Friday, January 01, 2010

Working Together

It's a new year, normally a time when one is optimistic about the future. I can be optimistic about my own life, since I'm relatively secure, pretty healthy, have a good support system of wife and friends around me, and have interesting work and play opportunities. However, my psyche is always affected by what is going on outside my little cocoon, that that stuff does not engender much optimism for 2010. The problem is that we humans seem to have a lot of difficulty working together, and that is the source of most of our problems.

In one of his most profound statements, Jesus said "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".'s such a simple concept, but hard to implement. Selfishness stands in the way, prompting us to see life as a zero sum game where we each must fight to keep what we have. We fail to see that, working together, we can create far more for everyone.

I'm astonished that obvious communal efforts are so often neglected, since the evidence that it works is all around us. In fact, our entire "modern world" is a result of groups of people working together to achieve common goals. Why is it, then, that we resist dealing in concert to solve so many issues that threaten our country and the world? As a pragmatist, I'm perplexed. Can we start to turn this around in 2010? It seems unlikely.

I heard yesterday that in many parts of the undeveloped world pregnant women suffer from an iodine shortage that robs their offspring of 10-15 IQ points due to iodine-deficient brain development. Providing iodized salt to these people would seem so easy to do, yet it is not being done. What a tragedy! Would I be writing this blog if my IQ was 15 points less? Why are countries that suffer from this problem not making it easy for other countries to provide this simple solution? Beats me! We just don't seem to be able to work together.

Nowhere is this problem of conflict more obvious than in American politics. Working together requires a common set of facts, to begin with, but our politicians seem allergic to facts but addicted to partisanship and special (read "selfish") interests. Both parties are smoking dope instead of identifying the core problems that American must deal with, gathering pertinent facts, and working together to find solutions in the common interest.

If it was up to me, I'd fire every sitting member of congress and replace them all with people who've shown little interest in politics and lots of ability to accomplish difficult tasks. In six months we could have a new congress that would remake America in ten years and leave few people unhappy with the outcome. That's because solving difficult problems makes everyone optimistic for the future. We really do have people who could lead us up this road.

So, I am very concerned about our ability to work together. For the moment, though, my attention is focused on "Abel". Abel is a 23 year old refugee from Burma who's been in the U.S. for eight months. Starting with no English, he now reads easily (pronounced and understood the word "idiomatic"), and speaks English pretty well. Perhaps this fluency results from his prior knowledge of two Chin dialects, Burmese, and some Chinese and Malay. He's taken his GED already, and likely will pass it. If he does, he will enter a good college in Rochester - for free.

Abel has been through hell in his young life (just believe me), but he wants to become a civil engineer. I'm making it my project to get him there, and enjoying the hell out of it. It helps that he's a hard working (two jobs) guy with a great smile. I love helping those who are willing to help themselves! Perhaps that's why I admire my own three sons, all of whom stand on their own two feet while helping others. Abel is a surrogate, perhaps, since the boys are all grown up.

Selfishness may kill America. Seniors complain about any reduction in their benefits, even if they are comfortable. Wealthy folks complain about higher taxes, even though taxes are relatively low. Kids complain about increases in state college tuitions, even though those tuitions are an incredible bargain. Union members complain about efforts to bring their job requirements and overall compensation in line with their abilities and their industry counterparts. Inner city parents and students have no clue and violence rules their streets; their future is bleak, but they seem indifferent to whatever they might do to change this. All of us seem to acknowledge that progress requires sacrifice, concerted efforts, and hard work - but few seem interested in becoming part of the solution.

Many say this century will belong to the countries of the far east, and they are probably right. I hope those countries do well, but I also wish that America would do well. Sadly, I'm not optimistic. We've lost our ability to work together, so we will decline together. In the meantime, though, I can help Abel achieve the kind of life he always deserved. I can be optimistic about that, at least. Call me if you know about any other, more promising, options for how I should spend my spare time. And, Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Mike C said...

It is so awesome that you are doing this for Abel!