October 28th, 2020

Persistent human vices


By Sulz, Dave on April 25, 2020.

Pestilence and disaster

Second of three parts

Jacob M. Van Zyl

Over millennia, humanity suffered persistent pestilences other than those caused by microbes. Violence, greed, injustice and carelessness spawned many evils that have cruel egoism as the root.

The United Nations organization was founded after the Second World War to prevent war by timely intervention and peacekeeping. Despite their efforts, many regional conflicts have occurred, some stretching over decades. Those in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen are some of the recent ones.

The destruction, disruption, displacement and human suffering caused by these wars were shown on our televisions repeatedly. The world looked on helplessly, and many soldiers sent to restore order lost their lives.

Violence does not only occur on a big scale between nations but also behind closed doors in households. Emotional and physical abuse started on the first pages of Genesis when Adam and Eve resorted to finger pointing, and when Cain killed his brother Abel. Despite our science and sophistication, abusive behaviour still occurs, as became evident in recent sexual harassment cases.

Greed and injustice usually go hand in hand. In an effort to expand their riches, many did not shy away from unjust practices such as slavery, oppression and discrimination. When these systems have been entrenched for generations, people accept them as normal.

To prevent furious persecution by Rome, the apostle Paul advised Christian slaves to stay submissive (Eph. 6:5-8, Col. 3:22, 1 Cor. 7:17-24). He sent a run-away slave back to his master Philemon, with a personal letter from Paul.

William Wilberforce pleaded for the abolition of slavery for 46 years in the British parliament before slavery was ended in the whole empire in 1833. The liberation of slaves was the main reason for the eruption of the American Civil War in 1861.

Discrimination is a worldwide phenomenon. It is usually spurred by differences in gender, race, class, culture or religion. The group in power makes rules beneficial to them but harmful to those they discriminate against. These systems also become so entrenched over time that they are hard to get rid of.

Unemployment, poverty, greed and carelessness cause deforestation, over-harvesting of natural resources, and pollution. These factors are intertwined and should be addressed together.

The visible pollution of air, sea, rivers and beaches is appalling. The invisible chemical pollution of rivers and lakes is even more hazardous.

Just as people were at first reluctant to follow guidelines for self-protection against COVID-19, so people are slow to follow anti-pollution guidelines to protect the planet against climate change.

A carbon tax will not convince people to part with their trucks and SUVs. It will just make them mad enough to vote against the party who introduced this tax.

To fight climate change effectively, we need alternative fuel for existing cars, and affordable fuel cells for the future.

Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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