Friday, October 12, 2012

Reflections on Nobel Peace Prize for the E.U.

It was announced today that the E.U. is the recipient of this years' Nobel Peace Prize.  As a European living in the U.S., I'm not sure how I can claim my share, but peace in post-war Western Europe is indeed a great achievement.  However, the European project, founded on the idea of the mutual surrender of certain powers to a supranational authority in exchange for peace, is perhaps now more in doubt than ever.  The timing might therefore feel strange, but the Nobel committee likely wishes to remind Europeans of the big picture.  I think the idea of surrendering power to a greater authority that can guarantee peace is a very wise idea.  However, how do we find an authority that all will respect?  Here are some thoughts from an earlier post:
After the Second World War, an attempt was made to bring balance to Europe by establishing a supranational authority, run by Europe’s best and brightest, that would override national and ethnic enmities that had bloodied the continent for millennia. First, France and Germany ceded control over coal and steel production to the European Coal and Steel Community. In the following decades, closer and closer union was pursued, and Brussels was populated by brilliant minds seeking the best for Europe – peace and prosperity.

But, as things stand, national differences threaten to tear the EU asunder. National interests it seems cannot be trumped by bureaucrats in Brussels, however visionary and well-intentioned. Europe is still very much a group of sovereign nation states unwilling to surrender authority to a supranational body.

So, it appears that the European project has failed to produce balance. Moreover, any human authority that tries to settle disputes between nations is likely to be accused of bias by one or more parties to the dispute, and may even become the target of wrath. So, even if we were to find a very wise and virtuous person, who held humanity’s best interests at heart, no one would follow him or her.

We need someone with unquestioned authority to settle the disputes of humanity. This is the picture we find in Isaiah Chapter Two.
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:3-5 (New International Version).
Only a supremely wise, just, and unbiased being could convince disputing nations to beat their swords into plowshares. No more wild experimentation. No sincere appeals that it will be different this time. No more claims to have learned the lessons of history, when at the darkest times it becomes painfully clear that the lesson that we always forget is that history repeats itself.

Humanity clings desperately to the hope that one day swords will be beaten into plowshares. However, it seems, that the biblically-inspired hope of perpetual peace and justice cannot be established without the biblical-described source of such peace – God’s kingdom of justice established on earth as it is in heaven.
 You can read the entire post here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Leaving It All Behind

You've got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme... – U2 “Walk On” (1)
We must leave everything to those who follow.  Our greatest treasures are the following generation’s junk.  Stuff they have to clear away.  If they have attachment to something it is because it reminds them of someone who has passed.   They have no attachment to the thing itself.

If you have ever gone through the stuff of someone who has passed away, you will probably have wondered why they kept some things, and then concluded that those things must have been valuable or useful in their time. 

Similarly, if you have ever been in the market for a house, and started looking at potential properties you will have seen things that make you wonder what the previous owners were thinking.  Home renovations are never in my experience undertaken lightly, so some thinking went into that floral wallpaper or wood paneling.

But we don’t take this truth about the temporary worth of goods to heart.  We treasure our shiny, usually slimmer than yesteryear, treasures.

The recent launch of the new iPhone caused thousands to line up for days to be the first to have what in a few years will be obsolete and in thirty years – junk.  But they were willing to spend so much time for this ephemeral object, that in years to come will be perhaps found as a curiosity in an attic, similar to four-track players I found in my parent’s attic when I was a kid.  

It is exciting to have the latest first; to be an early adopter.  Some now cite this as an achievement.  And if you can keep getting the newest first, perhaps you can keep yourself satisfied.  But if you reflect, you will realize that you are paying a premium to own tomorrow’s junk first.