When we look to the world today, it is in bad shape. It is burning down, both literally and metaphorically.
What we see as a result of the rising temperatures around the world are fulfilling the predictions of climate scientists. From the wildfires in Australia (which is killing countless innocent animals and producing toxic smoke that threatens countless human lives), to the warming ocean (which not only is disrupting weather patterns around the world, but it is also destroying life within the ocean waters itself), to droughts such as California has experienced in the last decade, the world literally is burning up. Climate change is no longer a theory to debate, but a reality which is being experienced. Climate change is the major crisis of our time because if the world warms up too much, life as we know it will perish; by ignoring the problem, or making it worse, we would end up creating our own destruction. We cannot stand back and listen to those who are promising us that everything will be fine if we do nothing. All the evidence suggests it is not too late, but it soon will be if we do nothing. If we want to survive as a species, as well as a planet, it is going to take much effort and a willingness to use our resources for the common good, even if it is going to cost us much to do so; for climate change is going to be costly to fix, but it is going to be even costlier to wait and try to fix things in the future. The longer we wait to act, the greater the cost will be to deal with the effects of climate change. Since we have not properly followed our role as stewards of the earth, protecting the planet and the life which is on it, as we should have done, even if we solve the climate crisis, we will have to deal with the long term ramifications of our sloth. Many are going to needlessly die. This, is in part, because food will become scarce. As we look to the future, humanity has to recognize the sins it has committed against the earth, repent, and do all they can do to make up for all the destruction they have let go on, praying to God that he will accept their penance and help them to correct their faults and heal the earth before it is too late.
Metaphorically, the world is going down in flames, that is, the world order which can best help the common good is being destroyed. Perhaps there is no better representation of this than the violent nationalism arising around the world, dividing people against each other based upon national identities and racial ideologies. Antisemitism in the West has given rise to violent crimes against the Jews, with many Jews being attacked or killed by the hands of hatemongers. Jews are rightfully becoming afraid and doing what they can to protect themselves, even if it means to go “underground” and hide themselves from would-be attackers. Likewise, Muslims are facing a growing Islamophobia in many places in the world, including the United States, India, and China. While concentration camps holding Muslim Uighurs in China (with reports of torture and rape going on in those camps) are being condemned around the world, the condemnation often runs hollow as the root cause of it, nationalism, is not being undermined but promoted by many of the same leaders denouncing it. It is important to note the xenophobic right-wing nationalism which is rising around the world is the leading promoter of the ideologies which motivates people to engage anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. It is the same xenophobia and hatred which is at the root of the migrant crisis around the world, where refugees seeking shelter and aid are finding themselves turned away and left to die. Indifference to the plight of the migrants, properly decried by the Pope, helps the hatemongers, not the migrants, because those who are indifferent will not push back against the attacks on the dignity of life perpetuated by the hatemongers, allowing such ideologues to grow in strength and influence policy decisions in more and more countries around the world.Indifference to cruelty, indifference to the state of the world as it is today, and indifference to the future are all linked together. Not all people are indifferent for the same reasons. Some are indifferent because they are overworked and have little time or resources in order to know what is going on, let alone to do something about it. Some seem to be indifferent for purely selfish reasons. Others are indifferent for nihilistic reasons. To be sure, selfishness and nihilism are often linked together, but they do not have to be. Many people are selfish, but have no nihilistic instincts in them. They do not want to see the world burn, but they think they can do nothing about it, and so they are doing what they can for themselves in the little time they think they have left. These are people who can hopefully be reached. They need to be shown that their own well-being is best looked after when the common good is also promoted. On the other hand, those who are nihilistic, those who want everything to go down in flames, will not care if they go down in flames with everyone else, indeed, they will often revolutionize their nihilism, accepting self-destruction if they can take many others down with them. Such nihilists will not be easily stopped, but we must do what we can to do so, stopping them from harming themselves and the world at large, hoping to find a way to compassionately deal with and treat them so that they might recover from their nihilistic urges.
It is important for us to realize that the world is in bad shape, and it is going down in flames. But the flames can be put out. There is still hope for the future of humanity and the future of the Earth. We must work together to stop climate change and heal the earth from the damage which we have done to it. The Amazon Synod represents one way Christians have come together, realizing the crisis which we are in, and dealing with it in a land in which the flames threaten the wellbeing of the whole earth (because what affects the Amazon will affect the rest of the earth). The metaphoric flames require us to come together, to denounce all hatemongering, and all actions which have come about through such hatemongering, and to see that humanity is truly one and needs to work together for the common good. And though nationalism and its hatemongering is on the rise, so is the resistance to such hate. The resistance needs to become more effective in its actions; the people involved need to put aside petty disputes which arise and put out the flames. There is hope, but only if people are not distracted by those who would like to divide and conquer the resistance, turning the resistance into small groups with no power.
The world is burning. That is the state of the world. 2020 is the end of the decade, a decade of crisis. Let us hope and pray that by the end of 2020, the world will be in better shape, that people will wake up and truly recognize that they are in this together and must work together if there is going to be any future left for humanity. What we do now can possibly determine the fate of the world.
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