By Father John Walsh on June 23, 2015

The human being is a work in progress.  The human narrative is being re-written.  “Human” means many things to many people.  Hat’s off to Mayor Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal, for inviting 30 mayors of the cities of the world to a Summit in Montreal to address the theme, Living Together.  Humans living together.  No person is an island and communities are made up of diverse individuals from a variety of traditions, languages, cultures, religions, secularists and atheists.  Diversity is a treasure to be opened and shared by all humanity.  Diversity is ubiquitous.  Our streets and our neighborhoods are a microcosm of the diversity found in the entire world.

Neighbors of different colors, scattered countries of origin, variegated dress and costumes, are being challenged to respect differences and to entire into challenging relationships that can stimulate creativity and not remain segregated and isolated from one another.  The world is at the threshold of each of our homes.  In the meeting of the mayors diversity was unquestionable but it would be unconscionable to fail to face and attempt to resolve the myriad of urban problems facing the 69% of the population of the world that today reside in a municipality.  Cities are the hub of human activity and the future of countries, continents and the world.  We are dependent on cities to face the “human” factor of existence on planet earth.  

I was privileged and honored to be invited by Mayor Denis Coderre to attend the cocktail and dinner offered to the mayors and their retinues.  The President of Metropolis, Jean-Paul Huchon, received a copy of the man of peace sculpture that is in the Garden of Peace.   The primary mission of Metropolis with a membership of 106 of the larger cities in the world, is to promote sustainable urban development so that urban centers can offer a better quality of life to their inhabitants. The address of the Mayor of Dakar, Senegal, KhalifaSall, spoke about how inequality leads to jealousy and eventually creates the desire to take from those who have an abundance.  The mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, widely recognized for his commitment to peace, the abolition of nuclear weapons, environmental protection, and open, transparent, democratic government was awarded a beautiful painting in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the use of an atomic bomb in the destruction of Hiroshima.  

The mayors signed the Declaration of Montreal on Living Together pledging to share information on how to prevent acts of violence stemming from radicalization and to create a permanent forum through which they can share best practises for combating radicalization of their citizens, favour inclusion of all citizens in society and fight discrimination.The headquarters of this forum, the “International Mayors’ Observatory on Living Together,” will be in Montreal for the next five years, headed by lawyer and diplomat Raymond Chrétien. Major universities from the participating cities have agreed to contribute research to the observatory.  Mayor Coderre said that cities, particularly metropolises, are called upon to play a more and more determining role on how citizens live together and how it is important to strike a balance between openness and vigilance.  The next summit will be in 2017 in the city of Casablanca, Morocco.Here is a suggested theme:  Living together in a post-humanistic world.  

What lies in the future?  On Second Regard (Radio-Canada- June 7th)the topic was post-humanism.  The fundamental issue is that techno-sciences promise all us to take inhand our biological future with one caveat: what will we look like as humans in the future?  Futurists no longer believe that there is a transformative value in culture to change the world but they believe that it is technology that will make for a better world, however, with a fear that it could lead to a loss of our humanity.  Life will be lengthy, almost never-ending, predicated on what religions promise in another life; now, it will be in this world.  

In A Brief History of Humankind – Sapiens --Yuval Noah Harari (McClelland & Stewart. Random House of Canada. 2014) concludes:The only thing we can try to do is to influence the direction scientists are taking.  Since we might soonbe able to engineer our desires too, perhaps the real question facing us is not  ”What do we want to become?” but “What do we want to want?”  Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven’t given it enough thought.

In the afterward he writes:  We are more powerful than ever before, but have very little idea what to do with all that power.  Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever.  Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one.  We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.  Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want? 

What do we want as we are more and more the global village Marshall McLuhan predicted and in which we must face a future that questions the way we will live on planet earth?


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