Can the World Be Changed?
MANY persons have thought that a better world could be created. And in the past, youths have been eager to try to do it. During the 1960’s, for example, young people commonly made headline news with their efforts to reform the system. Thousands of them en masse protested against what they considered to be a racist, lawless, cruel society. But, more recently, practically all such efforts to change the system ceased.
A couple of years ago, when the corrupt practices of some of the most powerful men in the world were spotlighted, youths hardly raised a sound of indignation. This was a startling silence in view of youths’ efforts at reform just a few years before! Why?
In their book The Conspiracy of the Young, teachers Paul Lauter and Florence Howe comment on what brought about the changed attitude of youths in recent times: “There was a fundamental belief [years ago], call it middle-class optimism perhaps, that institutions could be reconstructed . . . But the [Vietnam] war changed all that.”
The strong efforts of youths in the 1960’s to reform the system brought them up against hard realities. They came to realize something they had not realized before, something that many older persons wish to close their eyes to. And that is: the world is basically, fundamentally, corrupt, and it has been all along. A youth activist of the 1960’s pointed to this realization, writing in the New York Times Magazine recently: “We had concluded, correctly, that we were living in a rotten, corrupt, morally bankrupt, brutally exploitative system, failing to apprehend only that this meant the world was clicking along as usual.”
What, then, is the conclusion to which many youths have come? It is that they cannot do anything to change the corruption that exists; it is rotten through and through, including its politics, commerce and religions. It can’t be made into a better world. As another young activist of the 1960’s wrote concerning his efforts to improve the world: “These experiences made me feel that the system could not be reformed. I gave up trying to change it—‘eat, drink and be merry’ became my philosophy.” And, judging from what we see, millions of other youths have adopted this same attitude.
“That’s the trouble with many youths today,” certain older persons may complain. “They are so negative and pessimistic.” But young people are likely to reply: “We’re not being negative; we’re just being realistic.” And, indeed, a growing number of persons who have considered the evidence would agree. For example, in the sum-up of the widely publicized Second Report to The Club of Rome, entitled “Mankind at the Turning Point,” the conclusion was reached: “We are on a fatal course. . . . The odds seem against man.”
Also, Professors Dennis C. Pirages and Paul R. Ehrlich foresee world disaster, explaining in the conclusion of their book Ark II: “What is happening and what has been happening in the United States and around the world are symptomatic of an impending massive collapse of the industrial order. We are all now caught in a gigantic tragedy of the commons; each person, each family, and each nation is struggling to stay ahead while the whole system is on the verge of collapse.”
Most older persons, however, while agreeing that the world is in a bad state, will argue that it’s the only world we have. Therefore, they say, instead of giving up and planning for its collapse, we should be doing all we can to save it, to reform it. But youths today commonly see such efforts at reformation as a waste of time, like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.
Are young people with such views correct? Is the situation hopeless? Does it make sense to adopt the philosophy ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die’?
Any Future at All?
It is because of the seemingly hopeless world conditions that many youths began living simply for sensual gratification. But soon many of them could see that this wasn’t bringing them real joy or happiness. To the contrary, it often led to heartache. One indication of this is the skyrocketing suicide rate among young people. In the United States, for example, it leaped a staggering 250 percent from 1955 to 1975 for persons aged fifteen to twenty-four.
“So what’s the answer, what are you driving at?” the young reader may ask. “Are you going to tell us that if we just be good and live by the ‘golden rule’ this will solve our problems and we will be happy? Are you trying to say that this will make the world better, and that all those dire calamities predicted will thereby be averted?”
No, we are not trying to say that at all. In fact, whether you live a so-called ‘good life’ will probably have little, if any, effect on the course of the world. Jesus Christ lived an exemplary life on earth, but that hasn’t reformed the world. Nor did Jesus’ early disciples succeed in reforming the world. But, then, they didn’t expect to, or even try to do so. Does that surprise you?
When we look at what Jesus and his disciples taught about this world, we aren’t surprised. Jesus realized that the world system is corrupt, and that it is irreformable. So he pointed to the only realistic solution, explaining that this system must be destroyed. He compared the destruction to that of Noah’s day, saying:
“For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
Jesus’ disciples were keenly interested in his teachings on this matter. In fact, they had just asked him the question: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) They accepted Jesus’ teaching as to the end of the system of things, and one of them later wrote: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
Perhaps you wonder, Could the end of the world, about which Christ and his disciples spoke, be near at hand? It is of interest to consult Jesus’ answer to his disciples when they asked for a “sign” of the conclusion of the system of things. His answer is recorded in the Bible, principally in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13 and Luke chapter 21.
Jesus there provided a “sign” made up of many features. All these various events, he said, would be occurring just prior to the world destruction. And the remarkable thing is that these very things that he foretold are now happening throughout the world! According to Jesus’ prophecy, this means that the destruction of the system is near at hand!
“If that is true,” you may say, “why not try to get everything out of life before it is soon cut off? What future is there?”
The point is, the end of this world system will open the way to the brightest future, beyond even our finest imaginations. This is because the end of this corrupt system of things will not mean the end of all life on earth. For recall that the Bible promise quoted above says: “He that does the will of God remains forever.” And the life that will then be enjoyed on earth will be of the highest quality. We can be assured of that because the Bible says of our Creator: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.”—Ps. 145:16.
“But that sounds like wishful thinking,” some may say. And yet it is more than that. There are compelling reasons for us to be optimistic about the prospects for a lasting, happy future in a better world. Consider why we say this.
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FEAR FOR THE FUTURE
Fearing an impending collapse, many persons are taking measures of preserve themselves. “Time” magazine of August 4, 1975, reported on one such plan: “Waiting for Armageddon is, in a curious way, one of the morbidly titillating preoccupations of our time. . . . A group of California land developers has founded something called the Scott Meadows Club—712 acres of fertile Sierra wilderness in Northern California’s Siskiyou County, all set aside as a secret retreat, once civilization as we know it has disintegrated.”