught up in events that were beyond their
The incident illustrates how the parallel action
of the police and the preceding actions of the taxi driver became incidents
of fate to the five passengers, producing circumstances they would probably
remember for a long time and luckily circumstances that resulted in no
We are all every moment of our lives subject to
incidents of unknown cause and effect. In the same way, our own actions
can produce unknown cause resulting in unexpected effect on others.
Two strangers pass each other in a street. One is
feeling almost suicidally depressed while the other is simply thinking
what a nice warm day it is. Their eyes cross, nice warm day smiles and
says nice warm day; suicidally depressed says aye
and tries to twitch the corners of his mouth into a semblance of a smile.
Then they have passed by.
Nice warm day soon forgets the exchange as he stops
to cross the road but it lingers in the mind of suicidally depressed,
who then accidentally bumps into someone.
Because of what he was thinking, suicidally depressed
says something he might not otherwise have said to the person he collides
with, which as a result led to a continuing friendship that soon erased
So unknown cause and effect become important. The
above parable illustrates a positive effect but every positive has its
negative too and that must be remembered even if it cannot always be quantified.
The threads of consequence might not be visible and might be way too complex
to intelligently unravel, but they are there and because they are, it
is incumbent upon us to mind what we do. That is, if we care about the
results that our actions might have.
Of course, achieving such a state of awareness requires
the elimination of egotistical thinking. It requires the replacement of
patronisation with condecension-free equality.
But most of all it requires honesty, humility and
respect. If those are absent, the consequences of any action can simply