Sometimes the way we phrase things says something about us, and other times we are just looking for a way to get our point across. Using terms other people have used before can happen without us really thinking about it, and it can become easy for us to take those terms for granted in certain ways.
Like them, and us.
I’m guilty of throwing both words around and even using them in titles for the blog posts. A couple weeks back I found myself wondering whether I should title the next post ‘We’re filling space with junk’ or They’re filling space with junk, and the next one in the queue had me juggling ‘We’re launching dead celebrities into space’ and ‘They’re launching dead celebrities into space’. You can tell which way I went, in both cases, because they’re the ones that got linked.
It made sense, too. I don’t have anything to do with rocket science, and I’m not sure I want to be lumped in with a group of folks that made both space junk and space burials possible. They’re a bright bunch, but they seem to have no sense of responsibility when it comes to cleaning up after themselves.
Still, I had to think about it; and mulling it over made me realize this is another thought that hurts to think. An argument can be made that anyone living in modern society has an equal stake in the progress of the entire world. By the same token, we may all share the responsibilities that come with the consequences of civilization.
On the one hand, this view makes every one of us an essential part of modern progress. The few key people who come up with specialized ideas may themselves be special; but they can’t really be seen as any more important than all the people who made their advances possible. A whole network of orchestrated civilization had to be there so they could spend their days thinking and inventing, and every aspect of that network relies on every other aspect of it to keep it alive.
Very few Americans hunt for their own meat, and most of those that do still buy plenty of food from the grocery store. Even if they don’t, they are relying on bow or firearm technology if they’re hunting legally. They’re probably also relying on knowledge they picked up from other hunters to sharpen their skills, and those hunters may have had that knowledge passed to them in a similar fashion. The rest of us rely on farmers and ranchers to fill our bellies every day, and the efforts they put forth cuts down on the effort we have to put forth considerably.
It’s the same with transportation. A couple hundred years ago, motorcycles were called horses; and they couldn’t reach nearly the top speeds the motorized ones do. Traveling a hundred miles used to be a monumental trek, and there was just no way to do it in a day. Now we can fly, or drive; and if we just need to talk to someone, we can eschew the entire trip and give them a quick call.
So many people had a hand in making all those vehicles, from the initial concept to the sleek modern examples of today. And phones…well, it’s kind of an insult to the people making them that the rest of us keep calling them phones. None of those advances could have happened without the farmers and grocers, and we couldn’t do much without all of them. The farmers rely on the people making vehicles and phones, just like those folks rely on them. All the rest of us rely on both groups; but they also rely on us, as part of a complicated equation that doesn’t add up if anyone is missing. Once you start to look closely, it begins to appear as though everyone who has contributed anything to the network can claim the accomplishments of all of us as their own.
I could still write books if there was no such thing as laptops or the people who make them. The process would take a lot longer, though; and I prefer not to imagine my reaction to reaching the bottom of a page on my typewriter and making a mistake. I couldn’t write them without words, however; all of those were made up before I was born, or by other people. I might take an occasional stab at making up a new word, but coming up with a whole language would take more than a lifetime.
That’s what we’re talking about here…lifetimes. People dedicated themselves to creating nearly everything we see around us, and some of those things took years or decades to produce. The next version took its own time and energy, as did the version after that. When we look at some of the things it is easiest to take for granted, we are looking at a lot of effort made by a lot of people. If we added up all those hours spent, we literally would be talking lifetimes in many instances.
The whole thing is a little mind-blowing if you ask me.
We might try to single out some parts of society, and say they don’t really do much to drive this whole movement forward; but we’re talking about the living breathing organism that is modern civilization here. No one can say what kind of intellectual or emotional impact one person might have on another, and breaking any of the lines in this giant network might just bring the beast to its knees. It gets easier to concede that all of us are necessary when you pull back far enough to see there are multiple big pictures at play here. When you put them all together, they might only fit when every piece is present.
Which is kind of cool, in its own way. The farmers that grow my food, the people that make computers and programs for them, and the folks building the cars I drive all played a part in me writing this, and I’m fine with that. In fact…no matter what a person does or doesn’t do, an argument can be made that they have to keep doing it or not doing it for the rest of us to keep riding our own groove. That may or may not be a cool thought, but I’m still okay with it if it’s true. What I’m not sure I’m okay with is the flip side of this coin.
Let’s turn it over, and have a look.
Modern society looks good from certain angles; but all you have to do is turn the jewel one way or the other to see the dark spots among the glitter. Every facet of the gem is a world all its own, to the people living in it; and every sparkle comes with its own consequences. We have to take the bad with the good, if we want to be part of what we call the civilized world; but we also have to take the blame for the bad if we are going to take any credit for the good.
The government is a great example of this. People who don’t vote can blame the ones that do for participating in a broken system, and perpetuating all that crookedness; but the folks who do vote can easily turn this around, and blame the ones that don’t vote for letting society have its way with them without even weighing in. Anyone who has paid taxes in America has funded the endless war that has defined our country these past several decades; and anyone who hasn’t is breaking the law, not contributing to the economy, or living somewhere else.
Even living somewhere else doesn’t absolve others of playing a part in the biggest empire in history. Buying American products or watching movies from our country is like buying bullets for our military, and every day other countries allow the empire to plow forward is another day they did not stop it. The rest of the world could come together to put America in its place, and every day they don’t is another day where them being who they are either allows us or causes us to be who we are.
Anyone who participates in modern society bears the burden of every one of its faults. Trying to cut down on your carbon footprint is not as important as admitting you have one; as soon as you realize how full of these footprints the path of humanity really is, you can pretty easily see the size of yours doesn’t matter much. It wouldn’t be there without all the other giant footprints that lead up to it, and even the tiniest imprint acknowledges the need for all those that came before it. If you have even one child, that footprint continues to grow indefinitely as your name lives on; and that brings us to the real crux of all these problems.
Modern society’s core issue is overpopulation. If we reduce the number of people on the planet, all of our problems magically disappear. Nearly everyone has their theory on why the Earth is getting warmer, but almost nobody points out that our sheer numbers are the real source of it all either directly or indirectly. Putting aside how much fuel we burn or plastic we toss in the ocean, each of us radiates real and measurable heat.
Maybe it isn’t much, per person: the most popular comparison science likes to make is that the human body puts off about as much heat as a hundred watt lightbulb. When you multiply that times the population, though…well, that’s a lot of heat we’re emitting, collectively. A couple dozen people can warm up a decent-sized room pretty quickly; how long does it take seven billion people to warm up a planet? Is anyone calculating how much global warming is due to our sheer numbers, or the fact that we’ve got billions of little stoves walking around radiating heat?
When you crunch the numbers, people probably couldn’t power the matrix; but three hundred BTUs times seven billion is some pretty significant heat. Could overpopulation be a direct cause of global warming? Even if it isn’t, can we deny it’s a factor?
Culling the herd is not necessary; all we have to do is stop having so many babies. I could say I have done my part in all this, by choosing not to breed; but my neighbors have more than made up for it, and having their kids running around our neighborhood is a constant reminder that they are us and we are them. If me having an Appletop and an iPhone requires that we have way too many people cluttering up the Earth, I say bring on the overpopulation.
Let’s all share the credit for all this awesomeness, and the blame for all the darkness. We each play our part in making it possible, in the end.
Except indigenous people. They hunt and forage for their food, and it takes most of their time. The skills they learn can be passed on to the next generation, but they’re generally the same skills that were passed to them by the previous generation. Babies that can’t be cared for are left in the wild to be eaten by animals, because such a small society can’t be burdened by the simplest problem of too many mouths to feed.
We may have all the cool toys, but they are the ones likely to survive a global catastrophe. While civilized survivors haunt empty grocery stores and long for the days of refrigeration, natives will continue to do as they have always done. After a while, we’ll die out…because we just can’t make it on our own, in most cases. The next wave of civilization will come from indigenous people, just like the last one did; and they’ll face the same problem as we do someday.
They are us and we are them!
Comforting, isn’t it?
Thanks for reading!
All the best,