As my beard grows greyer and I begin to see things that could, possibly, be described as wrinkles — as I come to realize that the hot 23-year-old might describe me as old, my perspective on a great number of things continues to change and evolve. I look at bigger problems than I used to. Life becomes a very long hallway, rather than just the single door before you.
All of the book-learning helps, as with it comes knowledge. But the color of my hair means I’ve been around the block. It means that I’ve been around several blocks down the street. In fact, this block is getting well-worn, and I’m probably about to meander further down the road. As I continue this zig-zagged path through life, my perspective grows from the here and now urgency of youth — the microcosm of the world immediately before me, to the view from 10,000 ft up. The world opens and I see the expanse beyond the next hill and the horizon is redefined as the objective lens is moved further afield.
Like free-falling in reverse.
In school, they’re teaching us about diabetes, and I’m trying to fix it from the population level, not the individual. Sure, you have diabetes, but why? Why do you and your neighbor both have it? Why is the disease growing so quickly? Why is heart disease growing so rapidly — in both incidence and prevalence? I get why you have it, but why are there so many yous?
It is great, well and fine to find a cure for disease, your disease — and these are problems that must be addressed, but why would I stop at curing your disease, at fixing your problem, when I could address thousands — millions, at the same time? If you’d have put the problem of diabetes, heart disease, pick a disease — hell, pick ANY problem, before me in my 20's, and you’d have seen me drill into an instance, a glimpse or an individual. Now, I back up and say, how can we prevent that in the first place? How can we expand the solution that it may benefit others?
This kind of thinking used to really annoy the hell out of me.
I’d never make a claim as grandiose as describing myself as wise, per se — wisdom is a journey, not a destination, goal or object, but I might speculate that I’ve gained some insight along the way. I’ve discovered myself examining systems with much greater frequency. Yes, you have heart disease. Yes, you have diabetes. Yes, you are obese. Can any commonalities be used to describe all three of these diseases? Can we fix all of them at once?
Poor diet and lack of physical activity contributes to obesity, which contributes to metabolic syndrome, which contributes to diabetes, which contributes to heart disease. This path isn’t linear, and the steps aren’t necessarily mandatory — you can get to “f” without ever having traversed through “C”, but statistically, you’ll recite this alphabet sequentially, in order. A begets B, which begets C, and so forth.
So, we start at the beginning of the alphabet, with A. Fix that problem and you find the sequelae fall off the radar.
This is how I think now.
I see sweeping societal problems, and desire to fix them not at the individual level, but at the population level. I see a healthcare system that is drowning at the intersection of chronic, endemic, plague-level disease and radically-uncontrolled expense. Society is getting sicker and sicker — this isn’t a you and her problem, this is a WE (as in ALL OF US) problem. But we keep trying to address it onesy-twosey fashion.
The miracle of capitalism. I’ve discovered that, when everyone is motivated by profit and personal gain, the real answer to many of life’s problems become elusive. Together, we ride the Titanic of society’s collapse, each of us content in our personal accomplishments, while we deign to band together for the betterment of us all. Socialism generally fails with large groups because humans are self-absorbed, self-interested assholes, but capitalism fails for the same reasons. Socialism fails because wealth and power are concentrated with less-than-altruistic leadership, while capitalism spreads that behavior out amongst the masses.
Rather than centralizing all of the money and power, all of the evil and greed with a socialist government, capitalism distributes these horrible behaviors to all of us. Hard work, lying, stealing and cheating — tossing your fellows out in the cold for your own benefit and gain, are distributed as values to be cherished and developed by a capitalist society. Capitalism morphs into plutocracy when the denizens of that network view the wealthy has having played the game the most successfully. They are elevated and revered.
You are good at capitalism. I look up to you. I want to be you. Fuck everyone else.
It fails. Viewing each of us as singular entities, outside a larger system that relies on each of us to survive, is fallacious and flawed to its core. We each have to give a little. We have to share. We have to make individual concessions, lest all of our toys be taken away. Saying that you cannot incroach on MY liberties because of what THEY did, can be a dangerous argument.
Obviously handguns and assault rifles kill people. Lots of them. But you can’t take MINE because of what THEY did. NO, I don’t want to talk about Australia. We are special and unique, another entire country cannot possibly be used as an example or study. Did you miss it when I said we are UNIQUE?
Obviously heavily sugared foods marketed to our youth increase the incidence of adult obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but you aren’t going to tax those foods to A) discourage their consumption and B) help pay for the diseases they cause because of somebody else’s problem. You can’t do that to ME. To tax foods that cause disease would also be to oppress the free-market, where those companies are free to… Hell, where they are free to murder their customers.
Seems like you’d want your customers to consume your product, but live forever so they could keep consuming it… Here, this tastes AMAZING and you will live FOREVER eating it. We are such a lazy species. Some of the most daunting threats to our species exist because we’re just too lazy, and their is too much money, in taking the easy way out. We eat crap food because nobody has figured out how to make a chocolate cake good for you or a carrot taste awesome. We still burn fossil fuels because it is easy and there isn’t enough money in alternative energy resources — yet.
The energy market has to completely collapse, which it will — in my lifetime, before we fix the fossil fuels disaster. I hope that isn’t too late. Our plutocratic overlords will long be in their graves by then, their heirs starring in some weekly reality TV show.
But there are solutions to many of these problems. The solutions are population-level and address billions of dollars of cost and many thousands of deaths. But the narrow perspective of “me”, as seen from ground level, betrays the reality of the invading hordes just over the proximate horizon. People who think they can isolate their experience of humanity from that of others are naive. Their perspective is narrow and demonstrates lack of comprehension of a world much larger than they see outside their front door.
When I pay taxes, it is so our kids can go to school. It is so the fire department can put out the fire at your house — or mine. When I say that I don’t want an arsenal in my basement, it is so THEY can’t shoot up a school. When I agree that we shouldn’t be driving 3/4 ton trucks that get 8 miles-per-gallon around town, it is so our kids can breathe the air and drink the water. It is so our farmers will have fertile, productive lands. When I say that Toaster Strudels should be taxed like hell, and not marketed to children as a viable breakfast option, it is so your fat, little, demon-baby, doesn’t get diabetes in their teens and start losing toes in their 30s.
WE each make concessions for US. YOU are not an island.
This is who I’ve turned into.