The World Since 1914
Part 8—1970-1986 As the World Disintegrates, Let Your Hope Grow Brighter!
ARE you disturbed, upset, perhaps even frightened by world conditions? If so, take comfort from the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the United States’ most popular poets of the 19th century. He wrote: “The nearer the dawn the darker the night.”
The publishers of Awake! think that these words are applicable to our world since 1914. Based on their study of the Bible, they believe that the increasing darkness of this world’s night is simply an indication of the approaching dawn of a bright new day. What has happened since 1970 strengthens their conviction. Consider the evidence.
Taking Peace Away From the Earth
In 1970 guerrilla warfare broke out in the Philippines; in 1976 hostilities began between South Africa and Angola. Shortly thereafter Vietnam and Kampuchea (Cambodia) started the third war in Indo-China within less than 35 years. In 1980 the Islamic nations of Iran and Iraq embarked on a war of fratricide. A year later, guerrilla warfare was raging in Nicaragua. Great Britain and Argentina clashed in 1982 over the Falkland Islands. Altogether, more than 50 wars have broken out since 1970.
Another kind of war—terrorism—escalated during the 1970’s. Recall some of the prominent individuals who were struck down by terrorist attack or by the assassin’s bullet: Spanish Premier Luis Carrero Blanco in 1973; King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and President Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh in 1975; Italian statesman Aldo Moro in 1978; South Korean President Park Chung Hee and the Queen of England’s cousin, Lord Mountbatten, in 1979; in 1981 Egyptian President Anwar Sadat; and in 1984 Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. During those same years, unsuccessful attempts were made on the lives of U.S. presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II.
Or think of the groups that became victims of terrorism. At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, a hostage drama left 17 people dead, including 11 Israeli athletes. Eleven OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna, Austria, in 1975 were more fortunate; although taken hostage, they escaped with their lives. An American nightmare began in 1979 when 52 U.S. citizens were held hostage in Iran for over a year. An exploding bomb in a Burmese mausoleum killed 19 persons in 1983, including 16 visiting South Korean officials. In 1985 an Air India jet plummeted into the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland; 329 persons perished.
These listings are only partial. In Northern Ireland and Lebanon, for example, terrorism is almost a way of life. A popular encyclopedia stated that “the use of airplane hijacking as an act of political terrorism became an international problem in the 1970s and continued in the early 1980s.” So although terrorism may not yet have touched you personally, the chances that it will—simply because of your nationality or because of your being in the wrong place at the wrong time—are growing.
In view of these facts, who can deny that ‘peace has been taken away from the earth,’ as Revelation 6:4 foretold it would be? Still, this in no way rescinds the earlier Bible promise: “He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” (Psalm 46:9) Has progress been made in this direction since 1970?
Reaching for Peace While Grasping the Sword
In 1970 U.S. President Nixon announced his government’s intentions to replace an “era of confrontation” with an “era of negotiation.” Peaceful coexistence was to give way to détente, an easing of tensions. The superpowers agreed to hold Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), leading in 1972 and 1979 to partial success. The powder-keg atmosphere of Berlin diminished as the relationship between the two Germanys improved. In 1973 a 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe opened in Helsinki. Expectations soared.
Progress, however, was not limited to Europe. After two decades of no contact, the United States and the People’s Republic of China began normalizing relations. Ping-Pong diplomacy their negotiations were called. Meanwhile, in the volatile Middle East, shuttle diplomacy seemed to be working. Finally, in March 1979, after the Camp David agreements, an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was signed.
These developments, as well as others, clearly show that since 1970 the world has been reaching for peace. The UN announcement in 1982 that 1986 was to be an International Year of Peace served to confirm this. Of course, the one who “is making wars to cease,” to whom the Bible refers, is not any human but is God. Yet, Bible prophecy foretells that prior to God’s doing so, humans will be saying, “Peace and security!”—1 Thessalonians 5:3.
But while reaching out for peace with one hand, the world is grasping, as it were, a great sword in the other. (Compare Revelation 6:4.) In paranoid fashion, it has been arming at an unprecedented rate. Mary Kaldor of the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, tells us that “from 1971 to 1980, the international arms trade doubled in real terms”—and not just because of the superpowers. “The increase in arms sold to less developed countries was even greater,” she says.
In the last decade and a half, defense has become so important that in one recent year 77 nations allocated over 10 percent of their total budget to military and defense expenditures. In fact, 20 nations, almost half of them located in the explosive Middle East, spent more than one fourth of their budget on defense. This in a world that since 1945 has allegedly been at peace!
No wonder a military official recently said that we are living in an “era of violent peace.” That is why the United Nations with its 159 members at the end of 1985—up from 127 in 1970—has been so hard-pressed to maintain international peace and security. The high expectations placed in it at its founding have gone unfulfilled. Journalist Richard Ivor says that one reason for its failure is that “it has not yet succeeded in changing the hearts and minds either of the people who lead countries or of the people who make them up.” Hugh Caradon, former British ambassador to the UN, expressed it more succinctly: “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the United Nations—except its members.”
Like it or not, now more than ever before, economic, religious, or political developments in one country can immediately trigger reactions throughout the world.
For example, do you remember when back in the early 1970’s OPEC began pushing the price of oil from about $4 a barrel to its 1981 high of $35? The result? This “oil weapon,” says the The New Encyclopædia Britannica, “intensified inflation in the advanced industrial nations and created severe balance-of-payments difficulties for some nations of Europe; it caused havoc in the economies of many less developed nations.”
Economist R. N. Gardner warns that “the existing system of international economic institutions is not good enough and that none of the members of the United Nations can expect a safe passage into the 21st century without a fundamental restructuring of these arrangements.” Already, countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Nigeria are dangerously close to bankruptcy. The instability of the world’s economic system will have serious consequences in the near future.
Religion and Politics
During the 1970’s some new faces from the world of religion made their appearance on the political scene. From the United States came Jerry Falwell with his Moral Majority; from Iran, a theocracy-proclaiming ayatollah; from Europe, Catholic and Protestant clergymen joining hands in peace and antinuclear marches; from South Africa, antiapartheid, Nobel prize winner, Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu. But no one has turned heads like Polish Pope John Paul II, about whom a Vatican official reportedly once said: “Even when he says Mass it seems to have political implications.”
At the beginning of the 1970’s, a journalist predicted that “the link between politics and religion may gain a new importance in the [United States’] changing social climate.” This has proved to be true, but the trend has not been limited to any one country. “The words ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ were yoked in news stories throughout 1984 in all parts of the world,” says the 1985 Britannica Book of the Year. But there is growing friction between the two, as it admits: “Skirmishing between governmental and religious authorities was a worldwide phenomenon.” This spiritually immoral love affair between religion and politics will soon end in disaster.—Revelation, chapter 18.
Growing Problems, Yet Hope
“What has happened . . . in the 1970s and 1980s,” writes syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, “is that the world is quietly but relentlessly being rent by a slow-motion disintegration.” Besides the causes for this disintegration already mentioned, can you think of more? Pollution? Drug abuse? Misconduct by public officials? The refugee problem? Famine? Newly discovered diseases like Legionnaires’ disease, toxic shock syndrome, and the most frightening of all of them, AIDS?
Jehovah’s Witnesses see in all these events evidence that the darkness of this world’s night is deepening, even as the Bible foretold. Still, the more than 3,000,000 of them throughout the world—up from 1,483,430 in 1970—are full of optimism. This is because someone far greater than Longfellow comforts us with the hope that “the nearer the dawn the darker the night.” It is the Son of God himself who, after speaking of worsening conditions in the foretold last days, said: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28.
None of us can change the past or undo the misery and suffering that humans have experienced in THE WORLD SINCE 1914. But we can act with divine wisdom and prepare for a happy future. The first step in doing this is to recognize that worsening world conditions are irrefutable evidence that the dark night of satanic rule is drawing to a close and that the full day of God’s established Kingdom will soon dawn.
“There is no morrow for the wicked man,” warned wise King Solomon. And yet, as he said, “there will be a morrow” for those who find wisdom. (Proverbs 24:14, 20, The Jerusalem Bible) It is also of interest to note the words of former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson: “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose.” “Tomorrow”—an endless future on a paradise earth under God’s Kingdom—is individually ours “to win or to lose.” What will be your choice?
[Box on page 13]
Other Items That Made the News
1970—The People’s Republic of China becomes world’s third space
power by deploying satellite
1973—Military coup overthrows Chile’s socialist government and
results in President Allende’s death
1974—Watergate scandal, which began in 1972, reaches climax as
U.S. President Nixon resigns in disgrace
1976—Series of major earthquakes, including one in China called
possibly the most devastating in human history, kills hundreds
1978—First test-tube baby; born in Britain
1979—Serious accident at U.S. nuclear reactor at Three Mile
1980—U.S. volcano Mount St. Helens erupts
1981—First flight of U.S. space shuttle Columbia
1983—Computer chosen as Time’s “Man of the Year”
1984—Soviets set record of 237 days in space
1985—Colombian volcano Nevado del Ruiz erupts, killing 25,000
Earthquake in Mexico City kills thousands
1986—The U.S. Challenger space shuttle explodes, with the loss
of seven astronauts
Soviet Chernobyl nuclear-power-station disaster spreads
contamination across Europe
[Pictures on page 15]
May the rapid disintegration of the world cause you to lift up your head and rejoice at the prospect of a better life in a new world