By Marc Eliot Stein, March 31, 2023
Episode 46 of the World BEYOND War podcast was inspired by two things: a play by Jean-Paul Sartre that originally opened in Nazi-occupied Paris in May, 1944, and a simple tweet by Australian antiwar journalist Caitlin Johnstone. Here’s the tweet, which doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, but may be valuable for reminding us of what many of us realize we must do to save our planet from nuclear holocaust.
These words were my starting point for this month’s episode, and somehow made me think about Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist masterpiece in which three recently dead French people find themselves together in a gaudily decorated but comfortable room that turns out to be, quite literally, hell. Why does it amount to eternal damnation for three people to sit in a room and look at each other? If you aren’t familiar with this play, please listen to the episode to find out, and also to find out why this play’s famous quote “Hell is other people” is often misunderstood, and why this play is valuable as a metaphor for a planet destroying itself with the disease of militarism and war profiteering.
This month’s episode is only a half hour long, but I also find the time to talk about a few other things: USA’s decline, the stunning lies that surround the Ukraine/Russia war, “The Wizard of Oz” and the moral lessons I have learned about humanity’s capacity for rapid positive cultural change from working as a technologist during the birth and growth of the Internet era. In the past few decades, we lived through an incredibly exciting global information revolution that promoted equal access peer to peer communication over monolithic, heirarchical top-down structures.
Is it possible that technological change and relational intelligence can lead us into a new revolution – a global revolution of governance? It’s a far cry from the crises that grip us today, but we already have the technology for a governance revolution that would empower human beings over rotten and corrupt governments. And we have the power. But how can we begin to exercise this power together on a planet that seems to be trying to tear itself apart?
Most episodes of the WBW podcast are my interviews with other peace activists, but I enjoyed the chance to focus on my own thoughts for one episode, and we’ll be back with a new interview next month. Musical excerpts: “Ca Ira” by Roger Waters, “Gimme Some Truth” by John Lennon.
Quotes from this episode:
“I don’t know what to say to American exceptionalists. I grieve for the American dream I once believed in too. Shall we grieve together?”
“It’s time to end planet earth’s Napoleonic phase and stop believing that we belong to these things called nations, and that these things called nations are so important that we will kill each other and allow ourselves to be killed for their sake.”
“What we call evil is often the reflection of society’s evil within us, and for this reason we should avoid pointing fingers at each other. We all carry historic legacies of evil within us. We must begin with forgiveness.”
“We have the power to promote and support and champion our own investigative journalists. We don’t need to wait for Washington Post and New York Times to select them for us.”
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