Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Tiny Ray of Hope for the World?

The other day, while researching some matters related to conservation, I lost myself in the maze of Twitter's tweets and retweets. As suspected, I found innumerable ideas––some trite, others well thought, many real good, and a few brilliant.
One tweeter got my attention. In his tweet, he said, repeating the hackneyed thought: "When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, we will discover that we can't eat money." Another tweeter answered, raising the ante a bit: "There's a simple solution: Let's stop idolizing the economy; scale down free enterprise; or else we'll all be dead soon."
So here is the thing. Most people will agree on what the first tweeter said, even though he really hadn't said anything but a nice–sounding sentence that didn't propose any solution. The responder, on the other hand, proposed a solution, which many of the world's top scholars endorse, but do not express because of its unpopularity.
Now, everyone with a clear mind knows that the pursuit of money alone, when morally unrestricted, can lead to a blind greed that recognizes no limits. As it happens, we, more than any other people in the world, idolize our free enterprise and economic systems, many times to the exclusion of other values of much greater import.
When I raised this issue with my brother–in–law O, who lives in Uruguay, a peaceful, relatively prosperous country, he said to me, "That's precisely the problem with America. All that obsession with money––you guys live and die for it––is what makes your country so much admired, but also so much disliked." After I objected ardently saying that most likely his country wasn't much different, he said categorically, "No, no! Here the economy is important, but not exceedingly so," he said. "People here don't live exclusively for money. Maybe that's why most don't have much of it, but almost all of them will tell you that they are happy because of their relatively carefree life."
To convince me, my brother–in–law said, "Why don't you come and spend time with us, and find out for yourself." With tongue–in–cheek he added, "Look, maybe you can help preserve the world's trees and clean its rivers and save it from self–destruction, by learning that there are alternatives to your kind of freedom and prosperity. Come visit us. Be our guest for as long as you like. All paid. You won't have to spend a penny.
I kind of felt embarrassed. I discovered that perhaps he and his fellow citizens were richer than I and my fellow citizens.

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