Swans Commentary » swans.com October 20, 2008  





by R. Scott Porter





"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do."


(Swans - October 20, 2008)   In these challenging times the problems we face may seem too great, too complex, too overwhelming. For this reason alone we might excuse ourselves for concluding that nothing we do, individually, will make a bit of difference. And so, too many of us prefer to stay in denial about the steady erosion of our rights. Too many are willing to relinquish their rights for a false sense of security. Too few are willing to deny themselves even the smallest pleasure, much less compromise their security, for the common good. This attitude is flat wrong because it is defeatist. We are becoming a nation of spoiled, selfish, over indulgent children, easily led to the slaughter. Every living soul on earth will play a role in our future, from the richest and most powerful to the most destitute. Those that occupy positions of power will have an enormous impact, for good or for ill. They will either lead us into a new and brighter day or send us down the path to devastation, and quite possibly complete annihilation. Everyone else will either help or hinder our progress by their own personal reaction.

Personal development is a difficult challenge for most of us. We are concerned with everyday problems, and our situations change so quickly that for most of us it is hard to find the time, or the energy, to make positive changes. We tend to retreat into a defensive mode where we react to the influences that confront us in the present. I realize that for the grand majority simple survival is still the primary goal. All that can presently be asked of them is their patience. The rest of us, those who have some options, must now lead the way. We must become more proactive by setting a common goal. That goal must be to help foster a brighter future. A future where we have a sustainable world population. A future where we honor and protect this planet and all the life forms on it. In order to accomplish this goal we must support causes directly related to it. If enough of us put aside our differences, and work together, the rest might eventually see the light. If enough of us dedicate as much time and energy as we can to progressive causes that enhance our chances for survival we will be able to say we did everything we could. In this way we might at least find some peace of mind. In the long run there is no viable alternative.

No journey ever began without the first step. Nature is full of examples. One additional drop of water can be the source of a flood. One more degree of heat can start a fire. One grain of sand can cause an avalanche. An atomic explosion stems from the splitting of a single atom. Someday one person's decision to get involved will turn the tide of public opinion towards permanent change. We will never know who that person was, and so we must all assume that we, personally, through our own actions, can make the difference. We must believe that even our simplest actions will have an effect.

"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Do you drive a car that burns fossil fuel? Then you are part of the problem. Do you eat meat? Sorry, but you're part of the problem. Do you live in a house that is more house than you need? Do you refuse to recycle, waste energy, neglect your health, never help your neighbor, live off the system when you could be earning your own living, neglect your children after having had unprotected sex? Are you so jaded by bad experiences that you are convinced that the only way to ever get ahead in this world is by stealing from someone else? Have you been so damaged by others that you now hurt everyone else before they have the chance to hurt you? Do you waste your money on frivolous distractions instead of directing it into more noble pursuits? Are you always right? Is everyone else always wrong? All part of the problem. There are an infinite number of ways we humans fail ourselves, and each other, every single day. To a greater or lesser degree we all fall short. If you refuse to continually educate yourself and are unwilling to learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, if you stubbornly hold on to disproved ideologies and stereotype others solely on race, creed, or sexual orientation, while they are neither a danger to themselves or others, then you are part of the problem. If you cannot calmly discuss any topic without eventually raising your voice to try to drown out the opposition and, in so doing, lose the argument, you guessed it, you're part of the problem.

If, however, you are opening your mind to new ideas and you are honestly willing to reevaluate your positions, if you are able to accept other people's points of view even if you don't agree with them, if you can calmly debate the issues and at least agree to disagree at the end, then you are part of the solution. We must all realize that as a world community we have much to improve. We must first admit our own personal weaknesses and help each other defeat our own demons. Whatever you and I can do, we must now do. If enough of us evolve we can stem the tide of negativity spreading throughout our world and reverse the downward spiral that threatens to engulf us. When you dedicate yourself to the fight we will be one person closer to victory. If you can convince even two more to join you, and they do the same, the resulting geometric progression can save life on earth. Try hard and take heart. All is not lost.

Should government primarily be in the business of helping the poor, or helping the rich? While our government should certainly maintain and upgrade our infrastructure and provide us with proper security against our real enemies -- assuming we have any, except within our own paranoia -- should it also help those who are trying to rise out of poverty? Or should it simply help those who are already well off stay that way in the hope that they will do the right thing? John F. Kennedy once said, "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." In order to maintain a society where individuals can thrive we must continue to create opportunities for everyone. Only good government has the incentive to do this. Private enterprise will never have the collective will to properly maintain a strong middle class, which is an essential stepping stone for anyone who hopes to escape a life of poverty. And so while our government must certainly concentrate on maintaining a vibrant economy where our best and brightest can continue to flourish, it must also protect the rights of all of its citizens.

Our governments should have, as a primary goal the establishment through legislation, of opportunities aimed at maintaining a strong middle class so that the poor might at least have an avenue to success. Those few who truly deserve to become rich will always find a way. If their path to riches is more difficult their hard won success will be all the more sweet.

"I look forward to a great future for America. A future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose."
—John F. Kennedy

Now, as the light of reason flickers, we must reignite it with a spark of reality. Never before has the human species faced such a confluence of potential disasters while our collective will power has been so diminished by decadence. We have never before faced the potential annihilation of our species. Before now, there has always been room for plausible deniability and time for procrastination. We could always rely on being able to pass our problems off to the next generation. We could continue to be in denial about our personal responsibilities and never be held accountable for being the cause of total disaster. There would always be tomorrow for someone more powerful, and more brilliant than us, to figure everything out and set us back on track. That time has now past. Now we must accept our fate. We will have the responsibility of saving life as we know it on this planet. That is truly an awesome task for such a spoiled generation. The sacrifices that will be asked of us will be daunting. The force of will required to turn the tide of current events will be nearly superhuman. We have lived on borrowed time for far too long, and now it has become necessary to develop a strength of conviction unmatched in human history.

The great majority of Americans are still good, honest, hardworking patriots. However, many of those that we have allowed to gain power are the exact opposite. They are the kind that will not be satisfied until they have it all. They are already rich beyond the wildest dreams of almost everyone else on the planet, and yet they continue to sell off our companies and our real estate to foreign interests in order to gain even more wealth. They are a plague that has infested our government and many of our major corporations. They have failed to protect the taxpayers and, in many cases, even their own share holders. They will continue to fail us as long as we allow it. They have no allegiance to their own companies, or to this country, beyond their own selfish interests. Many of these "businessmen" are nothing short of unindicted criminals who, for the most part, continue to simply bribe their way out of trouble. If we cannot impeach them or fire them, because they still hold too much power, or because we are too lazy or frightened to try, they will continue to scam the system until it collapses and then they will retreat to their opulent hideaways all around the world and continue to live the high life while the rest of us are left to solve the problems they have created. We will be left to struggle for decades to rebuild our society, assuming that it is not damaged beyond repair. This is a cold, calculating, heartless band of thieves and their Machiavellian business philosophy must be checked with proper legislation that protects human rights and the environment from their constant, shameless abuses.

If we can strengthen our middle class our situation will improve. Democracy will flourish again. Corporate greed might be controlled with strong antitrust legislation, proper trade tariffs, and caps placed on management compensation. We might redistribute family fortunes back into the system by passing reasonable inheritance tax laws, possibly leaving heirs with millions instead of billions. Those who make money on their money, through interest and dividends, might be subject to the same tax liabilities as those who work for a living. There might eventually be less need for government incentives or tax breaks for corporations. If a corporation cannot survive without corporate welfare, perhaps it should be allowed to dissolve to make way for more viable enterprises. The breaking up of business monopolies in this country has been necessary before and it is overdue now. Corporations are not living, breathing entities, after all, and so we should not grieve for them. There should be a survival of the fittest in business, just as there is in nature. This would result in a stronger, more efficient society.

Our present situation can be compared to driving home after having had a few too many cocktails and approaching a fork in the road at a hundred miles per hour. We know that if we turn left we will find our way home, but we also know that there are hard choices to be made there. We have many problems to solve at home before we can ever be content. If we turn right we will surely travel down the highway to hell. There lies continued degradation of mind and spirit. We may well continue to be in denial until the end of time, and the road back is steep and treacherous. We can only pray that our ancient survival instinct still burns in our souls. It must now take over in this time of crisis.

To those who believe in God I pose this question. Why would God reward you for ruining his creation? Damaging yourself, each other, all life on earth and the earth itself must surely be regarded as sin. Unless you want to be held accountable at the gates of heaven for the extinction of life as we know it , caused, in part, by your inaction, I suggest that you change your ways. To those who don't believe in God, or are not sure, why in the world would you want to screw up the one life you think you will ever have? If you continue with your bad habits, after realizing they are not sustainable, you are a failure in this life. If you're not sure what it is you're doing wrong, start with the obvious, and then educate yourselves about the more obscure problems. The inability to do this shows a lack of self respect. This may be subconscious, the product of psychic damage caused by traumatic experiences, or you may have a genetic predisposition to your bad habits. Whatever the cause, the way forward depends on your personal will to succeed.


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About the Author

R. Scott Porter is a General Contractor who lives in Laguna Beach, California, and whose skills and expertise have been featured in This Old House magazine in March 2008. To learn more about Porter's bread and butter, please visit GandSbuilders.com



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published October 20, 2008