Ever hear that saying about it being time to grow up or blow up? Afraid we’re there. We live in a world where some people have no problem harming or killing each other for money, drugs, whatever; where we have domestic violence and child abuse; where we still see trafficking of humans for sexual trade; where radicals and psychotics from a wide range of cultural backgrounds kill others to assert their will and make a point of some kind; and where thousands of adults and small children are injured, starved and killed by war violence. We’ve got to get better than this, people, or we’re probably not going to inhabit this Earth for many more centuries.

We’ve been on this path to self-destruction almost from the beginning, we just didn’t realize that’s where we were heading. Hierarchies reigned across Earth’s cultural and geographic expanse. Kings, queens, pharaohs, emperors, czars, sultans, shahs, chiefs, etc. Power was gained via bloodlines, force or cunning. Certain rules applied — the strongest survived and prevailed; the rich and powerful were entitled to use lesser human beings as they saw fit — as slaves, peasants or low-paid labor — to provide servant labor, dig ditches, grow crops, build railroads, whatever it took to serve the needs of the higher-ups. And if you didn’t possess hierarchal power through traditional means, throughout human history, there’s always been a criminal route. Think Viking raiders, mafia, modern gangs, etc., all with their own power structures and rewards for their elite.

Hierarchal systems may have served a useful purpose at one time, and no doubt there were many good leaders over time, but they also provided plenty of room for abuse. One of the biggest problems with hierarchal systems, whether legitimate or on the wrong side of the law, is that they set up a culture where humans had varying levels of worthiness or value, and that has led to almost every problem we have today.

Here’s why. When we treat someone as less than or fill them with shame about who or what they are, that person is more likely to have a multitude of issues in life — wind up in abusive relationships, have problems with alcohol and/or drugs, engage in criminal or destructive behavior, not realize or contribute whatever gift they may bring to life, etc. Unfortunately, they also tend to pass that shame down to their children. Next, have you heard that victims become victimizers? When we use or abuse someone to gain whatever it is we’re trying to gain, chances are good that person will act out their rage and helplessness on someone else.

So now, consider our history and the path we’ve long been on, and factor in the place we’ve now arrived, a time when groups of people, seeking to be top of the chain or to prove their way is the only way, have access to a plethora of weapons and technology never before available, and understand that any one group can very possibly take all the rest of humanity down. The victory would be short-lived, of course, since the “victors” would live practically alone on a mostly destroyed planet. Even if the prevailing group was quite large, you’re talking about people who know no other behavior than to wage battle and win by whatever means possible. They’re not likely to suddenly change paths and become nice people capable of fostering a cooperative, thriving society that raises children who know how to work and live together in peace. In other words, the human race would have effectively self-destructed at that point.

And if that happened, things might be working exactly as intended. What if we humans were created with the potential to grow into a species that cooperates and lives together so well that we are able to overcome environmental and other challenges that come our way while maintaining lives closely resembling what some might consider the equivalent of heaven on Earth? But if we fail to reach that potential, a natural consequence may have been built in, one that that assures our species will self-destruct to make way for the next try.

Believe it or not, the fix is very easy.

First, we simply stop mistreating our fellow humans. Most of us will quickly agree we shouldn’t do harmful things that fall on the criminal side of life such as selling drugs, guns, etc., or threatening to harm someone to force them to sell drugs or guns, or to keep them silent about whatever crime is going down. But it goes way beyond that — we also shouldn’t use or abuse someone to achieve socially-accepted success or even goals that can be framed as being for the greater good. In the past, many felt quite justified in using slaves, child labor and those such as the Irish laborers sacrificed for the building of the New Basin Canal in New Orleans in the 1800s. Today, abuse may come more in the form of using low-paid labor to achieve profits or demanding employees to work in highly questionable circumstances.

Next, let’s understand we are all equal. There is no greater-than and lesser-than among us. Each human comes to Earth with a gift and can fill a need in our overall society. Doctors save lives and help people recover from illness and injury, but in reality, those who pick up the garbage from our homes, businesses and streets are just as important. Without someone to pick up and safely dispose of the mountains of trash we create, even our doctors might not be able to win the battle against the resulting diseases. Of course, because of the nature of their work and the extensive training required, doctors are definitely entitled to higher financial rewards, but the men and women picking up trash also deserve our respect as well as a decent wage.

None of this means we have to give up on trying to build successful businesses and lives for ourselves. It just means we do no harm to our customers and employees and pay workers a decent wage. It gets extremely tiresome in our country hearing people complain about workers who make so little that they must also depend on government assistance while at the same time these same complainers balk at attempts to raise the minimum wage beyond the current federal rate of $7.25. Do we honestly think people can take care of themselves and sometimes even children on the roughly $1,160 a month they’d earn for working a 40-hour week at that wage? If the only way someone can survive in business is on the backs of under-paid employees, then perhaps he or she does not need to be in business in the first place. We also shouldn’t pile up money by placing outrageous price tags on things humans must have to survive, such as medications. Do some of us really require multi-million dollar earnings to be happy, regardless of who suffers along the way? This also means we don’t abuse our collective society by doing things like cheating on our income taxes or misrepresenting our circumstances to obtain government assistance or other benefits to which we’re not actually entitled.

So to sum it up — play nice, don’t hurt each other, don’t cheat or steal to get ahead, respect each other and learn to work together to achieve a cooperative human existence. There will always be major challenges to overcome such as disease, natural disasters and changes to our geology and climate. However, our chances of successfully meeting those challenges are stronger and life is much more pleasant if we can make an evolutionary turn and become better humans. And if those of you who consider yourselves Christians think about it, this is actually pretty much what Jesus tried to tell us many, many years ago. Maybe it’s time we listen.