No Soft Option
01 December 2004

A change of job gives you an opportunity to reflect on life—as does a New Year. So, as I have just ceased to be an editor of For A Change, I find myself looking back to the time of its birth in 1987.

It was a very different world from today’s. We were still locked into the Cold War; and although the signs of thaw were there few believed that the Communist bloc would dissolve within a few years. Yet the geopolitical situation had soon changed to such an extent that some even talked about ‘the end of history’. If only!

A decade and a half later, the world threatens to become as polarized as before—though the line of schism is defined differently by different people. Some see themselves as championing democracy against the scourge of terrorism; others see the need to defeat the Satan of western neo-imperialism and materialism. Yet others see the great divide as between the rich ‘North’ and the poor ‘South’. Or perhaps it’s a male-female or black-white thing.

This magazine takes a different view. The fundamental battle in the world is between good and evil—and this divide runs through every man and woman, believer, atheist and agnostic, black and white, whether they recognize it or not. Some might feel that this is too comfortable an approach, a feeble excuse for avoiding the call to arms. But confronting the dark side of one’s own character and changing one’s ways is not necessarily the easy option.

It is remarkable how many insights can be gained when you look honestly at your own motives and actions. When I begin to recognize that I and my nation have been exploitative, selfish, arrogant, insensitive in our dealings with others, it is immediately apparent that there is no future in heaping all the blame for the world’s evils onto another group or nation.

We have to live in the real world. Armies, police, firefighters and intelligence gatherers are as essential to our survival as potatoes and overcoats. But rather than just hunker down in defence of our lives and life-styles could we not take every opportunity for honest dialogue with those who see things differently from us? As For A Change has repeatedly reported, this can sometimes lead to reconciliation and a shared vision of how society should be.
Kenneth Noble