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The Daily Paradox

The Daily Paradox: We can’t be nice anymore

An engineer from Virginia, USA, Stephen Robinson, said “We can’t be nice anymore”. It’s difficult to know from the Financial Times report of this whether his tone was sad or cynical.  Perhaps a bit of both. It is, in any case, frighteningly true. Please ponder this for a moment.

We all dread the news that a nuclear weapon has been launched to start WWIII. We don’t know if, or when, that will be. We pray that it won’t. On the other hand, do we want to continue seeing the world’s resources used to build weapons of destruction rather than making life better for the deprived? Do we want lives wasted fighting when they could be tilling?

Rhetoric among today’s world leaders is of aggressive protection.

Based on my experience of the lead up to WWII, rhetoric can quickly become attack. Governments have a primary responsibility to protect the citizens who elected them – or who put up with them where there are no elections. Protection is increasingly becoming proactive, due to technological advances and the pace of communications. The more proactive aggressor usually stands a better chance of winning. The defender now nearly always has to be willing to become the greater aggressor, if only to catch up. As in the Ukraine impasse.

All this leads to the likelihood of a world war of some sort in the reasonably near future. Whether that happens will depend to a hair-raising extent on the use of the internet for messages that incite or calm. It seems ridiculous that the comparative triviality of a Facebook or a Tik Tok entry can potentially bring the planet to an end but that is the reality of the world we live in. The days of “sticks and stones can break my bones but wicked words can’t hurt me” are well and truly over.

We all know that war is a futility and an extravagance we neither want nor can afford. We know that we have never had a bigger say in what our politicians do, even when we cannot vote for them. We understand that the media are there to send our message to anyone who listens. We are not using those media to inform honestly, to discuss politely or to influence beneficially. That we fail to use the resources at our disposal properly is down to us. If the next generations fail to do so, it will be our fault for not teaching them correctly.

The future of niceness is important. It is civilised, polite, reasonable and responsible. Every single person has the gift of creating it if they wish to. When they don’t they deny their responsibilities – the foundation on which their rights are built. Quite soon those rights will be available only to those who do fulfil their responsibilities to the extent that they can.

Do you know who Stephen Robinson is? You may think not but you would be wrong. He is your friend and he is mine too. Of all the things I want in this world right now the most important is that Mr Robinson will meaningfully change his statement.

We’ll all be better when he says “We can be nice again”.

Might we even help him do that today?

Good morning

John Bittleston

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28 February 2024