Now we are all interdependent

Now we are all interdependent

“There is a beauty in discovery. There is mathematics in music, a kinship of science and poetry in the description of nature, and exquisite form in a molecule. Attempts to place different disciplines in different camps are revealed as artificial in the face of the unity of knowledge. All literate people are sustained by philosophers, historians, political analysts, economists, scientists, poets, artisans, and musicians.” Glenn T. Seaborg, scientist, Nobel laureate (19 Apr 1912-1999)

For efficiency and identification, we group things. Food and beverage (F&B) fit neatly together. ‘Time & tide’ is a popular saying. Jane Austen used the concept in some of her titles, adding alliteration to lend lustre to the invitation – ‘Pride & Prejudice’, ‘Sense & Sensibility’. Tolstoy’s creative tome ‘War and Peace’ has a particular resonance today.

Having grouped what we see as related items, we box them, label them, support or object to them, turn them into institutions, faiths, dogmas. It happens to religion, to race, to class – to almost everything in life. Our boxed items then either compete to defeat each other or cooperate to be even more powerful than any other institution or combination. Grouping is the basis of all political parties. ‘Like-minded’ is a comfortable concept. It doesn’t presuppose aggression. Sadly, it often ends up involving it.

Creating a group is a process. It is how we start a business, how we build organisations, how we grow. Even how we physically develop is by grouping and connecting brain and muscle. Grouping people on a small scale is harmless, often socially enabling and a societal structure that promotes integration at a certain level. It can also create isolation of those not included. Rattigan captured the essence of that problem in his two stories ‘Separate tables’.

Countries are one of the longest lasting world groupings. They have a certain stability even when they are colonised or annexed. Grouping on a local scale would appear to be uncontentious – but it is not always harmless. A gang is a group which may expose itself to fatal consequences. The Wagner saga ended in lost lives for Prigozhin and others. 

As communications and contacts became more universal our groupings got wider. WWI led to the formation of The League of Nations in an attempt to guarantee World Peace. WWII gave rise to the United Nations for the same purpose. Valuable as both these bodies were, they left divisions between ideologies, religions and countries unresolved. They did, however, start a trend in which most people believe that Winston Churchill’s “Jaw-jaw before War-war” is an essential objective. The path towards it is rocky and treacherous.

In the past ten years the world has become both more connected and more crowded. Increased contact has led to better understanding for many but also to increased dissention. People-created crises of climate and generative artificial intelligence have overwhelmed the interdependency we need to solve them. Why have big international groupings failed to unite peoples whose very existence is threatened and whose children’s future is jeopardised?

 Perhaps the answer is that the groupings were started too ambitiously and from the perspective of who we are now, not who we want to be. You cannot expect peoples of diverse backgrounds to integrate on every issue all at once. History, custom, tradition are powerful anchors for life. Modifying them can look like abandonment. One or two, here or there, maybe. A complete culture cannot become a shipwreck overnight. Interdependence is step by step.

We should be concentrating primarily on a United Climate with the daunting but still limited objective of coping with climate change – now well beyond our ability to stop but within our ability to handle. United Health, with a rather different remit from the World Health Organisation, might be a reasonable follower. United Trade is already in the sights but too ambitious to succeed yet. 

Could United Truth be humankind’s ultimate triumph?

We are all interdependent now.

We should begin to practice it.

Good morning

John Bittleston 

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11 September 2023