Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Question of Priorities.

It's easy to believe that if you always hang out with "like-minded" people, then you'll never have anything to argue about. There was a time when I thought everyone had basically the same core values, and I always wondered what type of folks represented the political opposition. It was hard for me to fathom that others couldn't see the basic logic in my positions. Wasn't it absolutely clear what the nation needed? How could there be so many voters that chose George W. Bush in 2000? I was absolutely convinced that his support base was a sham. I couldn't see how there were more than a handful of citizens that agreed with his rhetoric. In retrospect it's difficult to reconcile those naive assumptions with the state of the country today. Obviously there are plenty that listen to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, and take their word as the gospel truth. It's not simply satire.

Despite those realizations, I have re-discovered how idealistic I still am. I had until very recently the mistaken impression that most liberals and progressives were basically the same in their opinions. The fact of the matter is that this is not at all true. Individuals arrive at personal conclusions regarding society along a diverse range of paths. Just because someone's ultimate preferences are aligned with yours does not mean that you think alike. There are some that allow their emotions, intuition, and concepts (like "compassion" and "humanity") to guide their vision. Others come to their worldview by honest attempts at rational and "objective" logic. While there may be a lot of overlap of intentions and end results, the core divergence of personal viewpoints can often be obscured. This suspicion of mine was reinforced the other night in a conversation with a friend.

We were discussing the field of 2008 presidential candidates, and we began to debate priorities. It was through the various assessments of the candidates that we discovered what each other really valued as most important. Her big concern for this race is healthcare. Above and beyond any other issue, she believes that "universal healthcare" needs to be implemented. Now... I want to be absolutely clear that I agree that the current system needs to be examined and re-roganized. It's a core value for me as well. I certainly can't find any reason why we shouldn't make the good health of all Americans a fundamental right. I'm willing to contribute more taxes toward this end. But this would never be the single issue that makes or breaks my support for a presidential nominee. As far as I'm concerned we have much greater challenges to confront first.

To me the overriding concerns for the coming century include the condition of the biosystem (i.e. global climate change, deforestation, decreasing biodiversity, etc.) and the need to address the current energy paradigm. I believe that every single social problem will be ameliorated (to some extent) by finding solutions to these problems. Whether or not you buy the arguments evoked by the concept of "solar carrying capacity", I think it's impossible not to concede the negative impact humanity has had on the earth. I am not arguing that we shouldn't try to improve the way we manage and distribute energy and food. But I am saying that unless we address the fundamental causes of the current situation... we are doomed.

Quite aside from grassroots efforts to change things on a localized level, we have relied on fossil fuels to sustain larger than healthy-sized human populations in areas of the world that simply cannot sustain them. This capability is coming to an end. I'm not predicting when we will run out of these resources- but rather insisting that it is inevitably going to happen. To my mind it is simple negligence that prevents us from doing something about it right now. How can one prioritize concern about the health of individual populations over the health of the environment that all life relies on? That makes absolutely no sense to me. Until we figure out how to decrease the damage caused by our own over-development- all else is merely distraction. I'd love to see a strategy that incorporates "humanity" and "compassion" in order to minimize human suffering. But one way or another we are going to have to live through the consequences of what we have already wrought. Whether or not we can all afford Viagra is beside the point.

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Blogger Rob Park said...

I find bio-diversity a hard concept for the un-enlightened. Hence, education is my priority.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Do you include yourself among the "unenlightened", or are you saying that your prioritize education about the environment? Or neither?

5:53 PM  

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