Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Big Picture

It is interesting how so many of the more divisive issues we face are the result of a narrow scope on a much larger problem. It seems far easier for many to simply lock in on a singular aspect of society that they find objectionable, ignoring the grand scale that encompasses it.

Take abortion. Much fire and brimstone is traded back and forth over its propriety and legality and morality, but it is simply a singular aspect of a larger framework: human reproduction, more specifically, a woman's ability to regulate when and in what manner she becomes pregnant. With the advent of reliable chemical birth control, it became possible for a woman to gain complete control of her reproduction, allowing her to enjoy her sexuality without the constant fear of becoming pregnant at an inopportune time. This remarkable breakthrough would allow humanity to better manage its resources, as it could have lead to fewer unwanted births, and a reduction in the need for social services to help mothers care for unplanned children. Instead, the whole span of reproductive management has come under attack, with abortion being made into the crux of the issue, instead of sex education. Rather than dealing with the causative factors making abortion more prevalent (rape & incest, poor family planning, lack of sex education, inadequate access to birth control), those who would seek to eliminate it concentrate solely on the procedure itself, instead of its place in the grand scheme.

Take oil. For close to a century now, our insatiable need for energy has been fed by a non-renewable source, oil. While abundant energy on a titanic scale pours down upon us every day, we harness our industrial might, our societal growth, and our military muscle to the yoke of a resource we can no longer control. The sources of oil within our political control our limited, and even if we were to drill in every forest, nature preserve, and sea bed within our grasp, we would find little enough, to quench our insatiable thirst. This leaves us vulnerable to the machinations of other groups and countries; do you remember the oil embargo of the early 70's? Even then, when our consumption was nowhere near the peaks it is at today, we were vulnerable. At that moment, we could have diverted our appetite away from fossil fuel, toward clean and renewable energy. The Space Age had given us the solar cell, but rather than pick it up and run with it, we continued to guzzle gas. Our foreign policy, our political will, and our place in the world has been shaped by a resource we can no longer dominate. We have lost our view of the big picture, and left ourselves vulnerable to dictators and terrorists, rather than making renewable energy a matter of national security, as well as environmental policy.

Take poverty. Despite decades of declaring "war" on it, poverty is even more prevalent now than it was in the days of The Great Depression. While the country's economic power continues to increase, and our influence in the world rises, we continue to neglect our own people, relegating whole swathes of our society to a miserable life of deprivation, disease, and despair. The average American is too easily subject to the vagaries of a system whereby those in power become more powerful at the expense of decent, hard-working, tax-paying people, without paying their proper due. So many groups pour so much effort into "saving" things, or "preserving" things, and yet they walk by people who are hungry, homeless, and without hope. How can we talk of our greatness on the one hand, while we continue the policies that keep so many of our citizens bereft of the basic necessities for a decent life? We are only as strong as the weakest among us, and sadly, there are so many who are too weak to fight, too weak to dream, too weak lift themselves up from the mud. Some would dismiss them, claim they should "think more positively," "work harder," or "stop living off my dime," but they would be missing the bigger picture: that we are a nation, a people, brought together to provide mutual support, and charged by our founders to provide for the common good.

Take any polarizing issue, and you will see that it is generally part of a tableau, a small part of a grand production. While it is always easier to live with blinders, to see only that which is before us, it is our duty to look back at what we've done, and look ahead to what we must do, and strive to reconcile where we are as part of the greater scheme of life. Like it or not, we, humanity, are all in it together. What affects one of us, affects all of us, in the end. Like the butterfly, whose flapping of wings brings about additional perturbation of the atmosphere, so each of us adds to the general course of human events through our action, or inaction. If we are to finally grow as a species, then we must accept that life is far more than the sum of its parts. We must look to the broad scope of humanity, and work toward a greater good for all.

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