National Geographic Journalist Paul Salopek is walking across the world on foot to trace the pathways of the first humans who wandered out of Africa in the Stone Age to claim the earth as theirs. His journey will cover 21,000 miles and is estimated to take 10 years. He is four years into his massive expedition and already he has discovered that humanity is mostly kind and generous, welcoming and caring, hard-working and disciplined.
I watched a brief piece about Salopek’s journey on the PBS News Hour this week. I have included a link below.
What is extraordinary about his adventure is his realization that in spite of all the wars and turmoil across the globe, he has learned that “The world is an incredibly hospitable place.” In following the ancient trade route called “The Silk Road,” Salopek has gotten to know a variety of people young and old. And though he has so far encountered a few dangerous situations where he had his water supply stolen, was once ambushed by raiders, and was shot at, he says the vast majority of people have been “fantastically positive.” He says, “Most people are good and will help you out even if they don’t look like you or speak like you.”
Salopek has already crossed into 12 countries and has met hundreds of people, experienced many languages, cultures, and religions, and has been convinced that people all over the world are instinctively decent, altruistic, and humane.
Watching this brief report on this fascinating man and his incredible journey reminded me that in industrialized countries, in nations of influence, power and wealth, including the United States, we are being fed throughout various media outlets, through our corrupt political systems, through a bankrupt moral code worldwide, a treacherous and mostly false picture of humanity.
It is true there are terrible people in every country, unscrupulous, cruel, vicious people full of hate and selfishness, meanness and violence. But they do not represent the majority of the people in the world. They do not represent the majority of people in America.
We are continuously assaulted by messages that say most Muslims are deadly people-hating terrorists; that most Blacks are thuggish violent criminals; that most Mexicans are job stealers and illegals; that most Whites are arrogant and bigoted, are raging Rednecks and ignorant jerks; that gays destroy family values; that women are weak and inferior baby killers; that the educated are snobs; that the poor are inhuman; that cops are beasts; and that we are surrounded on every corner by malevolent, depraved people out to harm and destroy us.
Paul Salopek says that is hogwash. His brilliant and courageous odyssey is revealing a world of beautiful people, uncorrupted, benevolent, courteous and honorable. And they are the majority of the world populace, not the stingy, wicked, devious few who make the news every day, who capture the attention of greedy capitalists who use those despicable people and their actions in order to make money off of their provocative behavior and are then made to scare the rest of us into thinking this is our world.
Someone has said that the heart of humankind is a cactus in bloom. It is an apt image. There is of course good and bad in all of us. But today we only see the needles and the rough, thick covering. We miss entirely the flourishing flower.
We have to take responsibility for how we view others. We must dismiss all of the angry hype the news feeds us, the violent images, the endless acts of wrongdoing, the hurting of people over and over again, without ever telling us about the boundless examples of decent goodness and transforming love in the hearts and lives of so many around us.
We are larger; we are better people the world over than we are given credit for. But most are too often unrecognized, dismissed, and forgotten in the obscene world of graphic violence, hate, greed and murder that has become our only reality.
I think of Milton’s great line, “O dark, dark, dark, amid the blazing sun.”
It is time we stopped listening to the harsh naysayers, the manipulators filling us with nothing but darkness and dread. It is time to discover, as Paul Salopek has, the light in the faces of our incredible human family.
© 2017 Timothy Moody