Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Today... we need to grow up
When I was a kid and wanted to be allowed to do something on my own, like go to the movies or go to a friend's birthday, my parents set up a trial period. If I came home on time and didn't let my homework slack on those days when I did something else, I was allowed to go out on my own. If not, the verdict was: I wasn't responsible enough yet. Let's wait a few months, try again later. Other people my age had similar experiences and implemented them once they had children of their own. If a kid can warm up some soup without burning himself or the entire house, good for him. He can be trusted to make his own lunch. If a kid can be left home alone for two hours and still do his homework and his chores, he can be trusted to be left without supervision. If not? There is some growing up left to do. ... Which is why I do not understand people who say that they don't need the government to run their lives, that they can build and run a business without government regulations, or that they don't want the government to tell them what to do. This phenomenon appears to be unique to Americans. And I don't buy it. Americans are not grown up enough to do without someone else monitoring their actions and regulating what they can and can't do. I am not talking about the whole Big Brother wiretapping, cameras on every corner kind of thing. No. I have recently heard a story on NPR that Sweden has become so efficient with recycling, that they import garbage from Norway to power the power plants that run on garbage. Aside from President Obama winning the second term that was the best piece of news I have heard in months. I was ecstatic that such a thing actually exists - a country that recycles and runs things so efficiently that it runs out of garbage! Whatever other issues may exist in Sweden, when it comes to recycling, I think we can safely say that the Swedes are grownups. They can be trusted to make decisions that impact our environment. They have earned it. Americans? Not so much. Yes, there are states where recycling is more effective because the state government made a decision to compensate people for recycling and set up stations where they can get money for turning in their aluminum, plastic and glass. That reminds me a bit about paying a child to do her chores, but ok, at least they are doing something. Interestingly, the government-initiated recycling programs yielded some positive grassroots results. I lived in Rochester, NY, where one can turn in recyclables at any large grocery store and receive either cash back or a coupon to go toward their groceries. The city homeless (another problem) went out daily - without being told - along the city streets and highways and collected cans and bottles thrown out of cars (yet another problem - and one that doesn't speak in favor of American maturity). It was also not uncommon for a group of them to go around neighborhoods and ask people for their recyclables. It was considered completely acceptable, and no one freaked out. A good crop of recyclables could feed one for a day or two. The streets were cleaner. The less fortunate had something to do as they slowly got back on their feet. Communities cooperated. And, in the middle of all this, there was less garbage and more recycling - all because their government made onechange. Let's take something really easy - something literally any kid can do. Plastic grocery bags. Many were outraged with the government of California went radical and just plain outlawed plastic grocery bags, forcing their citizens to bring their own reusable bags when grocery shopping. I think it was a fabulous idea. People were clearly not getting the message on their own - you know, that message that our landfills are overflowing and that plastic takes a long time to decompose. So, the government did the thinking for them. No more plastic bags. Here are some reusable ones at the store, if you want to buy them with your groceries. Amazingly, no one died. The world did not end. Bringing one's own bags to the store is now a routine for people of California, and one of the largest economies in the world is no longer contributing to the gargantuan pile of wasted plastic. We should do this everywhere. I have zero compassion for people who will whine about the "government telling me what to do". None. You had your chance to make a change. You had a chance to act like a responsible adult by not generating more plastic waste. You have squandered it. You don't deserve to make this kind of decisions on your own anymore. Let some one else do it for you. The same applies to fuel efficiency. People have known that exhaust gases are bad for the environment and for living creatures residing in it, including human beings. They have known that for ages. But they still insist on buying big honking SUVs - not because they go off-roading, not because they own a business that requires a lot of hauling (like landscaping or construction), not because they have a big family (although that is a questionable excuse - whatever happened to going on family vacations in a good old station wagon?). No. They drive their pristine SUVs that have never seen a scrap of mud, to the office, where they park them at the garage. How am I supposed to believe that these people qualify to make their own decisions about the environment? They clearly haven't a clue. Or - worse yet - they have plenty of clue and ignore it willfully. When your kid does a bunch of stupid crap on the internet and gets into trouble, you take away her computer. When she runs up her cell phone bill into the stratosphere, you curb her usage or take away the phone. When you - yes, you - choose to buy a big gas guzzler for no reason other than it's big and shiny and oh-so-manly, rather than going with a smaller used truck or station wagon, you don't deserve to make your own car buying decisions. When you choose to run up the credit card debt by indulging your shopaholism, you don't deserve to have credit anymore. When you choose to belittle people who come to your country and do not speak the language, but can't be bothered to learn another language, because you assume that the rest of the world speaks yours and complain when some of it doesn't, you don't deserve to the right to make decisions of who gets to come to this country, and whether or not you get to go anywhere. When you can't even be bothered to bring a set of reusable bags to the store because it's "too much hassle", it's off to the kindergarten with you. Go away and grow up. Then we'll talk.