Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Like it or Not, It’s US!

sleepng in the Everglades by DJB

Look at the ‘gators, just sleeping in the sun.  It’s difficult for me to speculate about an alligator’s thoughts, because their ability to think is pretty limited.  But anthropomorphically, they look as if they are just relaxing in the sun, affectionately intertwined.  Their hearts are pure their bellies are full.

These ‘gators, and about a dozen of their colleagues, are laying in a muddy patch near a path through the Everglades National Park.  This is different than the park where the commercial tours run; the ones that also feature a guy who wrestles with alligators. The same tourist attraction they have run since 1955.  Looking over at these lizards it’s pretty clear that they have no interest in wrestling with anyone. They are living out their alligator life, in their protected alligator swamp, seemingly unconcerned about anything more than when to get up and find their next meal.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple any more, not even for them.  Although I doubt those two realize it, they are lucky to be here. In 1955, due in part to people who captured them and put them in shows, but more because people made them into shoes and pocketbooks, and even more  because people drained  the swamps for farms and housing developments, alligators  almost became extinct.  But the government stepped in and protected them and persevered great swaths of their habitat. By 1987, they were no longer endangered.

But now, we may be seeing a government that doesn’t care as much about spending a lot of money to protect swamps and mud holes.  Also, the water that comes into the swamps and mud holes maybe coming in too quickly and getting too deep, and is changing the composition of what kinds of creatures can live there.  In addition the water now contains a lot of strange, man-made chemicals that are toxic to many of the creatures that live in those swamps.

But really, although I do like alligators, as well as great blue herons, ospreys, and piping plovers, and also the southern toads and pig frogs, and every other fish, animal, bird, plant and bug in the Everglades, I care more about my grandchildren, and the kind of world in which they will be living.  I know that if the Everglades, and many of the other estuaries that provide the basic nourishment for the bottom of the food chain become greatly diminished, then everyone’s ability to to grow and find food, all the way up to the top of the chain becomes diminished.

But, really, this isn’t really about climate change.  What these two sleeping reptiles don’t seem to be thinking about is how much the lives of all of us, every creature on earth, have become so much more intertwined over the last hundred years.  What happens in the Everglades affects the lives of people and polar bears in Alaska.  What happens in Washington and Beijing can be a matter of life and death in Syria and Brazil. The way you treat your neighbor affects how I treat mine.  It has become almost impossible to live a life in isolation.  Everyone is connected, whether you want to be or not.

I realize, having walked out on a starry night deep in the desert in Arizona, or up in the mountains of Idaho, that it can feel as if the rest of the world is far away and that I am alone, independent  and self-dependent. But as soon as I want to eat, find water, or to talk to another human being, I will be affected by, and have an affect on, the rest of the world.  Not just the town, the country or the state that I’m in; the world.

This is true because the people of the world are all now in constant communication with each other.   People in Afghanistan were watching the Super Bowl (great game, wasn’t it). People in India were watching Lady GaGa( I didn’t like those shoulder pads). China holds billions of dollars of America’s debt. On my table in Massachusetts is coffee from Africa or Central America, fruit from South America, on dishes made in Portugal. People in those countries are eating bread made from American wheat, and driving American tractors across their farms. Many people are dependent on life-saving drugs made in America, Switzerland, Germany, Israel or India.

People are moving all across the world, some running from terrible conditions, others going to seek better educations and opportunities.  They are inter-marrying, and often their children are moving to new places. This isn’t going to stop, even if one country decides to build a wall.

Ideas are flowing even more quickly across the world. Some people are trying to finding ways we can all benefit from each other’s knowledge, and improve the lives of everyone, all across the globe.  Others a still pretty primitive, and are spreading ideas about how some people are different and should be driven away, or blown up.

To those who say that if everyone would just take care of themselves, and not hurt anyone else, that’s enough, I have to answer, sadly, that is no longer true.  We now still have to take care of ourselves, but also be aware of how we do it, and how it affects everyone else.  You can’t leave your garbage in the woods.  You can’t burn your garbage in the back yard. You can’t leave the water running all day.  You can’t drive a car that doesn’t run clean. You can’t text while driving that car. Burning down the rain forrest in Brazil affects the air quality in Russia.  Insider trading undermines the trust necessary to financial transactions.  Discriminatory housing practices create tensions and anger that can ruin a city. Not paying taxes undermines the fairness of a society. Corruption and unfairness make doing business much more difficult.  Everyone who feels cheated starts to cheat to protect themselves.

The fact that the rest of the world didn’t care that the Israelis and Palestinians never settled their differences for eighty years has affected almost everyone in the world. It has created the chaos and conflict through-out the region that has now affected almost every country in the world.

If people can’t support their families in Mississippi or Wisconsin it affects me here in Massachusetts, even though my kids have good jobs and my wife and I have just stopped working after forty years.  It affects us if kids in Kansas go to terrible schools and won’t be able to understand the world in which they are living, even if my grandchildren do.  Those Kansas kids will struggle and get angry and who knows who they will blame.

I would love to be able to relax and read a good mystery without feeling that something is going terribly wrong and I need to help fix it.  I would love to just post pictures of my grandchildren playing with ducks, or only spend time telling you how amazing Isiah Thomas has been for the Celtics. — which he has been and I do spend time talking about it. 

To all of you who spend part of the day meditating and being mindful.  And to the others who are reading about how to be wildly successful by focusing on your goals, that’s great, and go for it.  But be aware, that you can’t achieve your goal on your own, and also it’s worthless if the world you are living in is falling apart. If you just take care of yourself you may not notice that the freedoms of other people to just take care of themselves is slipping away. They are not sliding down a slippery slope, they are falling off a cliff, and once they go we all soon will follow.

We all have to be aware of what we are doing and how it affects other people, even, and perhaps especially, the ones who don’t know, who we think of as different from us. We are all in this together.  We will all live together in a better world, or we will all live like the poor people of Somalia, with constant conflict and chaos.  Those are our choices. The choices are becoming clearer each day.

So, as they say at the check-out counter: “Have a great day.”


Cynthia said...

Sorry, can't read your post. Looks like some text on the right-hand side of page has been cut off. In final paragraph, the last words in the last three sentences are people, We w-, and those.

Jim said...

Yep, it's unreadable, especially with firefox and ie