Where Do the Roots of the Problems Lie?
AS YOU observe what is happening today, what comes to your mind as to the reasons for mankind’s problems?
Likely you have noticed that many problems are brought about by circumstances that, in effect, hold us captive. Even though people may want things otherwise, they are helpless. They must work within the framework of the existing system.
Take as an example the farmer in so-called progressive lands. To succeed, he reasons that he must use modern methods. This requires a lot of money these days. Without a sizable profit, the farmer cannot meet the high cost of machinery, fuel and fertilizer. So if demand for his produce drops, or if he suffers heavy losses due to other problems, he may be unable to pay for what he needs to continue farming. He can lose everything if he operates on borrowed money.
And how much can the farmer do personally to relieve the suffering of earth’s starving millions in today’s society? In the land where he lives, tons of meat may lie in cold storage. There may be no buyers for his marketable hogs and cattle. The farmer may very much wish to see hungry people benefit from what he has. But to continue farming, he must be paid for his animals. Can he afford to give them away?
For meat from his livestock to reach any of earth’s hungry people is no simple matter. Those involved in handling, processing and transporting the meat must be paid. They, too, have to make a living. Even if meat for which there is no market in the country of origin were donated, transported free to famine-stricken areas and given away to those in need, this might not solve their problems. Why? It could be against their religious beliefs to eat meat or to eat meat from certain animals.
Industry, too, is locked into a system that depends on big profits. Machinery, fuel, wages, raw materials and maintenance require large outlays of money. To compete on the world market, manufacturers must keep prices as low as possible. In some cases they cannot afford to spend large sums on things unrelated to profit making—for example, antipollution measures. Certain large companies would shut down some of their factories rather than spend millions of dollars to bring them into compliance with antipollution regulations.
Those living in industrial areas would like to see an end to excessive noise, smoke and grit. But businessmen ask: ‘What if the factories were to close down? While pollution would be curbed, unemployment problems would wreck the economy of the community.’ So, despite known hazards, large-scale pollution is allowed to continue.
Many other examples could be cited. But they all point to one conclusion: We today are experiencing the composite effect of the mistakes that individuals, organizations and nations have made throughout the centuries. The problems that the present system has produced are global and threaten our very existence. On August 2, 1974, at the twentieth World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, Dr. George Wald noted: “Human life is now threatened as never before, not by one but by many perils, each in itself capable of destroying us, but all interrelated, and all coming upon us together.”
Obviously a complete change in the present system is needed. But such a change would call for tremendous sacrifices. Who could be trusted to decide what should be sacrificed for the good of humanity? Who would have the wisdom to handle matters in a way that would enable everyone to enjoy life’s basic necessities? In view of the tribal, national and racial differences, what guarantee could any of us have that those involved in decision making would not try to get advantages for themselves, their relatives, friends, tribe, nation or race?
Even if there were every assurance of fair treatment for all, how many people would be willing to take cuts in profits or wages, modify their diet and give up certain luxuries so that people in another part of the world could be saved from starvation? How many would really be content with less, glad to serve their fellowmen in this way? What about those who would be receiving the benefits of others’ sacrifices? Would they really be appreciative? How many of such persons might greedily seek to have more than their share at the expense of others?
The system that now exists did not get started on its own. People are involved. Do not the problems reveal that there is a basic flaw in humankind?
A Basic Reason—Human Imperfection
Even though at heart people may want it otherwise, they repeatedly do and say things that hurt their fellowmen. Time and again they fall short of being the kind of persons they want to be. So to speak, they ‘miss the mark.’ The ancient Hebrews and Greeks referred to such failings by a word that literally meant just that, “to miss” the mark. In many modern languages such a ‘missing of the mark’ is called “sin.”
No human is exempt from shortcomings. We all inherited weaknesses and imperfections. But how did this come about? Despite years of research, scientists cannot explain it. Even the source of physical weaknesses manifest in the aging process is a mystery to them. Says the 1974 edition of The Encyclopædia Britannica: “The basic biological causes of aging are still unknown.”
However, there is one ancient source that unveils the origins of human imperfections, both moral and physical. Millions of thinking men and women have come to the conclusion that this source, the Bible, gives a satisfying explanation. We read: “Just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Rom. 5:12.
Yes, the progenitor of the human race, Adam, “missed the mark” as regards maintaining perfect obedience to God. Having lost perfection, he could father only imperfect offspring. It was just as a discerning man of ancient times put it: “Who can produce someone clean out of someone unclean? There is not one.”—Job 14:4.
Inherited imperfections, however, do not explain fully all the problems facing mankind. Are not even imperfect men and women capable of expressing depth of concern for others? Have not many been willing to give up their life in attempts to render aid to fellow humans? Do we not time and again hear concerned expressions appealing to men and nations to stop following a course that may lead to disaster for all? Yet it seems that the world is bent on an insane course. Why is this?
Invisible, Powerful Spirit Influence
Could it be that there are forces outside the human realm that are exerting a strong influence on the world? That is what many have felt to be the case. With reference to the horrors of the Nazi years, Arnold Weber observed that it was as if “certain forces sprang out of the ground . . . a collective supra-personal force.” Writing in the New York Times Magazine (February 4, 1973), Andrew M. Greeley noted that the inhumanities that have been committed in today’s world are out of proportion to human inclinations toward bad:
“The magnitude of the evil is not proportionate to the malice of the people involved. Many killers are men of moderate good will who intend not evil but good. . . . Evil comes from mistakes, miscalculations, limitations, ignorance, far more frequently than it comes from malice.”
But who is responsible for prodding imperfect humans to acts of violence seemingly far greater than their inclinations toward evil? Men may sense that some superhuman force exists, but they cannot identify it. The Bible, however, not only identifies this force but also shows when and how it began influencing human affairs.
According to the Bible, intelligent spirit creatures existed before the earth was formed. (Job 38:6, 7) One of these set himself in opposition to God and sought domination over the first humans and thus over all mankind. To achieve his ends, he maliciously slandered God. (Gen. 3:1-6) That is why the Bible later speaks of this one as Satan or “Resister” and as Devil or “Slanderer.” At the instigation of this traitor, not only did the first humans rebel against God, but so did other spirit creatures. (1 Pet. 3:19, 20; Jude 6) These disobedient spirit creatures came to be called “demons.”—Jas. 2:19.
From the Bible we learn that Satan and his demons are the source of an evil “spirit” or dominant attitude permeating the world of mankind that chooses to ignore God’s law. (Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19) Just how powerful such a bad spirit can be might be illustrated by what happens to a mob. As individuals, those making up a mob may not all be cruel, vicious people. They may even claim to be peaceful and appear to be such on the surface. However, once the ‘mob spirit’ envelops them, otherwise law-abiding citizens act like crazed men and women, destroying property as well as assaulting and killing fellow humans. Many may later feel deep shame and find it hard to believe that they did such things.
In view of the terrible inhumanities of man toward man, is it not reasonable to accept the Bible’s explanation that vicious spirit creatures are exploiting the sinful inclinations of imperfect humans who ignore God’s law? What other reasons could there be for the horrors of the past and of this twentieth century?
Lack of Proper Relationship with God
Human imperfection and the influence of Satan and his demons exist because man lost a proper relationship with his Creator, God. Sound proof of this is found in this fact: Whenever God’s laws, as found in the Bible, are ignored, the problems mount. The Bible, for example, sets forth commands against sexual immorality. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) What happens when these commands are ignored? There are increases in cases of venereal disease and in the number of unwanted pregnancies, broken homes, separations and divorces.
Without God’s guidance, men as a whole have stumbled in the dark. Even those trying to do God’s will are limited by their own imperfections and by this system.
What we humans really need is an arrangement whereby we can come into perfect unity with our Creator. We need to be freed from inherited weaknesses and imperfections as well as their painful consequences—sickness, old age and death. No man, organization or nation can provide this needed liberation. Does this mean that our situation is hopeless? Or, can we be freed from all our serious problems?
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A farmer may want to help the hungry, but he cannot afford to give his crops away
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Pollution is bad. But there are no easy solutions under the existing economic system
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It seems that people are always missing the mark as to the kind of persons they would like to be. Why is this?
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A mob spirit makes people act crazed. What spirit is responsible for the inhumanities of this century?