I dreamed that I was talking to Laura Bush about the War in Iraq. With many tears, I pointed to the utter and pointless waste of lives and money. She looked at me without expression. I think sometimes about George Bush’s family, about how it must surely contain dissenters who, out of loyalty to him, remain silent. I don’t think I could do that because I would think of the lives I might save.
The funny thing is that I don’t even like people, and this means that I don’t much care about people. Say what good you will about us, we are destroying our environment, and we WILL come to a bad end, perhaps shortly, and we WILL have deserved it. This negates all the good that we have done a million times over, so no, I don’t like us. We are a cancer upon the earth. Yet, I feel certain obligations. Sometimes, good is optional. Other times, the issue is too close to home, the obligation too pressing. I cannot always tell when this is the case, so I often choose to do nothing; other times I can’t deny it.
I’m not speaking only about big things. In fact, most good things are small things. Everyday and everywhere, I see people doing little kindnesses, and I reflect that, truth be known, these are what make life bearable. It’s people letting one another out in traffic; or holding a door open, or carrying a stranger’s groceries. It’s saying hello when you make eye contact. These I do. These I feel that I must do.
Other things, like not paying taxes to support a regime that is inept and evil, I would pay dearly for, and I seriously doubt that my resistance would do any good. Yet, if I lived strictly by principal, I would not pay taxes. But then I wouldn’t fly in a jet, because jets are too polluting. I wouldn’t live in this house, because it is too big. I wouldn’t buy products from countries that exploit their workers. I wouldn’t invest in a stock unless I approved of the company’s environmental and social policies. I wouldn’t buy merchandise that came in wasteful packaging or that had to be transported from the other side of the world. In such areas, I falter. I remind myself that I am married, and that many of my choices affect Peggy. I also rationalize that doing good would require too much time, too much study, too many hard choices, and, for the most part, it would make no difference.
Yet, I know that I act unjustly, and this means that I don’t like myself much more than I like the rest of humanity. I finance war. I support the destruction of the environment. I could point out that I seldom drive, and that I am an avid recycler, but no quantity of good justifies the least amount of evil. It’s like that diesel-tainted water on Pelieu. The diesel drums had been drained and washed; but still men doubled over in pain. I am like those drums.
It is the unnecessary suffering of other people and other life forms that make our affluence possible. But when I ask myself if it a completely good world is even conceivable, I doubt that it is. I suspect that we are evil simply because we are human, and that the most we can hope for is to ever expand our capacity for good.