Commonality and Hope

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 14 Jan 2019

Mazin Qumsiyeh | Popular Resistance – TRANSCEND Media Service

13 Jan 2019 – Responding to climate change, protecting the Amazon forest, helping refugee, having justice (a road to peace), fighting racism and greed, fighting a flu, finding meaning in life maybe connected more than we think.

Humans who disconnect themselves from nature may lose track of fundamental but simple facts of life and can get overwhelmed in the age of information with these things and get paralyzed or worse yet be propelled o do horrible things. One of those facts of life is that life itself started on earth 3.5 billion years ago with basic process of mutation, change, selection, adaptation, and evolution and that these same principles and laws STILL apply today even among us HUMANS. Understanding basics can also help us shape our actions. Even before resources were limiting (before competition or survival of the fittest), small micro-organisms acquired random mutations and some of these allowed better reproduction and growth sand some disappeared. As life grew in volume and complexity, natural selection did become a survival of the fittest and, “nature, red in tooth and claw” (Tennyson 1850).

Evolution is a fundamental fact of science without which nothing in biology or medicine or even agriculture makes sense. No one denies that biology (my first field of formal education) and sociology (human affairs) are connected. But we humans were to transcend biological evolution at least in social evolution (most people including Darwin would look negatively on ideas of “Social Darwinism”). Evolution of course does occur in human societies: we do know what the fate of many societies that failed to adapt and evolve to a constantly changing world/environment.

Social evolution is also limited by our biology (sex, reproduction, feeding etc). Yet, humans have cooperative societies that can and does cover for and many times take care of the weak and vulnerable members of the society. Altruism indeed evolved by biological natural selection in our species because of the survival benefit of it. For example keeping the elderly who kept the stories of the techniques and locations and experiences that helped the new generation be more successful hunters & gatherers. The “selfish genes” (in the words of Dawkins) did not get eliminated though and to this day that struggle between individualism/selfishness and community interests (both products of our evolution remained). Our varied cultural, religious and educational backgrounds (themselves products of long evolution) may spin these things in different words and concepts like ying and yang, bliss and carnal instincts, angels and devils, or heavens and hells. But what how are we to be guided in our actions?

Martin Luther King Jr once said “Those who organize for peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who organize for war”.  But we should analyze and expand on this a bit. Those two categories spoken of by MLK are just individuals and they do have variations and influences from peers and society. Those who work for peace (altruism, kindness, justice) are people who somehow managed to suppress certain other evolved tendencies like competition and greed. The reverse is true. Mahatma Gandhi and Donald Trump are both members of the same species with similar genetic background but are products of different experiences and emphases.

The Gandhis of the world are a bit more numerous than the Trumps of the world (see my book for example on popular resistance in Palestine) but numbers are not everything. For example, we do have to consider that greedy selfish people can accumulate significant wealth and control media and thus influence fate of millions of people (Zionism is a good example). They even get elected as happened in the US, Brazil, or “Israel”. Further, those of us pushing against the Trumps of the world are never as organized, never as smart, never have enough resources, never have enough forward looking positive plans and actions for the future. “Never have enough” is a perception (important to give us incentive to get more) not a recipe for giving up! Obviously we occasionally succeed: think improvements and sometimes revolutions in civil rights, women rights, children rights, economic/worker rights, ending wars and apartheid in many places etc just in the past 100 years.
So back to finding commonality (first sentence above). The Trumps of the world care about very, very limited things. The MLK’s of the world have expanded vision and understand connectivity which is only partially touched upon above. That is why MLK Jr refused to focus just on civil rights but also worked n Vietnam and the economic injustice and the environment etc. Because we are all connected. In my book, Sharing the Land of Canaan, I quoted Joseph Campbell:

Today, the walls and towers of the culture-world that then were in the building are dissolving … But of course, on the other hand, for those who can still contrive to live within the fold of a traditional mythology of some kind, protection is still afforded against the dangers of an individual life; and for many the possibility of adhering in this way to established formulas is a birthright they rightly cherish, since it will contribute meaning and nobility to their unadventured lives, … and to those for whom such protection seems a prospect worthy of all sacrifice, and orthodox mythology will afford both the patterns and the sentiments of a lifetime of good repute. However, by those to whom such living would be not life, but anticipated death, the circumvallating mountains that to others appear to be of stone are recognized as of the mist of dream, and precisely between their God and Devil, heaven and hell, white and black, the man of heart walks through. Out beyond those walls, in the uncharted forest night, where the terrible wind of God blows directly on the questing undefended soul, tangled ways may lead to madness. They may also lead, however, as one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages tells, to ‘all those things that go to make heaven and earth.’

In my December blog http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/2018/12/punctuated-biological-and-social.html I discussed some additional changes that could happen and how to keep us on a track to sustainability but the comments were even more interesting. For example comment 13 posted underneath was from Jeff who wrote:

“Man’s urge to dominate his fellow men, greed, power, colonialism, imperialism. These are the things that have led us astray. These are the things we are fighting to neutralize now. Fascism is part of our human nature as is altruism. When we work together all things are possible. Hitler, Gandhi, Trump, Mandela, these men represented the good and bad in our natures. What we need is for people to step up and become leaders instead of listening to leaders. If learning enables people to lead, there is hope. I am always inspired by you, Mazin.”

INDEED!

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Mazin Qumsiyeh, associate professor of genetics and director of cytogenetic services at Yale University School of Medicine, is founder and president of the Holy Land Conservation Foundation and ex-president of the Middle East Genetics Association. He won the Raymond Jallow Activism Award from the national Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1998. He is co-founder and national treasurer of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and has written extensively about the Middle East. Qumsiyeh is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan and Popular Resistance in Palestine, a professor at Bethlehem University and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem. http://palestinenature.org

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One Response to “Commonality and Hope”

  1. rosemerry says:

    Thanks to Mazin, whose book “Popular Resistance in Palestine” is really inspiring , fact-filled and interesting.