Here’s a question for all us’ns:
What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?
I saw this gem as a minor headline on the Globe and Mail site yesterday, from whence it then disappeared, though a quick search turned up the article. It burned me up some, as these idiocies will, but I had other things to attend to and Geoff Dembicki over at the Tyee beat me to the acid comment fest (as probably did legions of others).
So what remains to be said is that we are getting as bad at paying attention to questions as we are at seeking answers and solutions, often the latter being something of a result of the former.
You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers.
You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.
We ask questions all the time that are perhaps not the optimal questions to deal with situations that confront us. How, for instance, did pacifists deal with the prospect of World War II., supposedly a war to eliminate fascism and the threat of Nazi domination of the planet. Tough to do, largely because folks had already painted themselves into a corner with regard to the aggressive acts of the Axis powers, and, really, part of the problem is that the essential questions were no longer applicable because no one knew what to ask back around the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815 (and better results might have stemmed from an even earlier questioning of direction and process). So here is Rex Tillerman asking us if we want to stall development in the poorer sections of the world so that we can reduce carbon and forestall the damaging effects of climate change: what he’s really saying is that those poor little brown people are really in the stew anyway, so why can’t we just party on. Climate refugees are already a reality, and even the operators of ski hills are beginning to see that they are seriously impaired in their ability to do business if the snow and ice is all gone on the mountains that they presently occupy.
Dr. Henry Morganthaler died yesterday. He probably thought he had the abortion question whipped several decades ago, but there are still many who don’t think it’s really a good move to be removing nascent life from a woman’s womb before it has a chance to defend itself, and others who will vigorously defend a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. Heck, in my feeble mind, they’re both right, but, again, the timing of the question is wrong: ideally, the question of the survival of the child needs to be answered before conception, and to facilitate this decision, there needs to be easy availability of family planning, contraception (other than the Bush-era counselling to crossed knees) and counselling. I have no answer for the poor fetus resulting from forced sexual intercourse and better minds will see that there is an answer stemming from a better question, something on the order of looking at how we prevent rape in the first place, something on the order of a fundamental shift in attitudes toward relations of sex and power.
The same quandary applies to the debate about gun control. I’ve never owned a firearm and don’t intend to start any time soon, but I know lots of people who do own firearms, and most of them treat them with a sense of respectful caution and would never think of leaving them lying about in a way that might promote an accidental shooting, let alone have a thought of using a firearm to enforce their will or take revenge. However, we keep hearing of accidents where youngsters harm each other, either with their own firearms, or with carelessly stored firearms belonging to a responsible adult, and every once in awhile, someone loses it and goes on a rampage, shooting mostly random victims. Likely we need to be asking ourselves questions about people’s expectations, people’s perceptions of society, how we define success and how we participate in a live lived in a community, and particularly how we resolve conflicts.
The sad part of the topic is that Tillerman gets away with framing an argument in these terms, when really, it isn’t just the developing world that will suffer, but all of us. There was a line from a song by Luc de la Rochellière a couple of decades back called “Six Pieds Sur Terre” in which he expresses his fervent desire that Hell exist (Mon Dieu, promets-moi que l’enfer existe!) as a remedy for people who perpetrate the unspeakable crimes of warmongering and economic plunder, something that would certainly seem to apply to Tillerman and people of his ilk who are quite keen to add insult to the injury they have done by sequestering the wealth of the world for their own benefit all out of proportion to any sane standard.