I noticed this week that Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, which is about the physical degradation of the planet and the destruction of unique environments, is about to have a TV showing, on Sky Premier Movies. Seems strange that it hasn’t already been shown on public broadcasting TV around the world, given his passion for saving the planet. Maybe Al Gore is to making films what ‘ethical’ manufacturers are to manufacturing - they like the idea of doing good and being environmentally friendly, but profits come first. And here’s me thinking he wasn’t short of a few quid.
If the World Public Broadcasting Corporation were to make a film about Planet Earth in the 21st Century, for transmission to the rest of the universe, it might go like this:
Various faces of children around the world, both happy and sad; soldiers, armoured vehicles and aircraft unleashing incredible firepower against civilians and one another. Scenes of awesome beauty - sunrises and sunsets, mountains, gardens, forests and lakes. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre with their plumes of smoke, collapsing into rubble, and as they do so covering New York with vast clouds of dust and airborn debris. Families enjoying home life in various ways - laughing, playing, eating meals, sitting and walking in gardens and other places of great beauty, driving cars, watching TV. Traffic jams, factories, churches, temples and mosques. Various works of art, including paintings by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Klimpt, Turner and Monet; sculptures by Hepworth, Moore, Picasso, Michelangelo and Rodin. Clips from quiz shows, soap operas, video games and films such as Apocalypse Now, The Terminator, Alien and Predator. People embracing, holding hands, kissing, smiling, making love, looking at one another adoringly. People shouting, arguing, punching, fainting, collapsing. Ambulances, police cars and fire engines speeding to emergencies. Streets full of demonstrators and protestors, libraries full of people silently reading, rooms full of computers where silent faces stare at screens. Bands performing, children playing trumpets, singers singing, drummers drumming, various instrumentalists reeling and rocking. Six different people wearing blindfolds, each touching a different part of an elephant, trying to describe it from his or her particular point of contact. Hurricanes blowing, floods rising, glaciers melting, the sun shining on beaches full of people sunbathing or lying in the shade under palm trees. Scenes of joy on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, various festivals, a child’s birthday party. A nuclear explosion.
Good evening people of the universe. Planet Earth is a wonderful, beautiful, frightening, ugly, inspiring, uplifting, depressing and amusing place, depending on where you’re standing, what you’re looking at, who you’re listening to, and whether you have food to eat, money to spend, a proper home, security, friendship, peace and love in your life.
This programme’s aim is to show a balanced portrait of a unique planet, in all its glory and its misery, showing it how it is, and not trying to say whether any of it is good or bad, right or wrong. Is it wrong for big fish to eat little fish? For birds of prey to kill small mammals? We are not setting out to judge or even to comment. Feel free to comment on it as you wish. Our intergalactic email address will be given at the end of the film for you to send us your comments. Or your judgements. You can be the judge.
People of the Earth are ready to be judged on the state of our planet. We have made it as it is. We found it in a state of virginal innocence, and we have embraced it, worshipped it, treasured it, abused it, defiled it, injured it and tried to make it better again.
As human beings we have many strengths and many weaknesses. We have issues. We have problems. We are sometimes argumentative, selfish, aggressive, abusive and disrespectful. At our best we can be thoughtful, generous, creative, appreciative, loving, peaceful, sympathetic, and awesome in our ability to unlock the mysteries of the universe through science, mathematics, technology and the use of computers and other machines which are the products of our intellects and our capacity for cooperation, collaboration, innovation and ingenuity. We have the capacity for brilliance and for stupidity, and you will see the results of these wherever you look. It is inevitable that our behaviour will be both sublime and disgusting, since there are many people on this planet, in various states of ignorance, desperation, confusion and unhappiness, and also sublime, talented, gifted and awesomely enlightened.
We have educated people who are nevertheless hopelessly confused and ignorant, and we have unschooled people who are unbelievably wise and enlightened. We have clever fools and we have naïve savants and sages. It takes all sorts to make a planet. It takes a whole village to educate a child, and it takes a planet to educate the human race.
Our task at the World Public Broadcasting Corporation is to educate, inform, entertain and enlighten. We have many eyes and many voices. We have a multitude of viewpoints, explanations and opinions. During the course of this film you will hear them all. We will not only show you Planet Earth as it is, we will show it to you from many different perspectives, and we will invite you to reach your own conclusions and make your own judgements. Some say there is no one truth. But there is one truth that matters, and that is YOURS. See things our way - see things your way.
Having seen the truth what will you do about it? Are you able to help us? Planet Earth needs all the help it can get. We are in danger of destroying so much that is beautiful and meaningful on this planet. We are in danger of wiping ourselves out with nuclear weapons. If you’d like to help us in our quest to be a happy, peaceful, grateful, appreciative, positive and harmonious planet, please get in touch. Without help we may all perish. Without your help we may have to educate and enlighten ourselves, and we’re not very good at those things in spite of centuries of our best efforts. So please. Please, help. Get in touch. Come on down.
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Salvation Studies. Module 1.
Appealing to space beings for help is like looking to God for solutions to our problems on Earth. It’s not going to happen. Even if there were space beings or a God or gods in a position to enlighten us, support us, or offer us help, how on Earth would they go about it? Who would they go to see or speak to?
George Bush claims that God speaks to him. Many of us doubt it. Tony Blair thought he had a direct line to his Maker. Look what happened to him. Was Iraq a “failure of Intelligence” or a failure of intelligence? Or was God just having a laugh? Or was it arrogance and hubris on the part of men who thought they were hearing the voice of God, and maybe even thought they were somewhat godlike themselves, which is fair enough when they are treated that way by so many followers, believers and worshippers.
No. We have to do this thing ourselves. Our fate and our fortune is in our own hands. No space beings or gods or saviours or upper-class sons of millionaires or of the manse are going to do it for us. We, the People, have to do it for ourselves. We have the need, and what is more we have the capacity to enlighten ourselves, and to help one another become enlightened, and then to work together collectively on our own salvation, our own better, brighter, more brilliant future as individuals and as a planet.
And if we don’t do this thing for ourselves, as a species, then we don’t deserve any help, any salvation. To hell on a handcart, or to a much better place on vehicles of our own design and manufacture? The choice is ours. The journey is long. The way ahead is rocky and obscure. But we need to get together and get started. All aboard!
The point is that the answers are within. Each and every one of us has to look within and try to fathom out what we’re doing and where we should be going. Though we could start by paying attention to what some of our best thinkers and scientists and sages have said through the ages. To begin with we need a framework of values and ethics.
Maybe start with the Buddha - maybe the most ancient source of counsel and wisdom. Starting with his more modern translators and interpreters?
Then there are more recent scholars and researchers, people of sublime wit, integrity and vision - people who had the capacity to really observe the world truthfully and objectively.
Abraham Maslow was a brilliant researcher who had the insight that in order to better human beings we should start by developing our awareness of what the very best of our species actually look like, how they behave and what they accomplish. Not famous people - just so-called ordinary people who somehow stand out from the crowd.
The next blog, Layer 20, will be a summary of what Maslow noticed about human potential, about high functioning human beings, and what he described as “self-actualised” individuals.
In the news today.
The Orwell Prize for best political writing. Won by a Palestinian human rights activist, Raja Shehadeh, for his book Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape. He describes the destruction of the beauty of the land, and the loss of the enjoyment of the land. Also the confinement of Palestinians to towns and villages. They are unable even to use the roads, which are now only for Israeli settlers.
Please read the first chapter of the book here: http://www.theorwellprize.co.uk/the-award/short-books/palestinianwalks.aspx
The Value of Investing in Emotional, Social and Spiritual Intelligence.
Still more concern for anti-social behaviour, violence and crime. How to deal with difficult children? After Columbine, the US state of Colorado focused on prevention of mental and emotional sickness, not trying to ‘fix’ them at 16.
School based classes were developed, and anger management for children as young as 4 years of age. They are taught to understand their bodies and their emotions. There were no parental objections to ‘wishy-washy touchy-feely’ stuff ‘detracting’ from academic focus and attainment.
There has also been systematic family support for children growing up in violent homes. Outreach programmes were funded.
Through these various programmes and changes to the school curriculum they have saved millions of dollars in special education costs, plus reduced costs of healthcare and policing. They reckon 3 dollars have been saved for every dollar invested in early intervention.
A brilliant anecdote on a Radio 4 programme (The Reunion) about Thompson Comics. A particular issue had one of the characters in the Dandy making his own fireworks. Someone from a government department wrote a letter to the comic warning them that it was illegal for individuals to make fireworks in this country. In the next issue the Dandy's editor printed a trailer for the following week, which just said, “Next week Desperate Dan will show you how to make an atomic bomb.”