• Posted: May 22, 2011 13:10:38
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Have you ever heard the line: "Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it"? It's a quote worthy of Groucho Marx or Mark Twain, but most likely original with an editor of the Hartford Courant back in 1897, one Charles Dudley Warner. (see Quote Investigator) The wit is dry and subtle. Not everyone gets it. It requires an appreciation of the "bigger picture". But, unfortunately, not everyone sees beyond their own immediate concerns.
Years back I lived in a condominium. It's an experience I'd recommend to anyone. It helps give one perspective and an appreciation of what it takes to get one's neighbors to look beyond their own immediate concerns and cooperate on concerns common to all of us. The lesson is especially poignant when one particular association member sits patiently during discussions of costs to implement a proposed solution to what at least some believe to be a common problem, then raises their hand to be heard and calmly states "But I can't afford that."
At that moment, all the issues of truth and credibility, inclusion and exclusion, fairness, hardship and sacrifice, just deserts, charity and compassion, reasonable expectations, practicality, creativity, and the dimensions of compromise all come to bear. The inescapable problem becomes: what is the "right thing" to do?
From a distance, the so called "right thing" is most often "what I want". But when brought undeniably face to face with consequence to others, the situation changes. Either forces rally to dehumanize and demonize those others, or compassion sets in and those others are somehow brought into the fold and accommodated within a path forward. But in either case, an even bigger picture often goes unnoticed.
The bigger picture I'm talking about is that loose ball above all of us getting ready to fall down heavily upon a great many of our heads. Populations are growing. Clean water is becoming scarce. Food stuffs are no longer in surplus. The costs of energy and materials are rising. Competition is heating up. Education is not keeping up. All the while, each of us keeps looking suspiciously at our neighbors as if they might be "those others".
Experiments in social psychology tell us a mutually perceived superordinate threat will help us rally round, put aside local squabbles, and concentrate on a coordinated effort to lessen that superordinate threat. Unfortunately at this point, there are so many superordinate threats to our wellbeing, most of which we attribute to "those others", that we still fail to see the big picture of that ball about to come crashing down on all of our heads.
Consequence is everything. May you never fail to perceive that not so simple truth.
Saturday, May 25th, 1991