Disunited We Stand

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The radio was playing in the background, but when I heard the words ' Middle East peace process,' it got my attention. Evidently something had happened in that part of the world that might endanger the 'peace process,' or something to that effect. It was that two-word phrase that set me thinking: how long has this 'process' been ongoing? I don't know, exactly, but certainly a very long time indeed. Every U.S. president in recent'and not-so-recent--memory has involved himself, and the U.S. , in the 'process,' with meetings in various locations so the opposing factions could arrive at some sort of agreement, with abundant photo opportunities for smiles and handshakes.

But wait a minute! Does this make sense? The animosity is between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors. The Israelis want peace. The Arabs want peace. They all insist on it, and promise to work to achieve it. So what's stopping them? Where's the peace? If both sides want peace, but only on their terms, it's silly to perpetuate this 'peace process.' Surely the Jews and the Arabs realize that they will have to make concessions if there is to be peace. If they don't want to do that, fine; but let's stop this inane prattling about a 'peace process!' (Could it be that, as far as governments are concerned, war, or the threat of it, is more profitable than peace?)

Only an hour or so later I heard another snippet of information on the radio. This time someone was warning us that old refrigerators, like those many of us have in our basements, can be expensive to operate. In fact, according to the announcer, that old refrigerator in the basement can cost up to $100 yearly to operate, since many of them, especially if made prior to 1993, are not energy efficient. It happens that we have an old fridge from my parents in our basement, and it must be at least 25 years old. We only use it occasionally, so I'm sure it doesn't cost us $100 yearly to operate, assuming that figure to be correct. But so what if it did? Whose problem is that, anyway?

Ah, but it's society's problem, you see! Old, inefficient refrigerators use more electricity, which means more coal burned to supply that electricity, which, in turn, means more carbon dioxide placed in the atmosphere! And you know what that means: more greenhouse effect, more global warming, the rising of the oceans, and the END OF MANKIND!!!! Gosh--and all because we want to stock a few frozen foods when our regular freezer is full!

Let's suppose, filled with verdant fervor, we decide to scrap the inefficient old refrigerator and get a new one. Heck, let's suppose that everyone with inefficient old fridges decided to do the same thing. That would be a stimulus to the refrigerator business, meaning more electricity used by the manufacturers. The scrap companies that got the old refrigerators would use more electricity to compact them into recyclable steel, which would then be transported by rail (diesel engines!) to the steel mill. Lots of carbon dioxide generation, not to mention lots of borrowing to pay for expensive new refrigerators. This is better than just using the inefficient old refrigerators?

Recently my wife and I drove to Washington D.C. A couple of weeks later, we made a similar trip by automobile to rural Kentucky . On both trips we were impressed, as we always are, by the miles upon miles of nothing. An occasional farm, scattered small towns, but hundreds and hundreds of acres of empty land. Where is the population explosion? Yet even as we are warned of the dangers of an increasing population, we are told of the efforts of science to bring fecundity to infertile couples, the work of volunteers on anti-suicide hotlines, and the efforts of organizations to bring food to the starving children of this or that wretched place. So what should we do: work to preserve and increase the population, or decrease it? Are people a threat to society, or a blessing?

There are many such examples of the perfectly reasonable and laudable activities of organization A being more or less directly opposed to the perfectly reasonable and laudable activities of organization B. Often, both organizations are government, or government-sponsored/sanctioned groups. At a time when people have been inculcated with the idea that society's problems are the result of human greed or stupidity, and the solutions lie with government action, such contradictory programs are inevitable. The only consistency we expect from government is that it will consistently favor any group that promises support.

So forget the groups! Give the matter some thought, do a little research, and then act upon your knowledge. Make up your mind without blind adherence to what this or that group suggests. Individuals make wrong choices, admittedly, and suffer as a result. When large, influential groups make wrong choices, many more suffer. When governments make wrong choices--war, anyone? Depression, shortages, rationing?

Determine the best thing to do, and do it. How can everyone not benefit when everyone acts in his own enlightened self-interest?

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 85