Building the Future

We built the present one person, one decision, at a time. The future will be built one person, one decision, at a time.

We live in a web of possibilities. This web consists of our natural world and its resources and constraints, and the current state of support or constraint for activity that human beings have established over time.

The web of possibilities encompasses the support (or lack thereof) for the actions we want to take. It determines how easy or difficult it is to do, or not do, things.

For example, if we all decided to buy all-electric vehicles today, we could not. The web of possibility does not contain that many all-electric vehicles. Even if there were that many of them, most of us do not have enough money to buy an all-electric vehicle.

This lack of availability of all-electric vehicles is a result of choices made by individuals and the resulting choices made by other individuals over time that has encouraged or discouraged the development of all-electric vehicles and the support systems needed to allow them to become a significant presence in our transportation choices.

The same could be said about our choices concerning food: the web of possibilities contains almost no support for good nutrition in food, but pervasive support for cheap, convenient, high-sugar/high-fat foods containing little good nutrition. This is the result of the sum of each of our individual choices to buy cheap, convenient, high-sugar/high-fat foods in favor of foods that are nutritious.

The point is this: we make the future by making choices – each of us – one person, one decision, at a time.

Knowing this, perhaps we should be paying more attention to our choices? Perhaps we should begin to acknowledge that we are where we are at least in part because each of us, you and I, have made the choices we have made. Perhaps we should take responsibility for those choices.

Now.

Perhaps we can make better choices in the future?

Unless, of course, we think the net of possibilities, and the state of the world today, is just fine. In which case we should, in the words of Pat Paulson, “just keep messing around like we have been.”

What do you think?

Another Voice Lost

On January 28th, 2010 The writer J.D. Salinger died. So did writer, educator and activist Howard Zinn.

The news media were flooded with stories about Salinger: how he was a piercing light and perhaps the most influential writer of his generation, how his influence spread across many generations of Americans, how he was virtually a recluse and almost never gave interviews.

It was said, many times, that he spoke to the inner conflict in each reader.

Those who depend upon television, radio or newspapers for their news, which is apparently most people in the United States, didn’t even know that Howard Zinn died.

Howard Zinn, who wrote and taught for decades the obscured history of the United States – the history of struggle, of labor, of the downtrodden and the dispossessed, of the lies and deceit underlying the wars of conquest and intimidation that this country has been involved in during the last century (or two).

He spoke of the history of those not in power. Our history.

Howard’s death was obscured and passed by, like so many voices from the people in our past.

And we go along, day by day, encouraged by corporate media to focus on ourselves as individuals, separate from “the masses”. To be concerned about “What’s in it for me?” and “How do I get what I want?” Never “How do we make this work for everyone?” Salinger’s voice, not Zinn’s.

And now we face the second American Revolution: the melding of corporate interests and government. The Supreme Court has equated money with speech, and corporations (a legal construct with “no there, there”) with human beings.

You don’t need to be a burning bulb to figure this one out: with virtually unlimited ability to flood the (corporate) media with money for electioneering, who do you think is going to win elections – those who support more and more power for corporations, or those who want to regulate corporations in the public interest?

The founding fathers stated clearly that “an informed electorate” is the foundation of a free people. It is the basis for the Constitutional guarantee of a free press and freedom of speech.

And the corporate media, whose task it is to inform us, felt no need to let us even know that one of the most pro-democratic voices of the nation is now gone.

Welcome to corporate democracy. (Mussolini labeled it Fascism, you know.)

What do you think?

Sustainability

If you consume more than you produce, you are being subsidized by someone and/or something. You may want to figure out who/what is subsidizing you and think about how sustainable that subsidy is. Your future depends on it, and the future begins right now.

We in the United States live in a society based on unending growth, which is not possible. So does most of the rest of the “developed world,” but we in the United States are much more profligate than any other society, and much less willing to accept responsibility for the effects of our choices.

We have a high consumption life style that is based on the exploitation of others, depletion of resources, and contamination of the air, water and soils upon which all life on earth depends.

It does not take a background in science to understand that this can not continue forever. It may take a science background to understand why we are rapidly coming to the end of the earth’s ability to tolerate this destructive behavior by human beings.

We have maybe 5 years to make serious changes in the way we live.

Based on our history, we will not do that.

So, probably in my lifetime. and certainly in the lifetimes of most of the people alive today, our activities will cause natural systems to destabilize to the extent that societies will collapse.

In all probability, civilization will also also come to an end, since it depends upon agriculture, and the resources and skills needed for a sustainable agriculture are not in place, and it is highly doubtful that they will be.

What are we going to do, and when?

What are you going to do, and when?

What do you think?

A Tax By Any Other Name…

I had a conversation the other day with someone arguing that they objected to the recent rise in income taxes for corporations doing business in Oregon. They said it meant less buying power for them because the retailers would simply pass on the costs to their customers in higher prices for the products. True enough, as far as it goes.

Anti-tax folks will always object to taxes, and usually complain that the government should tighten their belt like everyone else.

I can understand that, even though I don’t necessarily agree.

What I don’t understand is that these same people don’t apply the same principle and reasoning to companies that accept credit cards.

When people use credit cards to buy anything, the retailer pays a fee to the credit card processing company. This cost, like all costs, needs to be recovered in the sales price of the merchant’s products or services. All of the retailer’s customers pay this increased price, much like a tax, whether or not they use credit cards to pay the merchant.

When will the anti-tax folks begin to complain about that?

What do you think?

Killing Babies

There is a lot of strong emotion about killing babies.

I was in a public meeting a couple of weeks ago where the local State Representative was asking for input from his constituents. One woman stood up and made a comment about health care that concluded with a reference to state funded “abortions and euthanasia.”

It happens that I know this woman personally, and she is sincerely, categorically, opposed to abortion. This is, of course, a position that is very easy to defend. I do not know of anyone who thinks abortion is a great idea.

I believe that this same woman is strongly in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are wars where United States troops regularly kill pregnant women and children whose only offense is to be in a particular place at a particular time.

I do not know her position on state and federal programs for prenatal care, health care for nursing mothers, well-baby care, etc.

But I have had numerous conversations over the past 3 or 4 decades with individuals who are adamantly against abortion, for the current war(s), and against any government program supporting the welfare of the “pre-born”, new mothers, or babies.

I have been unable to find any coherent rationale that supports holding these positions simultaneously. To say nothing of the death penalty (i.e. killing people is so bad an act that if you kill someone we will kill you.)

Perhaps if we approached the “abortion debate” with the question, “What is the problem?” we might be able to accommodate the concerns of all.

I have said for years that there are very few flat statements I will make about people in general, but one I will make is: I don’t believe any woman ever woke up in the morning and said to herself, “I think I’ll get pregnant so I can get an abortion.”

So let’s start with the idea that no one thinks abortion is a great idea. Let’s try to lower the number of abortions to a minimum, recognizing that there will always be women who find themselves in a situation where an abortion appears to be the least bad of her options.

Let’s minimize unwanted pregnancies, provide support for single parenting, and ease the pain (and bureaucracy) of adoption.

Perhaps when we have done that, we can approach the other all-too-common ways we kill babies.

What do you think?