Planting and thinking about the problems we don’t solve
Yesterday, a fellow walking his dog in our new nature park stopped to chat with me for a while. I was cleaning debris from newly planted trees and replanting others uprooted by recent rains. He said he reads my column in the local newspaper, the Winters Express. I nodded as his dog splattered past me in the mud.
“It’s nice that the dogs have room to run along the creek now, isn’t it?” I asked. He did not reply.
He wanted to know why I felt the need to divulge so much personal information when writing about the nation’s veterans and their problems. He thought exposing portions of my physiological profile was a little much, and didn’t I find it somewhat embarrassing.
“Can’t you discuss veterans’ problems without opening your psychiatric file for the world to view,” he asked.
“If I take it upon myself to write about veterans’ problems and print it in the local paper, it would be a disservice to myself and other veterans if I only went halfway to the point,” I replied. The things that I write about come from my personal experiences and I don’t claim to represent other veterans. I write about myself and what I have experienced as a veteran, it’s that simple.
“Do you think you are saving the world with all of this work you do at the creek,” he asked.
I told him I was trying to do my part, that’s all. I find it relaxing and soothing to my soul. Planting and caring for these newly planted trees gives me plenty of time to think about our problems and why we never seem to solve them. Problems around the globe endure because no one is interested in solving them:
If the majority of mankind were sufficiently concerned about poverty and hunger, then the necessary action would be taken immediately to eradicate the problem. In human society in general there is, in other words, little social responsibility and the fate of our planet now hangs on whether it can be suddenly and dramatically increased.
Compared to the third world, we are rich. We consume much of the world’s produce and then we throw out what we feel is garbage. Our landfills are full of what the third world needs to survive. We consume most of the world’s fuel to run our sports utility vehicles and to go on our jet-away holidays. The people that are most deprived and impoverished are working to produce things that we buy in our markets.
More than a billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and another billion do not have adequate medical attention. Literally thousands of people die every day for lack of simple basic needs that we take for granted.
In the present economy, if a firm can beat many others to the scarce sales opportunities, and take their business and deprive them of the livelihood they once had, that is quite acceptable. If no businessman can make money by giving you a job then you will be unemployed. That is the way we determine access to work and livelihood.
We talk about fiscal cliffs. What is the problem with everybody paying taxes. Why can’t we seem to get the rich to pay more taxes. The problem is not to get the rich to pay more taxes — it is to get them to pay any tax at all. Most large corporations in the US pay no taxes as well.
We blame our problems on others, thus, on the large scale we have wars. So from time to time, the issue is whether our children should be sent to slaughter the children of other people just like us. Of course, if we had any significant level of social responsibility then wars would never occur in the first place. The time to end a war is several years before it breaks out, but then how would we take their wealth for our own.
The world’s resources are becoming alarmingly scarce; the global economy is essentially a system that enables the rich to take most of them. Now reflect on the probable near future of armed conflict on a planet in which one-fifth have levels of resource consumption that are 17 times the average of the poorest half. The number of people scrambling for resources will soon be eight to nine billion; the poorest of those billions are eager to be as rich as the rich few.
All economic and development theories assume without question that getting rich is what development is about, and we in rich countries are determined to be at least eight times as rich by 2070 — this set of conditions provides a watertight guarantee that the coming century will be one of extreme and massive armed conflict.
I turned to say, “Just think about that.”
He never heard me because he was already 500 yards away with his dog.
“We will need military forces to defend ‘our’ oil fields and mines,” I yelled.
He didn’t hear that either. I mumbled to myself, “If we wish to remain affluent in a world where affluence is not possible for all, we must remain heavily armed at all times. We think our guns will save us.
“In human society, the population submits to the rulers even though force is always in the hands of the governed. The rulers can only rule if they control opinion, no matter how many guns they have” ~ Hume 1765