Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Cynical Wednesday

It’s amazing how time gets away and you realize you haven’t posted anything in a week. Wow—how do I ever plan on getting regular readers? Anyhoo—

My cynical thought for the day is this: How self-serving are we? Recent news has led me to the unfortunate conclusion that we are, as a people, very self-serving. I thought I’d share some of the reasons I’m coming to this theory, and perhaps you can dissuade me.
I get my news through NPR. They just did a two-part story on the Amazonian Frontier and the farmers who are taming it. The story is rather involved, but the long and the short of it is that although the government is trying to stop people from clearing the rainforest, farmers are doing it anyway. They are also stealing land from each other, and pretending the law gives them the right to clear 80% of the forest, rather than 20% of it. Oops, read it wrong. So, the rainforest is dwindling, rains are more intense, as are the dry periods. And it's been proven that the reduction of the forest is creating more greenhouse gasses, contributing to less of the ozone layer, in turn causing more blindness and skin cancer in South America.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (or what’s left of it) here in the good ol’ U.S.of A., Wal Mart is moving into small communities and destroying businesses. In one particularly heinous move, they open a small Wal-Mart in town to lure shoppers away and close businesses, then a super Wal –Mart on the edge of town. They then close the first Wal-mart, and everyone has now only one store, on the edge of town, that they can go to. They also are encouraging all of their Manufacturers to move to China, creating a middle class in China for the first time, but destroying any manufacturing jobs in ours. With the increasingly isolationist policies of our government, I think this will be causing us major problems. And nevermind the selfishness of the Walton family (who is doing this all for their own wealth), or their union-busting, or their underpayment of their employees--that’s expected from a big business owner. What gets me is that consumers know, and they still shop there. Because, if people have to choose in this country between a bargain and some sweat-shop worker in another country, or even the destruction of competition and small business in their own town, I think they will choose the bargain. In fact, I think if people have to choose between a 99 cent pair of panties and the death of a person in Asia, they’ll choose the panties.
Now, I don’t think that we’re bad people (or I’m trying not to), but I guess if you’re trying to feed and clothe your family and you’re looking for the cheapest way to do it, you will do what you have to. Ditto for the South American farmers. But when is that instinct for immediate gratification, for as many goods as possible, going to come back and bite us on the ass? Or has it already?
I was reading about the Neanderthals in Europe 13,000 years ago, who were eradicated by homo sapiens (us) moving up from the South. The Neanderthals had larger brains than we did, but were not intense hunters, and it was suggested in this book “they couldn’t even fish.” But I have in my head a scenario that perhaps the Neanderthals were intelligent quasi-vegetarians living on the land and small animals and we just came up behind them and beat them over the head. And that’s the way nature is. (It’s a completely unreal scenario, I know, but go with me). I’m just wondering if our instinct for immediate survival is threatening our long term survival. And that’s cynical.

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