By: Daniel Finegan
There is a lot of talk these days about how to solve the problems in our society, whether it be gun violence, homelessness, the immigration crisis or numerous other issues. There are many different solutions proposed, some more effective than others. There is, however, a great error in believing that political policies can fully remedy the troubles in our world, because at the root of all of them is the fallenness of the human heart. And no policy, no matter how effective, can change the human heart.
Economist Thomas Sowell summarized the problem perfectly: “There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs, and whatever you do to deal with one of man’s flaws, it creates another problem but… you try to get the best trade-off you can get and that’s all you can hope for.” Before Christ comes again, we cannot solve any of the problems in the world; our flawed, human politics can only make them better or worse. To borrow GK Chesterton’s great line, we are the problem with the world. No matter what our political leaders do, people are still going to do great evil because we are selfish, uncaring and broken. I think, if we are honest, every single one of us has the same capacity for evil as the worst mass murderers. We can, to the best of our ability, try to limit the impact of human depravity through laws, policing and promoting what is good and honorable, but, ultimately, the problem with the world is us.
We (and I am certainly guilty of this) all love to blame “them.” It’s us versus them, and if only we could remove them, the world would be a much better place. This attitude displays immense arrogance and willful ignorance about the nature of human wickedness. Author and dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned and exiled by the USSR, yet he had the humility to write, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” He could have blamed the undeniably wicked Soviet government for all of the evil around him, but instead, he acknowledged a difficult truth: evil is not confined to a specific group of people. It is within every single one of us. We cannot eradicate human evil without eradicating the entire human race.
The stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote something that has stuck with me ever since I first read it: “Do not expect Plato’s ideal republic; be satisfied with even the smallest step forward, and consider this no small achievement.” Most of us will die without having done some great, world-altering accomplishment. In a few hundred years, almost none of our names will be remembered. I cannot make the world perfect no matter how much time, effort, money or blood I waste trying to. But what I can do is this: do good, act with love and work to make the world a little less dark. And that is no small thing.
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