The bells of hope:
I always loved Christmas Carols.  I never understood the theological problems they raised.  I think it was the social event.  It was nice to get together with your loved ones and friends and do something in cooperation that nobody could do alone.  We made pretty music.  It wasn’t as pretty as what you could get already recorded, but that didn’t mean anything.  It was the social occasion. 

Recently I was running through the news and was lamenting how awful some people were being to some other people.  That’s part of my own field.  Sure, for me the primary interest is in working out the biology of reproduction and fertility.  If we survive, there’s hope.  But coincidentally it turns out that the reason people are so beastly to people is also related.  Those who dislike outsiders are more likely to marry kin, likely to have more children, and there is a strong secular trend for more and more hate.  Take care of the fertility problem – understand it and get the word out – and hate won’t go away overnight but it will at least be checked by a new force it never dealt with before.  Well everybody is against hate, right?  That should make my task easier.

As I said, the news was stomach turning; the words of Longfellow returned to me, as I have mentioned elsewhere, “Hate is strong and mocks the song/ Of peace on earth good will to men.”  I wondered what had put that in his mind.  Was he really witnessing things as dreadful as what we see now?  So I looked it up.  His problem was that the Second American War of Independence was going on.

Yep.  That would do it.  That puts the present calamities into perspective.  And Longfellow was absolutely right that at bottom it was hate that drove the conflict.  What was at stake?  Some states wanted to secede from their union with the other states.  Well there is a fundamental principle in law: any contract can be broken – you just have to pay a fair amount to anybody who gets hurt.  There is another principle, that of the “dead hand.”  That means what a person does cannot be allowed to influence the future forever.  Sure, set up an organization for some worthy end and let it have enough money so the interest pays off expenses.  Well that won’t last forever.  The law will require that organization to spend enough so that there must be a constant influx of new donations or the organization will shrink.  However worthy, your will can only extend for a finite distance into the future without contribution by the future.

So if a union between states is established, it can be broken.  That’s required by two principles of law.  The whole thing was trivial.  It should have been settled in an afternoon with a committee meeting.  “We want out.”  “We don’t want you to leave, so we’re offering this.”  “Not good enough; we still want out.”  “Fine, we’ll draw up the papers, get it ratified (which will be no problem since our own states already told us what they want and what they are willing to offer) and now lets make up some sort of general sense that we wish henceforth there be love and cooperation amongst us.”  Seems easier than killing the flower of the male youth by the hundreds of thousands, I should think.  But hate makes things sticky.

And the poem, now a carol, and don’t mistake there have been changes; the explicit reference to that War of Independence has been removed for instance, goes on to say, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.” 

Gee.  The answer to hate is military victory.  Not even the poet could sustain the idea that the enemy is not the other guy, not right and wrong, it’s hate itself.  Couldn’t he have said, “Hate shall fail and love prevail”?  Mushy maybe, but better mush than mega-corpse.  But no, in the end (whatever side he was on, of which I doubt many think they can’t guess) it comes down to hate being satiated.

Maybe this isn’t going to be so easy after all?

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