Taking off from last week – “Sometimes the Right Tool is Simply Asking the Right Question,” I’m thinking these may be some of the necessary building blocks for becoming human. Others, (check out Kevin Wilson’s essay, “The Cost of Civility: We Need To Talk“) have suggested that we engage in open dialogue with others… not to find the answer you have in mind but just to swim in the same pool together. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that there were separate swimming pools, water fountains, etc. in parts of our country for different races. And in other parts – the question of separate facilities was moot – neighborhoods were segregated and races never mixed. This was and is wrong on many levels. Don’t think so? Please read on.
So let’s talk and share some of the questions, not necessarily to come up with any answers but to explore possibilities. Are there better ways of doing things? Darn right. Look at the Olympics – records are being set all the time – better training, better diets, better techniques… nothing is static or locked in place, nor should it be. Otherwise, we’d be sitting around a firepit and living in caves – and the cynic in me says that indeed we may end up there anyhow if we don’t cooperate in ending global warming and stop the continual conflicts that are another pandemic.
But if we dialogue, I’m confident that new ideas or better ways of doing things will be found. Conflict and hate are components of a zero-sum game, what one person wins another loses, and later, be it a year, a decade, or longer, the loser becomes the winner and winner the loser. But the continual conflict takes from all and unlike the angel’s share when aging whiskey, this devil’s share takes a bigger bite and leaves only dregs of bitterness in the barrel.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not as if there’s not enough to go around. And cooperation is always more productive. In a win-win scenario, everyone indeed wins. Equal opportunity, better education, will result in a more skillful pool of talented people. And here’s one bottom line result – innovative and inventive they’d contribute to the GNP – i.e., make more money, pay more taxes, etc. So the IRS would take a smaller bite out of my backside. Maybe we’d see some improvement to the infrastructure so my old bones won’t feel as if they’re getting broken every time I drive to the grocery store.
And it’s entirely possible that a minority person, given the opportunity to get a good education, may go on and find a cure for cancer. I’ve been lucky so far with the two I’ve had, but certainly wouldn’t say no to having more people working on medical problems as I thankfully keep getting older (like most of you). As for foreigners… well most of us are foreigners – our parents or grandparents coming here not too many years ago. And now all my health care professionals are recent arrivals. Darn right I’ll defend the rights of immigrants.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist either. In the scheme of things, newcomers usually start off doing scut work – cleaning, lawn care, seasonal workers, etc. Probably do those things you wouldn’t do yourself OR couldn’t do yourself any longer. In a way, they’re providing for your old age. Up north, they could be shoveling your walks in the winter keeping you from having a heart attack next time there’s more than an inch of snow.
OK. You get the picture. Life is complex and we’re all tied together with much less than six degrees of separation. Maybe it’s time we begin to grow up and look at the big picture, find out what the other person may be feeling or thinking. And with that in mind, let’s begin asking the right questions with an open heart.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.