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"What Needs Doing"

     A New Year leads some to make resolutions to better themselves, to do
better, to be better, to give up some deleterious practice.  Usually these
are individual matters.  Is it possible that we as a larger group could
make some New Year's resolutions?
     "It wouldn't do any good, any more than the individual soon-broken
resolutions do," someone will say.
     There is a difference between stating, "There is nothing we
can do to enhance or improve this extremely dire situation," and
stating, "If we don't do this and this, we will be destroyed as a
civilization and as a species."  I am here to suggest the latter.
     "And what must we do?" that same someone will ask, sardonically.
     Two things immediately, and then we will have to improve our
understanding of what some call "human nature," and what others,
including me, call "the deleterious effects of the teachings of
the capitalist/theist/individualist culture which has become
dominant on the planet."  We must actually find out whether
selfishness, acquisitiveness and hostility to the point of
literal murder really are "human nature" or whether we have been
taught so effectively that they are that we assume they are and
therefore don't change the social system which fosters and feeds
on and grows by means of selfishness, acquisitiveness and
hostility.  We need to find out about that, make sure of that,
test the culture and attempt to change it, and see what happens.
     But we won't get to do that, unless we do two other things
immediately, no matter what.
     "And what are those two things?" someone will persist in asking.
     [1] Stop all production of all nuclear radioactive materials of all
kinds for whatever reason, and dedicate massive resources to the task of
neutralizing the lethal effects that such materials have on life forms.
     [2] Wean ourselves away from the privately-owned, internal
combustion engine-driven automobile.
     "Oh, well, we aren't going to do either thing," my interlocutor and
many others will say.  If that really is the case, then it really is
hopeless, and all the literature which says so, is right, and my taking the
trouble to write this wasn't worth the trouble.
     "What literature?"
     An excellent example is Samuel Becket's play, WAITING FOR GODOT, which
has been labeled by many critics the best play ever written.  It states
plainly that nothing has any meaning.  Nothing matters.  Nothing can be
done about anything.  And when asked why go to the trouble of writing such
an excellent play with such a meaningless point, Becket answered, "It's
better than
listening to myself rot."  He had trouble with his individual mortality,
and indulged in projection, concluding that nothing at all anywhere mattered.
     But he may be wrong.  We could do those two necessary things.  It is
not absolutely unavoidable that we refuse to do them, or fail to do them.
It will be difficult, it may indeed be highly unlikely that we do either of
them, let alone both, but it is not logically inevitable or impossible that
we do them.  
     The nuclear question needs little explanatory comment.  We don't know
what to do with the extremely poisonous material produced by all the
nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons labs and factories and all the
nuclear power generators.  The material they produce is killing more and
more of us and will leave our planet poisoned for hundreds of thousands of
years.  The clean-up
will cost more than we spent on the creation of this problem, but if we
don't clean it up, it will kill us.  All of us.  Burying it is not cleaning
it up.  Burying it in wet salt isn't even effectively burying it.
     The automobile accounts for many of our seemingly insoluble problems:
air pollution, energy costs, noise, mass slaughter, and widespread general
environmental destruction.  As more and more people across the planet try
to gain access to what we in the U.S. regard as absolutely necessary and
our God-given right, that is, the right to own and drive as many cars and
trucks as we
feel like, the ecological problems caused by the automobile will lead to a
very nasty die-off, of one kind or another.
     And then someone will still have to deal with that "human nature"
question.  "Are we inevitably programmed to destroy ourselves?" 

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Copyright © 2002 Harry Willson

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