Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Greatest Enemy

What is the greatest enemy of mankind?

Basil says it’s got to be corporations: “They have enormous power, and their priorities and objectives are seriously at odds with the greatest good / greatest number goal.”

Videsh says it’s greed: “So many wars were fought ’cos of greed.”

Mikael says disease, because it “destroys morale”, “does not discriminate” and “will never be stopped”.

Not a bad selection so far.

Tommy says religion is right up there. Sam agrees that religious people are bad news, but adds “intellectuals” to the list.

Margie, Charles, Valerie and Nidhi say man is his own worst enemy. This is by far the most common answer. Not entirely wrong either.

I would offer a comment from the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians as a contender:
“For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved.”
I like some of the more modern, less literal translations of this phrase, because I think they get to the core of it. The New Living Translation says that those who hinder the gospel “work against all humanity”. Weymouth says they are “enemies of all mankind”.

Hindering the freedom of the gospel is among the most misanthropic acts possible. It is a declaration of war, not just against God and his people, but against those who might otherwise hear and believe.

Greed is bad. Disease can be truly horrible. Corporations provide excuses for plenty of inhumane behavior. But none of these evils directly and intentionally puts others at risk of a lost eternity.

Preventing others from hearing the message of Jesus Christ is anti-human to the core.


  1. "Basil says it’s got to be corporations: 'They have enormous power, and their priorities and objectives are seriously at odds with the greatest good / greatest number goal.' "

    This particular blog of yours provides me with the reason to append something I have had in the back of my mind for a long time. So, let's start with the basics. The enemies being mentioned here can, expectedly, be sorted into two types, natural disasters and occurrences (that we cannot control or significantly enough influence) and enemies based on human characteristics. The latter is, in my opinion, the more significant category. There is a saying that goes "we often tend to be our own worst enemy." This applies directly to Basil's above comment concerning corporations and, for that matter, to any activity humans are engaged in. Based on a lifetime of observation I have concluded that the most significant human characteristic where we potentially are our own and each others worst enemy is the degree of self awareness we possess.

    For example, how would you characterize a person that does the following - habitually and daily on numerous occasions seriously risks his/her own physical wellbeing and safety. Endangers daily and frequently the physical wellbeing and safety of their fellow human beings (to the point of serious injury and death and damage) but blithely goes about their life as though this never happens. This would then actually be an issue and a useful metric and indicator of national and personal mental health.

    That health, or lack thereof, in the individual is what then drives the factors in Basils complaint about corporate behavior since a corporation is only a compilation of individuals.

    The metric, which is quantifiable, is simply our behavior on the road when driving and is observed as tail gating. Here you are seeing most people going at unreasonable speeds unreasonably close to the car in front of them seriously risking the lives of all those around them, including their loved ones in the car with them. This serious disconnect is due to a serious lack of self awareness concerning your own behavior and its consequences. It is clearly and technically measureable as an index based on distance to the vehicle in front of you as a function of speed and number of vehicles in traffic and could be used as a direct metric proportional to personal and national mental health. One can predict that national health will improve if this tailgating index (and hence self-awareness index) shows improvement over time This technique should be explored as a Masters Thesis in a university by psychology and sociology departments and should be used on an ongoing basis. It will clearly provide an objective measurement showing whether or not we are making improvement in not being our and our neighbor's worst enemy.

    It is clear that the index is only then positively correlated to positive behavior if such behavior has a a chance within an individual, which I propose will be the norm. However there are also those who are self aware but mostly with regard towards success in implementing evil and destructive schemes in their lifes (they have partial, incomplete self awareness). Hopefully those will remain in the minority so that the index should largely be a predictor of positive improvement.

  2. Can't argue with you there, Qman. As an extremely paranoid driver, I leave lots of space around me at all times (regardless of the speed of traffic) and I find myself getting nervous when someone's lights are too close in my rearview mirror. As a social issue, I'm not sure how you fix this. Education? Experience?

    As a Christian, I can only say it makes me start praying ...

  3. Q - As is often the case I find myself reading your comments, nodding my head in agreement and then getting to the bottom of a paragraph and discovering we don't agree at all. It's really quite disconcerting! And enjoyable in the main. Keep on keeping on.

    In this particular instance, it appears to me that you think people - given enough information or education - will adjust their poor conduct. I can think of nothing less likely. People are not always (or even often) rational in their behavior.

    In your example of tailgating, I seriously doubt anyone who does this is doing so because they lack knowledge of physics. You can show them vector diagrams and statistics all you wish - and they won't learn anything they didn't already know. Texting while driving is the same - we all *know* it makes us less aware of things around us but, apparently, we don't care and we carry on texting.

    Educating people helps when they are rational. It does nothing when they are not. And the vast (vast) majority of people do not act with rationality in mind first. The problem with tailgating is really a sin/selfishness issue; not an issue of awareness at all - It really could be expressed as "my convenience is more important than your safety, neener neener".

    The problem isn't self-awareness, it's self.

  4. Bernie, I sympathize with you throwing up your arms in regard to this but think that upon closer examination you would probably agree that things are not totally hopeless. For example, external pressures and new information can in the very long run make a difference in human behavior. I am thinking about smoking and drinking habits and, more recently, the new dietary guidelines just issued by the US federal government. Those, after a prolonged struggle against special interests finally admit to the significant health benefits of a whole food plant based diet in combating all modern diseases, including cancer and mental health issues.

    The reason I like the tailgating metric is that it would measure an entirely voluntary change in human behavior, which would be indicative of thinking and being concerned about the wellbeing of others. After all, our psychological and behavioral sciences only exist because results are expected from them by way of gaining insight concerning our behavior leading to attitudinal changes. If that was not the case then why do those disciplines exist? So, I would hope that if such a metric would ever be used that a very gradual change for the better, an improvement, would actually be observed. Perhaps that makes me an optimist.

  5. "Perhaps" indeed!

    You reference drinking rates as something that can be modified by new information. But I looked at the drinking rates in North America and it appears that nearly 90 percent of the population will concede that they have drunk alcohol at some point and that nearly sixty percent have done so in the last month. The stats here in my home country leave the average annual alcohol consumption for 15 + year olds at something just under 500 beer equivalence in 2012 - an average consumption that has danced around that rough level for decades.

    Cigarette use has certainly dropped - by about 10 percent since 1990 for most groups - but some portion of that drop must be attributed to the presence of hideous graphics on each package, punishing taxes on purchases, requirements forcing cigarette companies to stop marketing their products in virtually every medium and the mandate (here in Canada at least) that cigarettes be concealed entirely out of sight at sales venues. And we'd have to consider the fact that cigarette consumption is under-reported due to cross-border smuggling to avoid heavy taxes.

    In fact, the cigarette illustration is instructive because it proves that people did NOT (solely) respond to an information campaign about the health benefits of stopping - they required the additional (multiple) barriers to purchase for even a 10 percent decrease in smoking rates to occur.

    I remain cynically unconvinced that the presence of information alone will induce a behavior change for most people. I watched the video link you sent and it's interesting indeed - now excuse me while I zip over to Timmy's and grab my breakfast sandwich and a double double. I'd bet the lineup won't be any shorter this morning than it was before the government told us (yet again) that more fruits and veggies and a greater level of exercise would be wise.

    1. Well enjoy your double double (whatever that is :). The main point of the tailgating index would be to indirectly see if an improvement can be observed in the humane qualities that we are supposed to have like caring for others by controlling our behavior to ensure the safety of others. Now it is entirely possible that that may be a futile endeavor but that would still be a data point. Also, I would not necessarily assign it to the category of addiction, as you see it, but more into the category of negligence and poor behavior due to lack of self-awareness. And as such it could possibly change. In other words, I see it as critical for humanity to become more aware of how our personal behavior and sense of responsibility affects everyone's living space. And that should be helpful eventually even in the addiction department. Don't know if that will be impossible though. If it is it would then mean we are pretty much doomed, which might be counter the Christian message of hope? If Christ said who will still belief in me when I return should that be interpreted as you might as well give up, tidy up your own ship and to heck with everyone else? Not very likely and so we must keep on trying.

    2. Double sugar, double cream.