Can We Coexist? Will We Survive?

Some time back, well before the pandemic era we find ourselves in just now, I wrote a short piece on the importance of coexistence if we are to survive the challenges facing us as a species.  As we face the hardships wrought by the need for physical distancing and social behaviours that will ensure the greatest chance of survival for the greatest number of us, I am re-posting it in the severely-altered context of our world today.

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There’s a bumper sticker out there that neatly sums up the means to solving the world’s problems, including war, famine, pandemic, pollution, drought, overpopulation, greed—

Coexistence sounds so simple, yet over the millennia it has proven impossible to attain.

An old joke goes like this:  “You don’t know when you’re dead; only other people notice.  It’s the same when you’re stupid.”

Never having been dead, I can’t vouch for the first premise; for all I know, the world will scarce notice when I’m gone.  But the second part might well be true.  Why else, other than stupidity,  do so many of us ignore the certainty that humankind’s current practices are dooming our planet?

Nation against nation, race against race, religion against religion; ignorance and denial of the potential rise of drug-resistant bacteria and viruses; endless resource extraction; massive defoliation and over-fishing; reckless despoliation of our environment, including the very air we breathe—all in the name of what?  Geo-political supremacy?  Last one standing wins?  It’s sheer, rampant stupidity.

In his poem, Ozymandias, Shelley wrote these lines—

“…on the [shatter’d] pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Where the glory, where the triumph?  Nothing is left in a vast wasteland but a smashed relic of one man’s vainglorious attempt to take control of his world.

Think of two anthills in a garden, one bustling with industrious black ants, the other alive with equally busy red ants.  Everything is peaceful in the garden until, one sad day, the two colonies discover each other.  And then madness, folly, turmoil, mayhem, as each tries to subjugate the other.  Warfare unto the death, until the gardener brings his stomping boots and smashing shovel down on them.  And they are all annihilated, indistinguishable in their lifeless remains.

Is there a celestial gardener, I wonder, who looks upon our planet, this earthly garden, and despairs?  Do we appear as nothing more than those foolish ants, scurrying hysterically to and fro, intent upon the destruction of any who are not like us?  And will we avoid the gardener’s heavy boot?  Or is it already too late?

Coexistence has many synonyms: reconciliation, harmony, accord, synchronicity, collaboration.  All are needed if we are, indeed, to live together on our fragile planet.

Coexistence also has one supremely important result—


5 thoughts on “Can We Coexist? Will We Survive?

  1. > Hi Brad . > This is a very interesting post from you, of the same vintage as me ! > Your exposure because of your career gave you , and your teaching associates a perspective of a multitude of nationalities, Religions, colours , languages etc , that most of us simple kids growing up in the neighborhood never had. I’m sure , at the time that you and your Colleagues Never realized the education YOU were getting from the exposure . So, for the contrast. I grew up in the east end of TO , public school, all white people like me , neighborhood all White people like me . High School, Danforth Tech I had a Japanese friend and although it was a big school and I was there for 5 years I can’t remember any others but white people ! Went into the Advertising business at 19 in downtown Toronto . In sales to the big Agencies all over town for seven yrs , no customers, no suppliers no employees ,,,,,nothing but white people. Joined a company that had me travel all over USA , Govt contracts, all the US Arsenals , secret clearance, Never did business with anybody other than white people ! Bought my own business in Eastern Ontario, 190 employees , all white except a person from East India . One person. In 33 yrs of business. Retired at 50. With basically no business exposure to people of colour etc. Point ! I don’t know how many Educators there are verses population. But I’d have to guess that 95 to 98 % of Cdn born guys and girls like me have never had the exposure that the world right now expects of us and that you have already had through the school system. There is a huge Catch Up for a major % of the Population . You are very lucky ! Don Arnott PS. Outside of business my first exposure to the mainly black community was when I married my beautiful wife 61 yrs ago and she took me with her Family to Sanibel Island where they had been going for Many years . Her Dad introduced me to the “ Darkies” who looked after the cottages . I soon caught on !

    > > Sent from my iPad > >>>


    • I was very fortunate in the exposure I had, for sure! And I agree that many others of our generation didn’t have that opportunity. But honestly, that’s a big reason why I write often on this subject, to share the ‘good word’…..for example, this one—-
      Thanks for taking the time to respond.


  2. Hi Brad . Very timely And true . The only words I would add in your summary are ,,, Avoidance and Discrimination ! Basically both with the same meaning under certain circumstances . Under today’s lockdown here in Florida , and pretty much everywhere , in actual fact, Those are the two most words in action daily. Don Arnott PS, as in the Ennisclare elevators !

    Sent from my iPad



    • Before journeying home from Florida, we had severely curtailed our interactions with others, and the same is true here in Ontario, where we are under a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Weirdly in these circumstances, coexistence means staying apart from one another.
      Thanks for commenting.


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