Overkill

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While other people are moaning and groaning about how bad things are, how the US president is provoking nuclear war to justify spending even more future money on the Department of Offense; or how climate change is inevitable, considering how much CO2 and methane (CH4) we humans generate by life and death; or how the world is over-populated with people, weeds, insects, bacteria, and viruses, while wild animals are losing habitat; or how corruption in government, or corporate welfare, poverty, racism, addiction and obesity—just to name a few—overshadow the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, I see why I didn’t propagate.   Not only doesn’t the world need me to breed, but I didn’t want the responsibility of children or to have genetic chains binding me to the planet once I die.

 

Selfish me.  It frees me of obligation to a planet of human beings who seem determined to suffer, who are attached to their suffering like an alcoholic to his booze.  Some people believe suffering is necessary to life; others believe there is nobility in it.  I believe suffering is a choice, often a habit that can be broken.  There is a lot of gratification in the victim role, and it’s often the hardest to give up.  It looks outside for causes and for comfort, but there is no one more vicious or vindictive than the exposed masochist.

 

When I’m in the mood to suffer, bad things happen.  Mistakes and accidents occur.  When I’m pre-occupied with anger, resentment, or fear, it distracts me from the moment at hand, from the appreciation of all the things that are going right, from being grateful for what I have:  indoor plumbing, generally good health, food from all over the world, and enough of it, lights and refrigeration, a roof over my head, people I like, most of the time, and who like me, less of the time but often enough.

 

Assumptions abound about our limited and declining resources, competition for them, and the notion that the resource “pie” has only so many pieces.  The “wealthy,” the one percent, the “oligarchs,” are presumed to be greedily gobbling up more than their fair share, leaving the rest of us in various states of want or need.

 

What few state or seem to understand is that the US’ wasteful, consumerist society sets an example that the world is following, believing our glittery “progress” deserves to be emulated.  The resourcefulness of the past—when consumer goods weren’t so prodigious or readily available—seems somehow shameful, out of keeping with the modern, throw-away lifestyles promulgated by advertising, television, and government, those who are heavily invested in selling us more of their stuff, services, values, and propaganda. 

 

To make better use of what we have seems more important now than ever, when we have so much. A rising tide of books and magazines tell us how to de-clutter, simplify, and curtail the accumulation of belongings.  Broken things or things that have outlived their usefulness fill closets and shelves, yet disposing of them takes enormous effort and is fraught with indecision, sentimentality, or questions about whether to give them away (who would want them?), throw them away, or sell them (to whom?).  We are told that landfills are full, overflowing, and leaking into the groundwater.

 

Getting rid of stuff has become a dominant theme in my life.  My broken, decayed, outmoded or ragged things add to the overwhelming oppression of having too many things in the way and too little use for them.

 

If my problems are multiplied times millions of people in the US, no wonder landfills are full and there’s litter in the streets, with trash cans scarce and carefully guarded.  People complain of declining resources, but they rarely talk about making better use of what we have, of creating jobs to deal with the clutter, rather than produce more goods that fill closets, shelves, houses, and garbage dumps.

 

In my small way I try to reduce demand for single-use packaging, such as plastic bags, by shopping with my collection of re-usable ones.  I carry a thermal coffee cup to the coffee shops.  I generally boycott processed, heavily packaged and boxed food, making it easier to carry groceries in one cloth bag.  I patch and repair comfortable, at-home clothes and make my own socks and sweaters.  I keep a post office box and recycle junk mail into the PO’s recycling bins.  I drive a hybrid, gas-electric car, and that as seldom as possible.

 

But it’s not enough just to do that, even though I have no reason to care what happens to the planet after I’m gone.  I’m an esthete who dislikes disorganization, over-consumption, and waste.  It offends me that the oceans are full of plastic junk, even though I’ve never seen the giant gyres, as described in books like Plastic:  A Toxic Love Story

 

Why are we human animals doing this to ourselves and to the planet?  The tragedy of over-consumption, over-production, and waste is that it is presumed by some to support “the economy,” yet it has created a toxic imbalance that is poisoning minds, bodies, and the Earth itself.

 

What to do about it?  How much is enough?  How much is too much, unnecessary excess that we take on out of weakness, fatigue, or habit?  As an official “senior citizen,” I probably won’t live to see the drastic changes predicted by the “climate scientists;” or I may get killed in a war provoked by our paranoid government; or the health snare racket may treat me to death.  My personal fate is unpredictable, as is everyone’s, and that of the planet as a whole.  In fact, I believe there are as many probable futures as there are imaginations to predict them.  I do hope that between now and then, I will enjoy to the maximum the process of living while learning ever better how not to suffer.

Comments

Doug Plumb Added Feb 9, 2018 - 6:36pm
I've been watching a lot of sailing videos online. People sail across the ocean and make youtube videos of their adventure. I saw a piece of trash once, a sailor remarked. I saw a derelict sailboat with a dead sailor inside, lots of dolphins, a few giant whales breaching the ocean surface and returning in a thunderous crash. I've seen pirates. These sailors make videos of everything they see and they don't like trash. They complain when they see it, they want you to see it but you just don't because it isn't there.
  Antarctica is leaking methane. Its only a matter of time before someone gets close enough and lights a cigarette. We go shooting across the solar system like a bee bee shot from an air gun and its curtains.
  I think you should have children, so should I but for me its too late.
 
Bill H. Added Feb 9, 2018 - 10:13pm
 
It's all about the quest for profit and convincing the masses that they need more of everything, and we need more people so that sales of more of everything will keep increasing. They certainly don't want people to use less of anything, and that includes food, electricity, water, and fuel.
Seems that we are now going backwards, as efforts to conserve anything in the era of Trump are not only looked down upon, but in some cases are being outlawed or taxed.
opher goodwin Added Feb 10, 2018 - 7:40am
Enjoy away Katharine! Life is wondrous! The planet is a marvel! There is much to enjoy!
Live!
Dino Manalis Added Feb 10, 2018 - 8:25am
There are lots of problems, some people are truly suffering and leaving their homes as refugees and many of them drown in the Mediterranean.  Venezuelans are suffering under Maduro and piracy has emerged  off Venezuela's coast.  Even Russia and China have learned the importance of capitalism and consumerism, because governments need rising revenues to pay rising bills.
George N Romey Added Feb 10, 2018 - 9:40am
Good article Katharine. I’ve come to the conclusion with more stuff and more complexity we humans have become more unhappy and more unhealthy. We were designed to live more like animals-in harmony with nature.
Wick Burner Added Feb 10, 2018 - 10:58am
The choice not to propagate is a sacrifice deserving of more praise.
Neil Lock Added Feb 10, 2018 - 11:19am
Katharine: You may already have read enough from me to know that “spot on” is one of the highest compliments I give. So when I say that your first paragraph is excellently spot on, I hope you will enjoy your deserved praise!
 
But I disagree with your contention that human beings seem determined, of their own accord, to suffer. My own diagnosis of suffering is quite different. It is that there are, among us, those that seem determined to force others to suffer. And their modus operandi, up to the point where they get power and can do what they want, is to try to persuade us that we deserve to suffer.
 
I’m sorry, but you and most of the other commenters on this thread seem to have picked up this same bad meme. Katharine, I think you’re trying to throw out the baby with the bathwater!
 
For me, human beings are naturally creative and productive. But how can we continue to do these things, if others don’t appreciate us? That’s what the “consumerism” you pooh-pooh actually is; an environment in which everyone can say a mutual “thank you” to those who enrich their lives. Deride it at your peril – and everyone else’s.
 
As to disposing of outdated things requiring enormous effort, you’re right again. 25 to 30 years ago, it wasn’t so hard. But who made these things more difficult? The very same green ultra-conservatives that tell you the landfills are full and leaking pollution!
 
Katharine, why don’t you stop believing baseless accusations against you, and stop respecting those that lie, exaggerate and unjustifiably intone “the end is nigh?” That, for me, is a first step towards a better world.
Autumn Cote Added Feb 10, 2018 - 2:20pm
Please note, it's against the rules to post articles here unless you comment on the work of others.  
Katharine Otto Added Feb 10, 2018 - 7:00pm
Thanks for all the comments, folks.  
Doug, I haven't sailed the oceans, but I read a lot about and from people who do.  I also know how much trash washes up on my property from the tidal creek where I live.  As far as Antarctica leaking methane, I can tell you that methane is the natural product of decomposing life, and the marshes near me are also leaking it.  Also, it's too late for me to have children.  
 
Bill H.,
That's why Americans are fat, sickly, and broke.  It's partly a product of the TV (and advertiser)-educated society we live in.
 
Ed,
I'm no fan of taxes, and it wouldn't be necessary if we reduced consumption, especially of excessive packaging.  I just read an on-line NY Times article about the ban China has now placed on imported waste:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11world/china-recyclables-ban.html
 
Opher,
Will do.  Thanks for reading and for your support.
 
Dino,
Yes, people are suffering, but they always have suffered, to one extent or another.  I don't help by wallowing in misery, too.
Governments need rising revenue because of wasteful and excessive mis-spending.  Maduro is just the latest example.
 
George,
Thanks, and I agree.  It's getting harder than ever to live a simple life.  Animals' direct experience of life is a marvel.  I'm beginning to think opposable thumbs are a handicap.
 
Wick,
I don't deserve the praise, because I believe having children is a sacrifice.  They require so much, for so long, that I'm amazed people continue to have so many of them.  
 
Neil,
I would counter that those who want to force others to suffer are suffering themselves, as in "misery loves company."  The sado-masochistic dynamic swings both ways.
 
You mistake me if you think I oppose consumerism, because I appreciate quality, useful, products, but these are rare or out of my price range.  Also, at my age, there is little else I need or want. 
 
I do object to the excess of junk, or things that don't work right, or that break before you finish paying for them.  I strongly object to "planned obsolescence."  I don't like the triple-wrap packaging that maybe costs more than the product.
 
I believe, like you, that humans are naturally creative and productive, so shifting the focus toward creative solutions to some of these problems maybe could alleviate a lot of suffering.
 
Final point, that some people (and institutions) do want to convince people they deserve to suffer.  The idea of "original sin" is one example of this particular control tactic.
 
Autumn,
I know the rules, if your comment is directed to me.  I read and comment regularly, as many who've posted here can attest.  I don't always have an immediate response to some posts, because I have to think about my answers.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 10, 2018 - 7:03pm
George N Romey Added Feb 10, 2018 - 7:14pm
Katharine over population is a real issue.  Also I think in the developed world we are entering into a period in which successive generations will live less than their parents.  So you ask why do people continue to procreate beyond replacing themselves?
 
Here in the US poor women often have children because each child is more social assistance.  I live in Miami.  Everyday I see a women not older than 30 years old totting around 4 to 6 children seemingly a year apart in age.  Most are dropping f bombs on those children one after another.  A 2 year old hearing f this, f that, and f you constantly day after day.  Think maybe that child will be a serious damaged human being?
 
In less developed countries its either ignorance or religious pressure.  In this country its ignorance and incentives.  We like to brag about being how bringing manufacturing to less developed countries has brought people out of extreme dire poverty.  Accordingly far fewer children die very young. Yet these people are still very poor trying to care for more children with the cycle of poverty never ending. 
Jeff Jackson Added Feb 11, 2018 - 2:26am
Nice article Katherine. I have experience with those folks that believe that suffering is noble and holy, and they welcome misery, if not look for it. They're quite sad and depressed a lot of the time. I confess to having too much stuff, but then, I like my stuff. I'm having a garage sale in the spring and I'm going to part with a lot of stuff. It's time.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 11, 2018 - 6:18pm
George,
I agree with you about the incentives, not only government incentives, but for a lot of young girls, a baby alleviates loneliness, gives them someone to love.  Then the kids start to grow up.
 
Jeff,
Thanks for the praise, and I appreciate that you understand about those who glorify suffering. I've found that suffering along with them doesn't help, but it can help to be present, with a "there, there" attitude.
 
Good luck selling your stuff.  I've never had much luck with garage sales: a lot of trouble and not so many purchasers.  Seems I had almost as much stuff at the end as at the beginning.  Let me know how it goes.
William Stockton Added Feb 12, 2018 - 1:54pm
Why are we human animals doing this to ourselves and to the planet?  
 
Such complex questions for such simple minds, Katherine.  
 
I do hope that between now and then, I will enjoy to the maximum the process of living while learning ever better how not to suffer.
 
Suggest you stick to simple.  It never pays to continually question complexity for which you would never derive a solution on your own merits.  I'm quite happy to give you your first lesson to reduce your suffering. 
namaste
Dave Volek Added Feb 12, 2018 - 4:24pm
Guerilla
Nice response.
 
Another analogy is light and dark. Light exists, but there really is not a physical entity called dark. Darkness is just an absence of light.
 
Similarly, evil is an absence of goodness.
 
 
Jeff Michka Added Feb 12, 2018 - 5:51pm
Speaking as an economist, let me assure you that this is self-serving BS.-Wow ANOTHER WB economist.  What's that? 100 or so here.  Every rightist on WB is an economist!  Who'd thought?
Katharine Otto Added Feb 12, 2018 - 5:52pm
Gerrilea,
You read a lot into the article that I didn't say or even imply.  I also checked out the Ubuntu planet site and wasn't impressed.  Sounds like yet another sales pitch for an organization that wants my membership and money first, while promising future benefits, sort of like religion does. 
 
I'm not a climate change fanatic and even believe CO2 and methane are red herrings in the discussion.  I'm much more concerned with environmental toxins, including plastic, but also heavy metals, agricultural chemicals, dioxins, sulfur dioxide, and all the various pollutants that come from our industrialized society.  The waste and landfill, etc.
 
I'm too old to propagate and have never regretted my decision.  Why should anyone else care?  You don't know what I've "been conditioned to believe", but I don't believe in original sin or evil.  Your definition of evil is as good as any.  I just think humans are immature.   
 
"We are not allowed to be independent of the state" is victim thinking.  As long as people are willing to put up with abusive laws, they deserve to suffer.
 
Maybe the planet can sustain 30 billion humans, but I hope I don't live to see it.  Sounds awfully crowded to me.
 
Thanks for your comment.
 
William.
Have you noticed how hard it is to keep things simple?  Everything seems connected to everything else, in this pattern-based world that defies the scientific method.
 
Dave,
I believe the terms "good" and "evil" are judgment calls, depending on your point of view.  What we call "evil" may simply be lack of understanding.  It is also its own punishment, according to me.
 
 
 
 
Doug Plumb Added Feb 12, 2018 - 6:04pm
Katharine, we humans are great for this planet- water irrigation, putting all that CO2 into the air. It will be great when there are 30 billion of us. Imagine all the stuff that will be happening. The world is much more interesting with people than trees or squirrels, but more people means more of them too. There is more wildlife in a city block than in a wooded area of the same size.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 12, 2018 - 6:05pm
I'd be jaded if I was a doc. Anyone would. You see people at their worse all the time. Am I wrong about this ? I don't know, I'm not a doctor.
George N Romey Added Feb 12, 2018 - 7:27pm
More people means more conflict. Humans don’t do well in tight quarters. One reason crime and violence is high in inner cities:
Katharine Otto Added Feb 13, 2018 - 4:21pm
Gerrilea,
Thanks for your response.  My belief in immortality makes me curious about other dimensions of being, which I believe exist.  I don't feel hatred but sadness for humanity as it stands now.  Yes, humans are evolving, maturing, I hope, but I'm impatient.  I would like the experience of living among beings who have figured things out, if they exist.  Maybe it will be this planet, in another time.
 
I believe you create your own reality, as Seth says in the Jane Roberts series of channeled books.  I want to get past the limiting beliefs that keep us chained to outmoded ideas.  Can it happen in this lifetime?  I believe it's happening now, but it's hard to detect.  People like me are doing what we can to wake others up, at least to think about where we are headed.
George N Romey Added Feb 13, 2018 - 5:31pm
By all accounts we should be a happier species than 200 years ago, particularly in developed countries.
 
But are we? IDK.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 14, 2018 - 7:39pm
George,
It's hard to generalize.  Happiness, or lack thereof, may be a character trait, or at least a habit that can be developed.  Perhaps the main point of my article is that some people are determined to suffer and to create suffering for others; but there are people of the opposite persuasion, too.
George N Romey Added Feb 15, 2018 - 5:56pm
I think we’ve come to expect too much in life. When times were simpler people wanted less.

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