The Way Things Ought To Be: It is Either
Going to be Better or Worse!

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

To close out the 20th Century, I would like to share with you the statement made by John F. Kennedy. Kennedy said: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind." This statement is such a profound one because the reality of this century has shown us the extent to which humans will go in destroying each other. The history of the 20th Century serves as a vivid example of how mankind has become expert in the craft of killing. Therefore, in the new Millennium, it is either going to be better or worse for the survival of mankind.

Furthermore, one needs to consider the memories produced by the Imperial War Museum in London, England. At the museum, documents upon documents are kept there that tell the story of the extent to which we have perfected our own demise. For instance at the Museum, there is a unique clock with a digital counter that visitors are intrigued by. The purpose of the clock is not to keep time but rather to record the total number of people killed as the result of wars in the 20th Century. The estimated projection of the number of people killed by December 31, 1999 is in the neighborhood of one hundred million humans.

Based on the above figure, we need to ask ourselves the following questions: what has mankind gained from all of these wars? Will wars ever end? Regarding these questions, we need to re-evaluate our position if we are to avoid future atrocities. In order to do so, we need to pay closer attention to Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount. In the sermon, Jesus said to His followers: "You are the salt of the earth." By this statement, Jesus implied that their preaching about God's Kingdom would have a potentially preserving, or life-saving, influence on their hearers. Mohandas K. Gandhi made reference to this Sermon on the Mount when he told the British viceroy of India that: "When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems, not only of our countries but those of the whole world."

In other words, it is left to us to practice what we preach and the world will be a better place. However, there cannot be one standard of justice established for those who commit crimes against humanity in Europe (Western world) and another (lesser) standard for those in the Third World, particularly, Africa, and expect to eradicate moral and spiritual decay in the world. The salt metaphor is used to dramatize the seriousness of the issue facing mankind, today. For example, salt in ancient times was a precious commodity that was used as a medium of exchange. Salt was second only to gold in value, in ancient China. Even today, healing and antiseptic properties are attributed to salt, and it is used as a flavor enhancer as well as a preservative all over the world.

In view of the many desirable qualities and uses of salt, that is the reason Jesus used it to emphasize his concern for the salvation of mankind. And that's the same reason I used it here. The salt metaphor represents freedom from corruption or decay. In other words, "when salt loses its taste", it means that nations as well as individuals have become blind to the practices of morality. They can see neither the root causes of crimes against humanity for which a collective resolution is needed. Collective responses that require us to stand up and fight for what is right. Instead, many nations within the global community engaged in a "strange kind of logic" or "Blame shifting" exercise, like for example, "Our action was based on our national interest" or "The decision we made was on the basis of our security interest". These are the same aged-old excuses we have heard over and over that have led to the atrocities in places like Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, just to name a few.

In Sierra Leone for example, an innocent boy named Moctar Diallo had his hand chopped off. When this and other heinous crimes were being committed, the international community stood by like spectators observing gladiators in the arena. Moreover, the death squads consisting of the joint forces of the RUF/NPFL who committed these crimes, leadership was given amnesty. The US and many nations supported the move. Meanwhile, the French authorities issued an international arrest warrant tracking down the former Vicky official Maurice Papon, 89 for crimes he committed "against humanity" years ago. Is there one standard of international law for Europe and another for Africa? So it seems!

Also, it is important to mention that the existence of life is not to be alive and breathe or to depend on others for one's existence, nor does true satisfaction comes from a get-as-much-out-of-life-as-possible approach, which everyone seems to be practicing these days. While man has certain number of basic needs to satisfy, which include material, cultural, social and spiritual, the spiritual is tied to faith in a Supreme Being - with this come his responsibility to God and society. Anyone, who limits him or herself primarily to satisfying only their physical and material desires, will more or less live the life of an animal. In which case, the individual will not make use of the more meaningful resources that life has to offer -- to be of service to humanity. In the end, the individual is likely to cause damage to the society in, which he/she lives and forsake the interest of others. The case in point is the atrocities committed by leaders in places like Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc.

To further underscore this point, another example of Jesus is worth citing. This one has to do with the blindness of religious and world leaders. He said that leaders could look at the sky and note the weather but could not interpret the signs of the times. He went on to say that when a blind man leads a blind man, "both will fall into a pit." This reference fits most of the leaders in the world along with those who follow them blindly. These people are like the "salt that loses its taste or saltness". Like the salt, they engage in corrupt practices, become useless, good for nothing and continued to bring all sorts of ills to society, because they are always prepared to go to the highest bidder for their services.

In short, it should be the firm belief and conviction of every civilized person to defend and protect the rights of individuals and groups at all times especially, children, women and the elderly. To achieve this goal, virtue, honor and decency should be the hallmarks establish to measure our actions. This standard will only work if they are applied evenly.

Our task will not be easy. But with the collective commitments of world leaders, who are willing and prepared to take the lead, no matter the consequences, this goal can be achieved. In the new Millennium, we must do what is right and not what is convenient. To live in a more prosperous and sustainable world, those who have committed crimes against humanity must not go on living among us as if they have done nothing. They must be brought to justice like the Nazis. If this issue is not resolved, we cannot go on professing that we are dedicated to the fundamental principles of democracy, freedom and constitutional rights for every human being.

The observation of these principles will be the catalyst for the survival of humanity in the 21st Century. By evenly upholding these cardinal principles, we might be able to prevent hatred, violence, terrorism, flagrant human rights abuses and wars. This is the choice we have got to make if life in the 21st Century is going to be better than the one we experienced in the 20th Century. After all, that's the way it ought to be!

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