The cave-man century
This is the description of the 20th century by a celebrated Russian writer. But it suits very much the present century. It is very descriptive of the post-modern world, a world of confusion and contradiction, a world full of hope, yet riddled with frustration and despair. It is a world of fear, anxiety and restlessness.
What marks out the present age from past generations is the abundance of technological inventions. Indeed, the speed of technology in the past one hundred years has been most startling. It is as if man had fallen into a long slumber, and on awakening discovered that he had lost precious time and endeavoured to make up for it by increasing his pace of existence.
However, the march of civilization in recent times has brought us face to face with the tremendous complexities of human life. We are confronted with flagrant contradictions. Our technological advancement continues at an undisturbed pace, but little attempt seems to be made to resolve these contradictions.
Along with sophisticated technology there is an outright cave-man mentality. Man often behaves as if he has not advanced beyond the range of the jungle. The post-modern world has been described as a combination of advanced civilization and barbarism. There has been much self-sacrificing generosity and the callous indifference to the plight of the downtrodden.
We have Social Services as never before. Yet, we have more social abuses than ever. Tremendous medical advancement has been made. On the other hand, the world is embracing the principle of euthanasia, euphemistically described as "mercy killing". Much has been done to enhance and prolong life. However, abortion has been widespread. Nations champion the brotherhood and equality of all people. Yet, there is gender, racial, ethnic, and all sorts of social discrimination. Mankind has devised numerous ways and means of saving life. Yet, man has perfected the art of killing his fellow-men.
We speak endearingly of the "Family of Nations". Rabid nationalism has, however, tarnished the beauty of Mother Earth. Wars and terrorist activities have amply demonstrated this throughout the years. Even while many nations and institutions work for peace, there is, according to Pope Francis, "a piecemeal Third World War". The truth is that, because of the corrupt tendencies in mankind, the blessings of technology have come to us with the accompaniment of tremendous moral and social degradation.
It would seem that our basic problem is that moral development has not kept pace with technological advancement. It has been taken for granted that every form of technology is an unmixed blessing and that it must be welcomed unconditionally with open hands. However, this has not proven to be correct. Few people know that when one of the two men who invented television saw the use to which their invention was being put, he was so distressed that he would not allow his children to watch television.
Man is a moral being. He cannot be treated merely as a cog in the wheel of technology. He is the master of technology, but he can easily become its victim. Yes, he may become subject to the work of his own hands. Technology then has become an idol.
Man's privileged position in the world is that he has intelligence. He can think and carve his destiny. As a moral being, he must decide how various inventions must be used. When he abdicates right thinking, what we eventually have, in the words of the great social reformer, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is "guided missiles and misguided men".
We live in a world full of possibilities. But it is also a very dangerous world. It is essentially good, because it comes from the hands of the Creator. Yet, like natural disasters, it often seems to be a threat to human life. In this regard, the cave-man had a decisive advantage. He could take refuge in his sanctuary and protect himself from harm. However, in the post-modern world, there is no place to hide!
We need to take responsibility for the kind of world in which we live. We cannot shield ourselves from blame by saying that is how we have met it or that others are guilty and we are innocent. One writer makes the point that "Every crime is the product of a particular social system." If we do not condemn social evil, we become in some way participators in it. As Malcolm X so well puts it, "If you are not part of the solution, then you will be part of the problem."