By Patrick Metzger
We have a peculiar mystery facing us this day. The enigma is not whether horrors exist in this world, but rather why they are so prevalent and how it is that we can end them. It is not the terror of a single crime or even a string of crimes that confounds our reckoning, but the puzzle of societies and systems that suffer under the dominion of organized criminals in positions of power.
The purview of the detective must necessarily encompass a larger perspective. How and why are whole populations hoodwinked and disenfranchised? Why do we fall so easily under the spell of advertisement and into a consumerist slumber? What is it within us that excuses the grand heist of wealth away from the people who created it and toward the few who claim its ownership? By what means did this oligarchy undertake to swindle a country—a planet—into acting against its own interests?
And what is the remedy? We shudder even to closely examine the affliction, and yet we must understand the fester of the wound in order to excise it.
We dream of a Robin Hood, a Guy Fawkes, a Zorro, a Batman, who will singlehandedly redistribute wealth and dole out justice as needed. We crave the realignment of social order through near-magical means, carried out by a knight errant who can right every wrong through a combination of intellect, physical agility, and technological scheming. But that is the great lie.
These stories encourage us to shape ourselves into strong, isolated workers— individuals who end up at the service of the systems we would wish to undermine. We are encouraged to dream of superhumans, envisioning ways in which we alone might become the chosen one that conquers all and wins the day for the underserved. But no one can thwart this enemy on their own. It is only through collective action—through the power of many hearts and minds working in consort—that a solution may be found. It took the compliance of millions to engineer the systems of oppression we observe today. It will take the civil disobedience of millions to manifest the fierce equity of the future.
Movements for peace and justice have found fertile ground across the globe over the course of the last several years. This is partly a result of interconnected communications systems that have allowed activists to organize in ways that are more visible than ever before. It is partly because the corruption of the powerful and their persecution of the weak has been laid bare through such clear and evidence-based methods that to deny or turn a blind eye to these atrocities is truly nothing less than to proclaim oneself—loudly and publicly—a coward.
It is becoming harder with each passing day for anyone to sit idly by while the forests and mountains and rivers and soil of this earth—the things that belong to all of us and to none of us—are pillaged for the benefit of a very small number of sociopaths. More and more, we all feel the pull to gather the facts, to lay out the case, to deduce the motives and methods of the madmen at large.
We are getting better at collaborative detective work, at direct action, at devising methods to hold perpetrators accountable. The real difficulty rests in the fact that even as we build this resistance, we must simultaneously plant the seeds for a more just world. In our everyday acts, which may strike us as entirely insignificant, we must be daringly optimistic.
It is the laughter, the music, the kindness, the joy, the play that those in power would call frivolous—it is in these delights that we may find salvation. For a path forward to peace can not come through war. Harmony will never sing from violence. Its melody is in community. We are servants to a song that began many years ago, and our folly is laid bare when we forget the tune. The rhythm of a heartbeat is all we need to set the stage for our dance of cooperation.
A singular detective may identify the ailment and devise the cure, but it will require all peoples working in coordination with each other to deliver the way forward.