Tolerance… Not! Nature

This post has been inspired by the philosophical issues involved in the big debate over health care reform. As I hope to demonstrate, this issue relates not just to the politics of the day, but to the much larger issue of our responsibilities to each other as a species, and to the natural world as a whole.

We all feel sad, and some of us even shed a tear or two, when impacted by instances of cruelty – whether they’re aimed at people or any of nature’s other creatures. But when push comes to shove, most of us put our own immediate needs above such high-minded philosophical concerns. Unfortunately, it’s that very same “leave it ’til tomorrow” attitude that allows our “minor inconveniences” to fester and grow into pending catastrophes.

And that’s exactly how we have come to the point where we’re both philosophically, and literally, drowning in our own filth. It doesn’t matter how a person chooses to brand himself politically, if that person doesn’t look on the current state of our country without feeling a sense of shame then he doesn’t deserve to be called a civilized being. But even when you accept that we do have a responsibility to do something, the question of what that something is remains.

When it comes to the damage we’ve done to our environment, there are a great many “nature lovers” out there who constantly complain about man’s meddling with the natural order. But while we certainly have made a mess of things in our quest to make our lives easier, it is outrageous to claim that the attempt to improve our living conditions is a “violation” of nature. One needs only to look at the other creatures in this world to see that we all make efforts to adapt our environment to suit our tastes. Just ask anyone who’s found a Beaver dam across a useful waterway.

The fact is that to any who’s seen the behavior of wildlife in TV nature programming, it would appear that the other inhabitants of this world are far more cruel in their treatment of each other than we humans are in how we treat other humans. Would those who argue that “nature’s way is best” advocate that we treat the weak and the sick amongst our own species the way that the creatures living in “the natural world” do? Of course not!

But to claim that we have some higher level of responsibility than the other creatures of nature is to argue that we are both apart and above them. Are we? If so, then perhaps that position gives us more rights as well as a greater level of responsibility. If we are to be the caretakers of the world, then ought we not be able to reap the benefits of our higher position as well? Our history proves that is precisely the manner in which we have behaved so far. Just ask any hunter, rancher, farmer, or consumer with the knowledge to know where his food comes from. Hell, you can ask anyone who produces just about anything and find that that process requires the extraction of resources from nature!

So where are we? We’re in the same position we’ve always been, and fighting the same old battles – again. Clearly, the methods and thinking of the past have not worked out so well. Could it be that our actions have fallen just a little bit short of the pronouncements of our greatness? Absolutely! And we’d better realize it before it’s too late to save ourselves from destruction.

Look, The only thing that I am absolutely sure of is this: I don’t know everything! Everything else that I call “knowledge” is subject to change as new facts come in. I think that it’s time for a global reset of our system of values and priorities. We need to decide, once and for all, what our role will be within the environment we live in. Are we going to step up to the plate and assume full responsibility for this world and all of its inhabitants, or are we going to continue to live and behave as just another bunch of animals?

If we want to be justified in believing we are the greatest thing in the world, then we’ve got to have something to show for it other than our history of mayhem and destruction. If being “top predator” is our only ambition, then all we need to improve upon is in the management of our prey. We can then just leave the weak and the defenseless to the kind of fate nature’s weak and defenseless have always had. But if we also insist on believing that the weak and defenseless of this world deserve better than what “nature” has provided, then we must recognize that we are granting to ourselves a position that is above nature – with new responsibilities far beyond what we have proved ourselves ready to handle.

As I said in The Health Care Quagmire:

When you get to the bottom line, having a national health care system to protect our citizens from illness and disease is every bit as vital as having policing and military systems to protect us from the other threats we face.

Human civilization began when mankind realized that cooperative effort provided a better defense against the forces of nature. It flourished when those defenses where expanded to include protection from other humans. The final steps must build upon this by taking all of the threats we face into account, including injury, disease, and the trashing of our environment.

In closing, as I so often do, I have included the music and lyrics to a couple of songs that help to drive home my point.

Paul McCartney and Wings – Live and Let Die

When you were young and your heart was an open book,
You used to say live and let live.
(You know you did, you know you did, you know you did)
But if this ever-changing world in which we live in
Makes you give in and cry,
Say live and let die!
Live and let die,
Live and let die,
Live and let die.

What does it matter to ya,
When you’ve got a job to do you gotta do it well,
You gotta give the other fellow hell!

You used to say live and let live.
(You know you did, you know you did, you know you did)
But if this ever-changing world in which we live in
Makes you give in and cry,
Say live and let die!
Live and let die,
Live and let die,
Live and let die.

Aerosmith – Nobody’s Fault

Lord I must be dreamin’ – What else could this be?
Everybody’s screamin’ – Running for the sea
Holy lands are sinkin’ – Birds take to the sky
The prophets are all stinking drunk – I know the reason why

Eyes are full of desire – Mind is so ill at ease
Everything is on fire – Shit piled up to the knees

Out of rhyme or reason – Everyone’s to blame
Children of the season – Don’t be lame

Sorry, you’re so sorry
Don’t be sorry
Man has known – And now he’s blown it
Upside down and hell’s the only sound
We did an awful job
And now they say it’s nobody’s fault

Old St. Andres – Seven years ago
Shove it up their richters – Red lines stop and go
Noblemen of courage – Listen with their ears
Spoke but how discouragin’ – When no one really hears

One of these day’s you’ll be sorry – Too many houses on the stilt
Three million years or just a story – Four on the floor up to the hilt

Out of rhyme or reason – Everyone’s to blame
Children of the season – Don’t be lame

Sorry, we’re so sorry
Don’t be sorry
Man has known – And now he’s blown it
Upside down and hell’s the only sound
We did an awful job
And now we’re just a little too late

Eyes are full of desire – Mind is so ill at ease
Everything is on fire – Shit piled up in debris

California showtime – Five o’clock’s the news
Everybody’s concubine – Was prone to take a snooze

Sorry, we’re so sorry
Don’t be sorry
Man has known – And now he’s blown it
Upside down and hell’s the only sound
We did an awful job
And now it’s just a little too late

Archives: Aerosmith

I want ice water.

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7 thoughts on “Tolerance… Not! Nature

  1. We are no higher than any other life form, in terms of the universe, but we do have an ego and that somehow makes us feel we are superior, I think not, we are children in the playground of life, the universe and all…

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  2. I agree so far as us being pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. We are not, however, inconsequential so far as our impact here on Earth. Merely accepting ourselves as “children in the playground of life” does nothing to break a status quo that looks more like “children skipping into hell.” 😐

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  3. Yes, and please don’t laugh.

    My theory is that people aren’t fixable. I think nature and not nurture is the cause of atheism. I think around 2-20% of the population will not find themselves able to believe in God. When the percentage is much higher it’s not because the people really understand atheism, rationalism, or naturalism, but because they think it is the cool thing to do.

    I think the other 80% of people are no more capable of not believing in God than a schizophrenic is capable of not believing his hallucinations. They can’t form a worldview based on logic. Not won’t…can’t. Psychologically unable due as much to hardwiring as environment. So, my theory is…they need a single volume worldview.

    When Christians say “The Bible says evolution is a lie!” They can says “Book X says its true!” They get to reap the benefits of a healthy, logical worldview, without having to develop the intelligence and independence to have their own.

    So, Book X is my idea to develop a complete worldview entirely through objective data. It’s profoundly difficult and has alienated me among my skeptical peers. If found, sadly that skepticism and atheism very much have party line and deviated from this party line (regardless of the logic) results in the same “RAAAAAWR, you’re not one of us anymore!” BS that it does in religious circles.

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