I was watching the news this morning over my coffee and listening to a brief mention of Quaker lobbying on Capitol Hill for peace initiatives in the Middle East, to which the commentator immediately offered the following knee-jerk, supposedly un-trumpable retort:
“But what about ISIS? Isn’t military response to ISIS completely justifiable and needed?”
There was also—and stick with me, here, as we move from terrorism in the desert of Iraq (Or is it Syria? Or is it some other geopolitical non-neighborhood that existed before the region was carved up by Western powers after World War I?) to the cornfields of Northern Ohio—a piece on last evening’s PBS News Hour about the toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie.
The PBS story featured a conventional corn farmer talking about the need to increase production to feed the world’s growing population, hence the need for fertilizer. . .but, not to worry. . .he’s using drones to help him apply his fertilizer more efficiently, so there’s hope that this will reduce run-off into Lake Erie.
Not that it would come as any surprise that farmers in northern Ohio are resistant to the possibility of federal regulation of fertilizer application. But, sure, even after all these years, it is still a bit shocking to me that a news organization working more in the public interest than commercial networks would fail even to mention longer term, structural fixes to agriculture. . .words like sustainable, organic, local, diversified, or even, heaven forefend, the world “soil”. . . .were as far away from that news story as Iraq is from something that was once called the Fertile Crescent.
In response to the violence and institutional dysfunction and ecological degradation and uncertainty and fear of the day, we have only two choices, if we boil it all down:
1. We can blame, bomb, drone, attack, argue, vilify, deny, lobby, scare, tax, legislate, regulate, investigate, prosecute and protest; or,
2. We can invest.
Blaming, bombing, droning, attacking, arguing, vilifying, denying, lobbying, scaring, taxing, legislating, regulating, investigating, prosecuting and protesting may be satisfying in the short term. But only investing can deliver the long-term results that have a shot at giving staying power to the “happiness” in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Happiness that comes from blaming, bombing, droning, attacking, arguing, vilifying, denying, lobbying, scaring, taxing, legislating, regulating, investigating, prosecuting and protesting is short-lived and fragile, a bit too much like the non-satiety that comes from empty calories. You want real nutrition? Health? Lasting happiness? You have to invest.
(And, for the record, please note: I’m not suggesting this is an Either/Or choice. We are, to be sure, and for better or worse, in All Of The Above mode, but the one that is most precious, and in shortest supply, is investing.)
Excuse me for echoing, as many have and many will, those prescient, funny, poignant words from the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” (By the way, if you’ve never seen it, please do check out these two and a half minutes from that movie—arguably the best, most entertaining two and half minutes ever filmed about global finance, the economy and nature.)
Let’s get a little riled up, sure, but then, quickly, appropriately, sustainably, slowly, let’s sit down together, break bread, plant seeds and otherwise conspire about how to spend less of our time blaming, bombing, droning, attacking, arguing, vilifying, denying, lobbying, scaring, taxing, legislating, regulating, investigating, prosecuting and protesting … and more time …
Starting with food. Starting with the soil. Starting with investing ourselves in a collective, conscientious, entrepreneurial, neighborly, heartening, peace-loving and vital public conversation.