Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weltschmerz

My grandmother, my dad's mother, would give me her Amnesty International letters when she was done copying them, so that I could type them up and send them to whatever offensive, cruel dictator was torturing and keeping political prisoners. By shining a light on the injustice, it helped to apply the pressure of world condemnation and free hundreds of prisoners. It worked and probably still does...which brings me to my point.

I'm sad. I feel futile. Not completely futile, but I feel like there are those that care and those who don't and the ones who don't care outnumber the ones who do and we're in trouble. It wouldn't matter, if it didn't matter, but it does matter.

I've felt this way before. In the 80's I marched at nuclear freeze rallies in Chicago. While at school in Santa Fe, I was part of a peaceful blockade of Los Alamos and no bombs were built for about an hour and then we were all arrested. It was a small, small gesture, but it felt like we were doing something.

The blockade got me handcuffed (with those plastic tie thingies with the barbs that you put around Glad garbage bags and the like), fingerprinted, photographed, dressed in an orange jumper so if I made a break for it across the New Mexican desert, I would have been easily caught. My cell companion was a tiny lizard that scuttled across the floor. I didn't get to know the habits of a jail lizard because we were out, released to my friend's dad, in about 3 hours. It really wasn't hard time. This wasn't the march on Selma. It was just a protest and they arrested us college kids for obstructing traffic. We kind of felt like Arlo Gutherie in Alice's Restaurant where he was on the bench with the mother rapers and the father stabbers and the father rapers and he was asked, "What were you arrested for, Kid?" He told them he was busted for littering.

These days I write on my piddly little blog hoping to inspire others to cut back on what they don't need, what is getting us all into so much trouble--our American, absolutely out sized thirst for things. We must have, all the bloody time and it has created: a garbage gyre the size of Texas in the Pacific, pollution all over the world, slave labor and way under compensated labor all over the world, human rights abuses, oil consumption that has such a horrific effect--did you know that some greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for decades? So, the polluted atmosphere that we're seeing now is a result of what we did all of this last century and before...how many hummers were there back then? What will we see 50 years from now?

The quest for things has a more personal scope as well as causing such havoc around the world. What are we doing when we're buying, throwing out, and quickly buying again? What holes are permanently filled by such actions? Is there some space that will get filled in by these things? Why the need to buy more? As a society we've been suckered and conned and many see American society and America as merely a capitalist enterprise. Our citizenship is to be expressed by our purchases (God Bless the USA!! t-shirts) instead of involvement and pressure to force change.

I don't think the fat cats are going to give it up willingly--I think we all have to get mad and make them change.

One of the comments to my I-can't-believe-Palin-doesn't-know-Africa's-a-continent-post (I later conceded that she probably did know after all...) was from someone who agreed with another angry poster that I was filled with hate and she wondered why everything had to be about politics. I'll tell you why. This is why:

  • The ice caps are melting because we create too much pollution.
  • The world is warming and creating erratic, unpredictable, damaging weather.
  • Greenland's, Alaska's, Europe's glaciers are all retreating--Europe's glaciers supply water to its citizens. Where will the water come from when these are gone?
  • Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is causing bees to die in many places around the world--are you going to hand pollinate fruit and vegetables and grain...who will? What will you and your family eat?
  • Our country has been torturing people--pouring water into faces and throats almost to the point of drowning (waterboarding). We've had special extradition--sending people to countries that torture so they will do that for us. These are people who've not had trials, nor have they been specifically charged. There's no proof of guilt for anything.
  • We've engaged in an unprovoked war that has killed almost one hundred thousand (some say more) innocent Iraqi civilians and has maimed tens of thousands of our men and women and killed over four thousand of our soldiers.
There are more things wrong, but that's enough to start being a little political, isn't it? How will these things change, if not through active citizens demanding it? Obama gave so much hope for so many--he gets it. He has announced that he will close Guantanamo. That's a start.

In the meantime, I'm sad. I don't do very much towards changing any of this. I try to inform as I learn things, and I try to share how our life experiment, The Compact, is going--maybe others will join us? And then I see what people are interested in--purchasing stuff, Hollywood gossip, popular culture. It's disheartening. I know others are worried about our shared future and care too, but my frustration comes in the realization that using cloth napkins is not going to halt the retreat of glaciers. I can wipe up spills in the kitchen with our old cloth diapers and it won't keep the oceans rising. If I buy used clothing from Goodwill, it doesn't stop slave labor making plastic spiders in China.

They're chopping down rain forests to plant palms for bio-diesel fuel production.

They're making "green" objects that you still don't really need--it will still be unnecessary consumption. People will then feel that they're saving the earth when they buy recycled paper napkins: post-consumer no less. Or, when they buy a giant hybrid SUV that gets maybe 18 mpg instead of 8 mpg. Go green!!

Where are the corporations in all of this? They exist for their own survival--not your's, not mine, not the earth's. They will not change without force. They will change if they think it's good for their bottom line.

What if they had to recycle all of their excessive packaging--what if they were responsible for that garbage? Do you think they would produce more, or less? There are such laws in Germany. They've reduced their waste by significant amounts. These were regulations passed by the government--industry didn't volunteer these changes.

And speaking of Germany, my grandmother told me back in my nuclear freeze days that I had the German term, Weltschmerz--world pain, basically. I did, and do. But, I'm not completely depressed. I have the immediacy of my life with my kids and husband and friends. I'm not thinking about the melting polar ice caps when I'm making faces with my daughter and son. I allow joy and hope in. I try to give it to them as well. Oh, but I wonder what my husband and I will leave for my kids and theirs, and theirs, and theirs. It matters, I think, and I'm a little sad about it all.

Oh well. Thanksgiving is coming soon. Let's just listen to some Arlo Guthrie now and you can imagine me as a 17 year old weltschmerz struck girl in a Santa Fe jail watching a scuttling lizard on the floor.

Lizards probably don't care about melting polar ice caps.



Part two...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a matter of people not caring. I think, for the most part, it's ignorance. For those who aren't ignorant, it's a full-time job to research all the issues and to determine the "right" thing to do - which seems to be constantly changing.

Laura said...

I see your point--but, how can they care, if they remain ignorant? If people don't know things, where's the ire, the concern, the outrage?

If people are just blithely floating through life, how will we ever bring about change?

Yes, it takes work to educate ourselves. I think people are just amusing themselves, and feel no ownership of our shared problems.

That's disheartening to me.

Neo-agrarian said...

Ignorance is bliss

But

The unexamined life is hardly worth living.

Laura said...

That's true Neo-agrarian.

I just hope more people start examining.

Tamsen said...

I love this word and I have it as well. I look at my beautiful grandbaby and don't know whether to laugh or cry, then remember that she will grow into this world we created and somehow help make it better. I've said for years that the U.S. is going to disappear into the oceans under the weight of all it's stuff. And we are -- an economy built on buying is a pyramid scheme as far as I'm concerned and sooner or later pyramid schemes fall apart hurting many in the process. I don't know what the answer is Laura. I do know that we each do what we must (drive our little cars and look in amazement at the twelve or fifteen vehicles lined up to pick up one or two children at the neighborhood school, idling their engines for the five minute wait because it's below 40 degrees, and one, only ONE is a car. All the rest are SUV's or pick-ups). You're right -- ignorance is not an excuse. Lack of education may be for some, but those folks generally don't have the money to be major spenders on 'stuff' though many, I suppose, would like to have it.

Steps are made slowly, one person at a time. Interestingly, I think, it is my generation, the baby boomers, who led us into much of this. My parents, who were teen-agers during the depression, were careful, frugal even. My generation somehow came to think it was their right to have, and we taught our children the same thing.

So it will take time to move back and probably a great deal of pain. Once again those who can least afford it will suffer most, but many will have major adjustments to make, I believe, and tough as it will be, it will also be for the good.

Will that be the end of it? Only if we don't crawl out of this hole we dug for ourselves, encouraged China and India to join because they were such great 'markets', and face severe shortages and loss. I don't want that yet ... yet perhaps that is what we need.

This is written off the top of my head so some may be off center or even flat out wrong. But sitting here tonight it's what comes through my fingers.

Great job on the Civics test! I blew 2 by not reading carefully and didn't know 4. I'm ashamed of myself -- I know how to read.

I love coming here -- yes I'm the choir. But choirs are good, too. At least I hope you think so. And you always get me thinking, and tonight both thinking and smiling over the puppies.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tamsen

Laura said...

God, Tamsen--what a great comment.

I don't know what the answers are either, but I AM glad for the choir. At least we have each other, and perhaps more joining all of the time.

Thanks for visiting.

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