Courtesy Reuters

The Crisis in Our Civilization

THE world has been very near to disaster, and it is far from apparent that its direction is now set to clear waters. I address myself here principally to the responsibilities for this situation which rest on the inheritors of the western capitalist tradition. We have built an interdependent world economy, but we have hardly sought in any serious way to build the institutions that are appropriate to its governance. Our science and its technology have opened to us the prospect of material well-being upon a scale no generation has previously known; but our relations of production halt us at the very entrance to the riches of Aladdin's cave. At the very center of our civilization there still lie hates and envies, ignorance and blindness, which cast a grim shadow over our future. Our world is one of contrasts that are alike fantastic and unforgivable. Here immense wealth, and there a grinding poverty. Here a culture that penetrates to the innermost secrets of nature, and there a tragic superstition that is born of an illiteracy which fetters the mind to ignorance. Here there is the dignity that is the elder child of freedom, while there whole nations toil under the curse of a slavery not less bitter because we have appeased our conscience by giving to its chains another name. In western society the use of medical science gives men and women at least the high prospect of life which may reach the allotted span; in other areas youth has hardly passed before death inexorably beckons. No doubt it is the right of all mankind to put Utopia upon its maps; but there are few organized peoples whose rulers have yet pointed to its presence save as a figure of rhetorical speech which binds most men and women afresh to the endless renewal of an exhausting round of toil.

The United Nations have won a global war waged in the name of freedom and democracy; but we are far from agreement

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