I wrote a novel in the aftermath of 9/11 that was set in a not-too-distant future. It was about a time when the world had split into fragments caused by a great earthquake and a flood brought on by a combination of global warming and terrorism. Consequently, all the Capitalists in the world (the ones who did not get washed away, that is) have got lumped together in one place and the Socialists in another. Both groups continue to operate in the only way they know how, as in pre-Flood times, and keep making the same mistakes, leaving their world no better off. My protagonist valiantly tries to unite them by proposing a Middle Way that fuses the best of both systems. The novel never got published as it was written at a time when Capitalism was still king. And like my protagonist, no one listened to me.
When I think of the fall of Socialism with the Berlin Wall back in 1989 and now the crash of Capitalism in the fall of 2008, I wonder if the time for the Middle Way has arrived. I mean, there must be some truth to it. Consider that Buddhism preaches the Middle Way, Islam considers itself the Middle Way, and the Christian Science Monitor published a national survey back in 2006 revealing that a majority of Americans were fed up with their life of extremes and yearned for a Middle Way.
For a brief moment in recent history – perhaps from the mid 1950’s through to the 1970’s – the developed western nations followed a Middle Way that balanced material growth with social responsibility. It was a powerful magnet for us living in Third World countries at the time to want to emigrate to this nirvana. Besides, our developing-nation governments were left-leaning and we saw corruption and nepotism when it came to distributing diminishing resources. We yearned for creativity and innovation, two human needs long-suppressed or ignored in our home countries. Yes, the developed West was revered at the time – until Capitalism got out of hand in the ‘80’s and the regular cycles of boom and bust began in the lands that we had, by then, immigrated to. Defenders of each of these systems will tell you that their failure was because there was “not enough Capitalism”, or, “not enough Socialism”; that our political and economic custodians tried to create hybrids (aka Middle Ways) that led to system collapses. I am not sure who is right in this debate, but I do know that greed among those in control and those being controlled – Capitalist or Socialist – ultimately led to their undoing.
Greed is another form of extremism; extreme desire, and desire is the cause of suffering, or so the teachings of many religious leaders have propounded from time immemorial. We seem to be coming back to this realization all the time, by trial, error, more trial and more errors. It seems that greed is hard coded into our genetic make-up and flares up every time the memory of bad times pass. And Middle Ways will only be popular in bad times, when people search for answers to a lost job, depleted finances and no gifts at Christmas.
Perhaps, I should be dusting off that old unpublished novel. Perhaps it will catch the zeitgeist this time…Perhaps…