Sunday Soapbox: Me, Me, Me

>> Sunday, November 15, 2009

*Steps on soapbox*

It's that time of the week again. Today, I want to talk about something that really bothers me, frightens me, something I think we're going to have to lick if we're ever going to amount to much as a species, bearing in mind that I equate "amounting to much" to a species hanging out in the long run as a vital part of the ecosystem rather than equating it with destroying the world as we know it and leaving big "beautiful monuments" to show we were once here for whatever species follow.

Peter O'Toole was in a movie a few decades back where he played a dirty old coot of the scientific variety. It occurs to me that O'Toole, even though he's looking positively cadaverous, might be playing an old lech even as we speak. But I digress. In this movie ("The Creator"), he spoke of something he called "the big picture."

Countering this notion of a "big picture," i.e. working and striving toward something bigger than oneself for the sake of the big picture is what seems to be prevailing attitude in this country (the US): me, me, me, now, now, now.

People want everyone to have health coverage - just as long as it doesn't affect their own insurance or change their taxes. Making homes and cars more energy efficient is good for the whole world - and the long term finances of the individuals making the switch - but it costs money now.

Show examples, even proof, that demonstrates better ways of doing things, ways to reduce errors, increase productivity, positively impact the environment, save money, help people for minimal cost and effort, and such efforts are met with suspicion and contempt. Frequently those responses aren't for real costs or efforts or inconveniences but the perceived possibility that inconveniences might occur.

We sit quietly by complaining about special interests buying politicians, yet we refuse to fix the system, punish the politicians willing to be bought (sadly, most of them apparently) or those spending money like water to serve their own interests at the rest of our expenses.

Thing is, we're proud of being individuals and the intelligence that sets us apart from "the animals" - but the big strength, the thing that really makes humans so powerful is our ability to work in a community for the greater good - the big picture as it were. If we're going to fulfill our potential, we're going to have think beyond our interests here and now. We're going to have to embrace the big picture for ourselves and our children. We've been running up a tab in a hundred different ways. Sometimes soon, it will be last call and someone will have to pay the bill.

A little big picture thinking today can take that tab down a size or two and give our children the tools and foundation they'll need to clean up our messes. Otherwise, we can hardly blame them if they're crushed by problems they had nothing to do with creating.

At least, that's how I see it.

*Steps of soapbox*

P.S. And, yes, 50K+ words in 30 days. Who knew?


  • Roy

    Hear, hear! I have nothing to add, you said it all and said it well.

  • The Mother

    I sincerely doubt humans will last as long as the dinosaurs. I have always considered it terribly arrogant that we are so convinced that we have "inherited" the planet.

  • Relax Max

    I certainly agree with you that the federal government has been spending our future generations into poverty, and that they must somehow be reined in. Maybe they just think we are all going to die anyway and won't have to pay the piper.

    Each of us should do his part. If we all did that, the world would be clean and safe for our children. I know I am going to try harder to take care of my own waste and pollution. I may not ever be another Ed Begley, Jr., but I can try harder than I am right now.

  • Stephanie B

    You know, Relax Max, if everybody does that, I think our problems are solvable.

    I guess that's what frustrates me so much.

    And I do a bit now, but I also can do more.

  • Quadmama

    I thought maybe the recent economic crisis would curb some of this "me, me, me" mentality. I think in the beginning people really pulled together, started making better decisions and then... we've started seeing an upswing and we're starting back on the same path. There are days when I'm scared to thinnk about what my children will be faced with when they're adults.

  • Stephanie B

    You and me both, Quadmama. The problem is bigger than Washington. Just the existence of special interests spending untold millions to further positions that are effectively "pro-me and screw the rest of the nation" - and the fact that such campaigns are so frequently successful - is enough to depress me inordinately.

    I can tie "me me me" to almost every social ill in this country. How can we make rampant selfishness socially unacceptable. A little, sure, we all have it, but tossing the country to the dogs so we can have the possibility of having it slightly better? Or are given leave to prey on a public with no alternatives as the oil and health care industries do to the tune of billions of dollars? Big banks, too.

    It's not just that our representatives are aiding and abetting these screw-the-public good interests - though that's disgusting enough to turn my stomach. It's that we're not stopping it.

  • Stephanie B

    Roy, I actually could have gone on indefinitely, but then most of my readers already know what I'm talking about.

    The Mother, I don't think we'll be around as long as sharks. Isn't that a sad commentary?

  • Jeff King

    I am left shaking my head in agreement. nothing else to say...

  • Phyl

    I'm totally with you on this, Stephanie. I'm very worried, and I don't see things changing in people's attitudes until they are way past fixing, unfortunately.

    Not only do our politicians get so easily bought for the short term (in Canada as well as in the U.S., though I think it hasn't gotten as bad here yet), but I think they know what they're doing far more than we imagine. Sometimes I feel that they, and the media in general, are offering the public "bread and circuses" explicitly to distract us from either noticing the big picture, or rallying and changing enough to fix it.

    I honestly think that a great many politicians and media people, having taught us all to be "me me me" all the time, have now decided that they don't care if the world is destroyed in two generations. As long as they get theirs NOW, and go out with a glaze of glory, to hell with the rest of us.

    Believe it or not, I've found myself thinking very frequently lately, "I'm so glad I'll be dead by...[insert date] so I won't have to see the horrors they are bringing on humanity."

    I do everything I can, personally, to be as responsible as possible. But I feel very much that I'm swimming upstream. Alas.

    Erm...a bit of a downer Comment, huh? :-)

  • flit

    one of the papers we read in class a couple of weeks ago points to a statistic that the US is paying a HIGHER %age of it's GDP towards health care than Canada is - I thought it was interesting and meant to track down the primary source. Will have to see if I can find it again.

  • Stephanie B

    It's well established. WHO and Wikipedia both have those statistics (and Wikipedia has links to their resources).

  • Unfinished Rambler

    I just wanted to say there is a reason I have you in my reader, and this post exemplifies why I follow you: no- nonsense advice and straight from the head and heart. Thanks, Stephanie.

  • Stephanie B

    Thank you, Unfinished Rambler. That's about the best kind of compliment someone like me could get.

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