Monday, May 12, 2008

Thoughts on a Human Tragedy

Tragically, the places likely to be devastated first and worst by Global Environmental Change (GEC) are the poorest, most overpopulated regions of the world. There are many elephants in the room that need to be dealt with and one of them is culture (and that includes religion). The governments of such countries must realize that their (predominantly) patriarchal cultures in which women are treated like breeding livestock and that are beset by rampant overpopulation, illiteracy, and lack of economic opportunity, must change. The problem is, no one is going to come right out and say that "The culture of _________ is primitive, backwards, and positively maladaptive in the 21st century."

When natural disasters strike regions where life is already marginal at best due to overpopulation, the loss of life is magnified many times over. Not to pick on Myanmar and Bangladesh, which recently suffered terrible natural disasters, but Western, industrialized countries did not overpopulate those nations. The citizens of those countries did. They were ignorantly following the dictates of their culture, the kind of dictates that have no place on an Earth of nearly 6.7 billion human beings. The first person to say any such thing publicly will undoubtedly be called a “racist,” some reading this may well call me that.

I am not a racist; we are all pretty much the same with respect to our innate biological capacities and what differences there are between individuals have nothing to do with skin color. I am saying that certain cultural practices (i.e. treating women like 2nd class citizens, refusing to educate them, and at the onset of menses, forcing them to marry much older men who demand they produce lots of healthy male children) have deleterious effects that can ripple across a globe as crowded as ours. I am saying, that in countries plagued by rampant poverty and overpopulation, responsibility for the consequences need to be laid right where it belongs, on the doorsteps of the “cultures” that facilitate the poverty and overpopulation in the first place.

This is not to say that the West does not have its own elephants to deal with, because it does. I am stunned by the idiocy of American automotive makers that offer free gas to induce fools to buy SUV’s instead of actually doing something to make said SUV’s use less gas! In America, people must be made to feel the cognitive dissonance of thinking that what their adult neighbors do for consensual fun in the privacy of their bedroom should be regulated by the “state” but “by God, if I want to drive my Cadillac Escalade that gets 16 mpg on my 60 mile daily commute, that is my God-given right as an American, at least until the Rapture™.”

Humanity will not continue to flourish on this planet in the future by declaring valid criticisms of short-sighted or antiquated cultural practices “off limits.” What will get us though the next century and a half or so is the absolute intellectual honesty to call a spade a spade with respect to behaviors and practices that are short-sighted, ill-informed, or just plain stupid, even at the risk of offending someone’s cherished cultural values.

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